SEC presidents expected to vote Texas, Oklahoma into conference Thursday, per report

AUSTIN, Texas — Southeastern Conference presidents are expected to meet Thursday and formally vote to accept the University of Texas and University of Oklahoma as new conference members, two high-ranking university people told the Austin American-Statesman.

Texas and Oklahoma need at least 11 yes votes from the current 14 SEC schools. Four no votes would kill expansion. 

“I feel like we have the votes,” one of the people, associated with Texas, told the Statesman on Wednesday. “We’ll know when they vote.”

Another person with ties to Texas A&M said: “I’ve heard nothing to indicate this will go sideways.”

The people were granted anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly about the possible expansion.

SEC presidents and athletics directors were briefed Tuesday on the financial parameters of a new 16-team conference, one of the people said. Each university president must now decide how they intend to vote. Some national media outlets have reported it could either be 14-0 in favor or 13-1 depending on A&M’s decision.

The SEC logo welcomes people to Media Days at the Hyatt Regency in Hoover, Alabama, earlier this week. Could the conference soon be welcoming Oklahoma and Texas?

The UT System Board of Regents has scheduled a meeting for 9 a.m. Friday, presumably to formally accept the SEC’s invitation. OU regents also have scheduled a Friday meeting in Norman, Okla.

By this point, it should be clear how well this was all scripted from the beginning. Texas and OU released a joint statement Monday informing the Big 12 Conference they did not want to extend their grant of television rights beyond 2025.

Then on Tuesday, the Longhorns and Sooners issued another joint statement saying they were formally asking to join the SEC. 

“We believe that there would be mutual benefit to the Universities on the one hand, and the SEC on the other hand, for the Universities to become members of the SEC,” the Texas and Oklahoma presidents wrote in their letter to SEC commissioner Greg Sankey.

SEC commissioner Greg Sankey talks with the media last week in Hoover, Alabama.

If all goes according to plan, Texas, OU and the SEC will have statements and press conferences on Friday, the two people with knowledge of the situation said.

Texas and OU requested to join the league in 2025, however few seem to believe the schools will have to wait that long. The schools are contractually obligated to the Big 12 until the 2024-25 athletic year and would face as much as a $160 million buyout if they left early.

If the remaining eight Big 12 schools find new schools to add, join a different conference or complete a unique TV arrangement, Texas and OU could start playing in the SEC much sooner. If the Big 12 implodes, then Texas and OU may wind up owing little or nothing.

Moving to the SEC would create a massive financial windfall for all 16 teams that is simply too big to ignore.

USA TODAY Sports' Steve Berkowitz reported the league could bring in $1.3 billion annually by fiscal year 2024-25 — an eye-popping revenue total that would equal what the NCAA brings in annually. 

As far as Texas goes, the biggest questions involve the Longhorn Network and its annual payout of $15 million.

To join the SEC, all schools turn over all television rights to the conference office, hence the creation of the SEC Network. In the Big 12, schools are allowed to shop their third-tier television rights. Initially, more than a decade ago, ESPN approached Texas and A&M about forming a Lone Star state network. A&M refused, and the Longhorn Network was created instead.

Yahoo Sports reported Wednesday the Big 12 sent a cease-and-desist letter to ESPN demanding the network “not communicate with the Big 12 Conference's existing members” about realignment.

“The events of recent days have verified that the two schools have been contemplating and planning for the transition for months,” Big 12 Conference commissioner Bob Bowlsby said in a statement Tuesday.

Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby walks onto the stage to speak during Big 12 media days on July 14 in Arlington, Texas.

Texas and Oklahoma were original members of the Big 12 when the league was formed before the 1996 football season. They stayed together through massive upheaval and conference realignment in 2010 and 2011 as Colorado, Nebraska, Missouri and A&M all ultimately left for different leagues.

Texas and OU are the Big 12’s two financial bell cows. CBS Sports estimated that the Big 12 television contract, initially a 13-year agreement, would lose “50% to 75%” of its value without the Longhorns and Sooners.

If there was a flash point, it came in May. Texas Tech President Lawrence Schovanec told the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal that TV executives weren’t interested in extending the Big 12’s deal.

“Our partners, ESPN and Fox, are not interested in acting preemptively with regard to our contract,” Schovanec said. “They recognize the importance of our partnership, but there's just too much uncertainty, and they do have four years to go.”

Follow Brian Davis on Twitter @BDavisAAS.