With Texas and Oklahoma Leaving the Big 12, Basketball Could Still Save the Conference

Texas and Oklahoma have reportedly explored the option of leaving the Big 12. The two power programs are interested in joining the SEC, and the move could become official in a matter of weeks.

Texas and Oklahoma Interested in Leaving Big 12 for the SEC

A shift in power is in the making; not a supremacy transfer per se, but rather the supreme becoming even stronger—in football at least. Texas and Oklahoma are two of the most valuable brands in all of college sports across a variety of programs.

The news of Texas and Oklahoma potentially leaving the Big 12 was leaked on Thursday. If both schools were to become members of the SEC, it will increase the league to 16 teams and create a super conference. The financial and recruiting ramifications will be titanic, especially considering college athletes can now profit off their likeness. Even more high school standouts will be tempted to move to the SEC to possibly gain more exposure now with a plethora of big-brand options.

Big 12 officials held a conference call after the news broke on Thursday to discuss the future of the league. Texas and Oklahoma were not included in the meeting, making it certain the change is inevitable. The shift has reportedly been in discussion for months.

This is a football move, but don’t ignore the importance of basketball, and the possible disassembling of the Big 12.

Not All About the Pigskin

We’ve seen how football-orientated moves have affected basketball programs in the past, most notably the disbandment of the Big East in 2013. That specific conference realignment saw mainstays such as Pittsburgh and Syracuse depart for the ACC for football purposes. West Virginia soon followed suit and joined the Big 12. What football did to basketball was steal rivalries like Georgetown versus Syracuse, and also hurt non-FBS universities financially.

The Big East luckily survived because of basketball, however, even after Connecticut, Louisville, Notre Dame, and Rutgers additionally departed. Before Louisville and Syracuse left the league, they represented the Big East in the 2013 Final Four, the former taking home the title. Villanova has won two titles since the realignment. The conference has also had 36 NCAA tournament bids the last seven seasons played.

In basketball, there are six power conferences. In football, some are saying there will now be four, but the rest of the Big 12 is no slouch. The question, however, isn’t about being a power conference, but rather a conference at all. Basketball has the ability to keep the Big 12 relevant.

The Bedlam Series will now lose its luster because conference positioning is no longer an added variable of motivation. Though Oklahoma will be moving on, Oklahoma State has a very good basketball program to keep the league afloat. Not to mention Kansas, Texas Tech, and the aforementioned West Virigina are still around. Oh, and Baylor isn’t too shabby either. The conference had seven representatives in the 2021 NCAA Tournament, including the national champion.

Analysts shouldn’t be looking at breaking up the league, they should be promoting progression.

Newbies Instead of Nothing

The Big 12 will still need a top football program to join the league in order to survive. Two teams come to mind. First, Notre Dame can give up their independence on the gridiron, and actually transfer all sports to the Big 12, which would weaken the ACC instead. Let’s also remember that Notre Dame has made the College Football Playoff twice. Texas has never gone.

But Oklahoma has been invited four times to football’s final four and has been close two other times. Here’s another team that has been close to making the playoff twice: Boise State. They also pulled off one of the great major bowl upsets against who else but Oklahoma in the 2007 Fiesta Bowl.

The Broncos are wasting their time in the Mountain West in regard to football, but they also have become a perennial tournament/bubble team in basketball.

Notre Dame and Boise State are two viable options to keep the Big 12 intact, but the latter just isn’t the biggest of brands. Two other possibilities to consider are BYU and Houston who both compete at high levels in basketball and football, as does Cincinnati as a potential dark horse addition.

What Texas and Oklahoma Bring to the SEC Court

The SEC was on the rise in college basketball, especially with the emergence of Alabama and Arkansas this past season. The conference doesn’t need any more notoriety when it comes to football, but this potential move could be massive for the league’s basketball status. The SEC received six tournament bids in 2021. Texas and Oklahoma both represented the Big 12 in the big dance as well.

Forget the football field for now, things are about to get a lot more interesting on the hardwood in the SEC.

The Money Game

Texas and Oklahoma leaving the Big 12 would cost the schools around $76 million each to buy out the remaining Big 12 media rights which are under contract until 2025. Though a hefty price tag, an agreement with the SEC will surely help pay off that debt in little time.

Branding and recruiting are the key focuses of this potential move. The SEC has been known for its athletics across the board, and a super league will entice more recruits. More television deals will be made, more exposure is to be had, and there will be a monopoly on college sports. Only time will tell if the other conferences can make enough changes to remain relevant. They can, but they must act fast. Basketball can serve as a conference savior as it has done in the past.

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