Conference Realignment: What Does it Mean For College Sports?

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Oliver Thomas, Editor-in-Chief

On July 30, 2021, the News broke that Texas and Oklahoma would be joining the SEC. Set to take place in 2025, Texas and Oklahoma will become official members of the SEC for all college sports. This one change started a domino effect that could change college sports forever. 

 

A timeline of these events:

 

July 22nd, 2021 

 

It was announced that Texas and Oklahoma had skipped a Big 12 conference call, which started to stir controversy. There had been rumors of Texas and Oklahoma contacting the SEC, however, these rumors were shot down by Oklahoma’s athletic director

 

July 25th, 2021 

 

Texas and Oklahoma meet with Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby. The main takeaway from this meeting was that Texas and Oklahoma would be looking at “mutually beneficial options”. Though the Big 12 tried to keep these rumors as small as possible, it became apparent that Texas and Oklahoma leaving the Big 12 was becoming more and more likely.

 

July 26th, 2021 

 

Texas and Oklahoma announce that they would not be renewing Media contracts with Big 12. Once this was announced it was very clear to the public that Texas and Oklahoma were making a very large push to join the SEC.

 

July 29th, 2021

 

SEC sends an invitation for Texas and Oklahoma to join the SEC.

 

July 30th, 2021

 

It is announced that Texas and Oklahoma will be joining on July 1st, 2025. 

 

Timeline idea credit: https://www.tennessean.com/story/sports/2021/07/30/texas-oklahoma-sec-expansion-timeline/5432759001/

 

This announcement set the whole college sports world in shock. Rivalries like Texas vs. Texas Tech  (Chancellor’s Spurs), as well as Oklahoma vs. Oklahoma State (Bedlam Rivalry), would be gone once this change had taken place. 2 of college sports most premier programs, Texas and Oklahoma had just joined the SEC, creating a 14 team conference. Unlike future conference changes, this made sense. Texas and Oklahoma both were geographically fairly close to “SEC territory” therefore this would not be a huge inconvenience with the travel distance for teams. Why would the SEC do this, many wondered. The motivation behind the SEC is clear. Money. Just like everything today, the more money the better, and big companies are willing to do whatever it takes for more profit. This change alone had the SEC being labeled as a “Super Conference” as well as being criticized for selling out. Once the new college football season started, the conversation about this change started to die down and too many became an afterthought. However, this was just the start.

 

On June 30th, 2022, the college sports world received the news, unlike anything they had heard before. Right out of the blue, it was announced USC and UCLA would be joining the Big 10 on August 2nd, 2024. Once this news was announced, it led to Oregon, Washington, and Notre Dame applying to join the Big 10. To the Pac 12’s luck, the Big 10 announced that they were no longer interested in Oregon and Washington joining the conference. For Notre Dame to join the Big 10, it would take a buyout worth 100 Million dollars, due to its contract with the ACC as well as their partnership with NBC and ESPN.  This set the college sports world into a frenzy. Unlike Oklahoma and Texas joining the SEC, this move made no geographical sense. The Big 10 had always been known as the premier Midwest athletic conference. All of a sudden, the face of West Coast college sports would now be a part of this predominantly Midwest conference. This single move had destroyed the Pac 12, taking away their 2 biggest schools for athletics. After this was announced, it was clear that college sports would never be the same again. 

 

What do these moves mean for the Big 12, Pac 12, and AAC?

 

Both of these moves will leave massive impacts on both conferences. The Big 12 does seem to be in better shape than the Pac-12. It was announced that Houston, Cincinnati, UCF, and BYU would become full-time members of the Big 12 after Texas and Oklahoma departed for the SEC. The Big 12 still is able to keep 3 of its biggest college basketball schools, Texas Tech, Baylor, and Kansas. As far as football, there still is some hope for the Big 12. TCU is 3 wins away from their first-ever college football playoff birth, as well as Baylor came very close to a playoff entrance last year. Adding Cincinnati and BYU will also help bring in college football revenue, as Cincinnati was the first group of 5 teams ever to make the playoff, as well as BYU, is one of the most prominent Groups of 5 teams in recent years.  The addition of Houston is very big from a basketball standpoint, as coach Kelvin Sampson has made the Cougars one of the premier programs in college basketball, currently ranked 3rd in the country. Losing Oklahoma and Texas is still devastating for the conference. Losing Oklahoma, the top football program in the conference is a blow to the conference. Oklahoma was the only Big 12 school that had made the College Football Playoff, as the Sooners are tied for 3rd in all of the sport in total appearances. Texas has seen recent struggles, however, they have been doing very well recently from a recruiting standpoint with new Coach Steve Sarkisian. Losing Texas and Oklahoma is a major loss for the Big 12, but they seem to have a good idea of what their future holds and how to handle it.

 

As far as the Pac-12, the future is unknown. Once UCLA and USC depart for the Big 10, the Pac-12 will have lost their 2 biggest revenue schools, and only be left with 10 teams. On top of this, Oregon and Washington have made it clear that they want out of the Pac-12 and join the Big 10. There has been no announcement of new schools joining the Pac-12 either. The most realistic option for the Pac-12 would have the top Mountain West Schools, such as San Diego State, Boise State, Nevada, and Fresno State join the conference. However, the Pac-12 does not have as many elite programs the way the Big 12 does. Besides Oregon, there are not any schools that bring in nearly as much revenue as UCLA and USC did from all athletics. Utah has shown growth in the football program, and Arizona has become a big name within college basketball, but besides this, there is not much hope in the Pac-12. Unless something major happens within the Pac-12, the conference is in major trouble.

This also will have an impact on the AAC. Arguably the best Group of 5 conferences in all of the college sports, losing their top 3 programs (Houston, Cincinnati, and UCF) is a major blow to the conference from a revenue standpoint. Charlotte, Florida Atlantic, North Texas, Rice, UAB, and UTSA will join the remaining 7 teams, keeping the AAC alive.