Texas and Oklahoma are on the middle of what could possibly be one other main shift in faculty soccer realignment — maybe the largest within the historical past of the game.
In line with a report Wednesday by the Houston Chronicle, the Huge 12 faculties have reached out to the Southeastern Convention to affix it in one other spherical of realignment. The Chronicle, citing “a high-ranking faculty official with data of the scenario,” reported their addition could possibly be addressed by the convention “inside a pair weeks.” The SEC would successfully change into faculty soccer’s first superconference.
A Texas spokesman, talking to the Chronicle, claimed no data of talks with the SEC earlier than declining additional remark. Oklahoma additionally launched a press release in response to the information: “The school athletics panorama is shifting continually. We don’t tackle each nameless rumor.”
SEC commissioner Greg Sankey declined to remark to the Chronicle earlier than later telling reporters at SEC Media Days that the convention is not wanting past this yr.
“We’re solely anxious concerning the 2021 season,” he mentioned. “Anyone dropped a report from unnamed folks.”
AL.com corroborated the Chronicle’s report, saying that “a number of faculty soccer insiders” confirmed the Pink River rivals had taken “a number of steps” to facilitate a transfer. It is unsure whether or not the faculties are appearing independently of one another or would act collectively in attempting to go away the Huge 12.
The Longhorns and Sooners have been member establishments for the reason that Huge 12’s formation in 1996, when former Southwest Convention faculties Texas, Texas A&M, Baylor and Texas Tech had been added to the Huge 8. The convention suffered important losses within the final spherical of school soccer realignment on the flip of the last decade, with founding members Colorado and Nebraska leaving for the Pac-12 and Huge Ten, respectively, in 2011. Missouri and Texas A&M adopted go well with following the 2011 season to affix the SEC.
Texas A&M athletic director Ross Bjork mentioned in response to the Chronicle’s report that SEC ADs haven’t mentioned the addition of Texas or Oklahoma. He additionally scoffed on the concept of Texas becoming a member of the SEC. Per Ross Dellenger of Sports activities Illustrated:
Ross Bjork says he was unaware of Texas/OU curiosity in becoming a member of the SEC. SEC ADs haven’t mentioned the problem, he says.
It is clear the place the Aggies stand.
“There’s a purpose why Texas A&M left the Huge 12 – to be stand alone & have our personal id. That’s our feeling,” he says.
— Ross Dellenger (@RossDellenger) July 21, 2021
Bjork’s opposition to the transfer is not the one roadblock Texas and Oklahoma face in the event that they wish to soar from the Huge 12. This is a breakdown of the a number of obstacles that might preserve the faculties from turning the SEC right into a superconference:
Current broadcast offers with ESPN, Fox
In line with a report by Entrance Workplace Sports activities, the SEC earned $728.9 million within the 2020 fiscal yr — roughly $300 million greater than the Huge 12’s reported earnings ($409.2 million). That distinction, coupled with the SEC’s new cope with ESPN — which is estimated to pay greater than $300 million yearly to the convention and is scheduled to enter impact in 2024 — could be alluring for any exterior groups trying to money in on the SEC’s recognition.
Furthermore, each ESPN and Fox — which maintain Huge 12 broadcast and streaming rights — reportedly declined to enter into early TV negotiations with the convention earlier than the deal ends in 2025.
That mentioned, the Huge 12’s current rights cope with these networks may muddy potential negotiations between Texas, Oklahoma and the SEC. Texas has its personal cope with ESPN within the type of the Longhorn Community, which pays the varsity $15 million yearly and contractually obligates the community to air 200 Texas athletics occasions per educational yr via 2031.
In 2019, the Huge 12 and ESPN rearranged their broadcast deal — which ends in 2025 — to permit each member college apart from Texas and Oklahoma to offer stock to ESPN+. The settlement, as reported by the Sports activities Enterprise Journal (by way of the Austin American-Statesman) pays the convention $22 million yearly. Oklahoma bought its third-tier rights to Fox.
It is doable ESPN may rework the Longhorn Community deal within the occasion Texas and Oklahoma transfer to the SEC, however Fox possible could be sad to half with its two largest faculty soccer property earlier than the Huge 12 contract ends in 2025. Furthermore, the addition of two groups to the SEC would cut back the quantity every member establishment would get from ESPN’s new rights deal; it is doable ESPN could be compelled to pay extra on a per-year foundation in its cope with the convention.
ESPN may take into account that transfer, because it is perhaps offset by declining a future TV rights cope with a considerably less-alluring Huge 12.
Huge 12 exit charges
If Texas and Oklahoma had been to go away the Huge 12 earlier than the conclusion of its TV offers, it could price each faculties a not-insignificant sum of money. For instance, Nebraska and Colorado paid exit charges of $9.25 million and $6.86 million, respectively, to go away for his or her new conferences. Missouri and Texas A&M each paid $12.4 million to go away for the SEC.
These charges, nonetheless, had been paid in 2010 and 2011 — earlier than the Huge 12 signed a 13-year, $2.6 billion rights cope with Fox and ESPN. It is unclear how a lot Texas and Oklahoma must pay in exit charges in the event that they left for the SEC earlier than 2025, however it could nearly definitely be greater than what Nebraska, Colorado, Missouri and Texas A&M paid to go away the Huge 12.
The Longhorns and Sooners is perhaps prepared to incur that penalty with the promise of future income from the SEC — however would its member establishments be prepared to just accept them?
Opposition by Texas A&M, Missouri
It is possible Texas A&M and Missouri would strongly take into account blocking Texas and Oklahoma from coming into the convention, ought to the problem come to a vote of SEC presidents. It is clear each establishments — together with Colorado and Nebraska — left the Huge 12 to flee Texas’ lengthy shadow within the convention, due partially to its devoted community and the disproportionate energy it wielded over its fellow establishments.
Bjork is already on the document as opposing any transfer by Texas to the SEC. The convention bylaws state that no less than 11 of 14 faculties should vote sure to increase an invite to a possible new college.
Whereas Bjork and A&M president Michael Younger’s preliminary inclination possible could be to oppose Texas, guarantees of elevated income could create stress from throughout the convention for a “yea” vote.
Extra SEC, Huge 12 resistance
It is unsure how the opposite SEC faculties other than Missouri and Texas A&M would vote on this matter. Including the highest two Huge 12 applications to a convention that already consists of Alabama, LSU, Georgia, Florida, Tennessee and Auburn — to not point out Texas A&M and Missouri — would make it exceptionally harder for groups to win the convention title and earn a Faculty Soccer Playoff berth.
There’s additionally the problem of division realignment, which might possible go away a number of groups sad. Texas and Oklahoma may transfer to the SEC West, forcing Alabama and Auburn to the East, to the chagrin of Florida, Georgia and Tennessee. The groups left within the West — Arkansas, LSU, Texas A&M, Ole Miss and Mississippi State — possible wouldn’t be proud of the additions, both.
The SEC may additionally put the groups in numerous divisions, a lot because it did with Texas A&M and Missouri in 2012, which might on paper create extra steadiness between the divisions. Or, the convention may take a look at a pod scheduling format, one that will possible sacrifice one in all parity or conventional convention rivalries. Furthermore, it is unlikely groups would react positively — behind closed doorways, no less than — to any extra competitors.
Huge 12 groups have already launched statements in response to the information as nicely, similar to this from Oklahoma State:
There are different sports activities the SEC would take into account beside soccer, too. Texas and Oklahoma would convey highly effective applications in basketball, softball, baseball, gymnastics, males’s and ladies’s golf and extra. These would add to the spectacular stock of content material already obtainable to ESPN, which may make a brand new rights deal extra profitable for the community, the SEC and its member establishments. That is to say nothing of these universities’ educational deserves.
However soccer is in the beginning within the SEC, and any extra roadblocks the convention could face regarding that sport — particularly with playoff realignment looming — could possibly be sufficient to hinder Texas and Oklahoma’ admittance.