In an early exit deal with the Big 12, Texas and Oklahoma have committed to moving to the SEC beginning with the 2023–24 academic year. On Thursday night, the Big 12 and both programmes revealed that the Longhorns and Sooners would pay a combined $100 million in early withdrawal costs to join the SEC in 2024, one year sooner than initially intended.
This most recent phase of conference realignment began in July 2021 when the Big 12’s two most important programmes accepted invitations to join the SEC. There was talk at the time that Texas and Oklahoma might leave the Big 12 and join the Southeastern Conference (SEC) on July 1, 2025, when the Big 12’s active grant of rights agreement would expire, allowing UT and OU to leave the conference without penalty.
The impetus towards the Longhorns and Sooners leaving for the SEC ahead of schedule began to alter as the Big 12 refilled its membership by adding BYU, Cincinnati, Houston, and UCF for the 2023 season. Instead of playing the new Big 12 teams, Texas and Oklahoma hoped to join the SEC in time for the first season of the conference’s new television deal with ESPN. With an eye on supplementing the new six-year media rights deal it secured with Fox and ESPN in October 2022, the Big 12 was hoping to cash in on the sizable exit fee.
This might be the dumbest comment I’ve ever read, not to mention bigoted. Big 12 has Dallas already with TCU. BYU is a national brand. Cincy, UCF, and Houston have been killing it lately in football. The PAC 12 SMU thinks it’s joining might be dead before they get there.
— Allan Sanderson (@yukon8ter) February 10, 2023
To facilitate the addition of two new teams, the Big 12’s original eight schools agreed to pool a portion of the media rights money they receive from the league’s contracts with Fox and ESPN. According to prior reports by CBS Sports’ Dennis Dodd, each programme elected to forego a total of $16 million ($8 million in 2023-24 and 2024-25) in future revenues. (according to reports from CBS News.com)
It seems expected that the Big 12 will utilise the $100 million negotiated early exit fee from Texas and Oklahoma for not being part of the league’s media package in 2025 to compensate the eight heritage programmes. The original figure was $168 million.
Dodd has heard that in exchange for the games being removed from Fox a year early, the states of Texas and Oklahoma have agreed to pay a monetary sum to the network.
As an added bonus, many sources have reported that the venues for Texas and Michigan’s upcoming two-game series have been switched. Michigan will now host Texas in 2024, allowing the game to appear on Fox, while Texas will travel to Michigan for the 2027 matchup.
Separately or together, Texas and Oklahoma are two of the sport’s most valuable TV properties. Both teams had at least one player in a top-five-rated game six times during the 2017 regular season.
“As I have consistently stated, the conference would only agree to an early withdrawal if it was in our best interest for Oklahoma and Texas to depart prior to June 30, 2025,” Big 12 commissioner Brett Yormark said in a statement announcing the deal. “By reaching this agreement, we are now able to accelerate our new beginning as a 12-team league and move forward in earnest with our initiatives and future planning.”
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A year earlier than originally allowed, on July 1, 2024, SEC commissioner Greg Sankey declared that his league’s administration would “continue with supporting the transfer” of Texas and Oklahoma into the conference. By 2024, the College Football Playoff will have expanded to 12 teams, USC and UCLA will have moved from the Pac-12 to the Big Ten, and the Longhorns and Sooners will be playing in the SEC thanks to the conference’s new television rights contract with ESPN.
Starting in 2024, both the Southeastern Conference and the Big Ten will expand to 16 teams. Unless further expansion, which is expected to be on Yormark’s radar, the Big 12 will have 14 members in 2023 before reverting to 12 teams in 2024.
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