Texas, Oklahoma apply for SEC membership, one day after telling Big 12 of intent to withdraw
Texas and Oklahoma formally applied for membership to the SEC in a letter sent Tuesday to conference commissioner Greg Sankey, citing the "mutual benefit" to a partnership that would add the historic powers to the strongest league in the NCAA.
Co-signed by Oklahoma President Joseph Harroz and Texas President Jay Hartzell, the letter requests "invitations to the Southeastern Conference starting on July 1, 2025," which would match with the expiration of the Big 12 grants of a media rights deal that marries all members into a revenue-sharing agreement.
It is widely expected that both schools would be able to leave for the SEC in advance of that 2025 date, though not without coming to a buyout agreement with the Big 12.
"We believe that there would be mutual benefit to the Universities on one hand, and the SEC on the other hand, for the Universities to become members of the SEC," the letter continued.
The formal request comes one day after the schools informed the Big 12 they would not be renewing the current grants of rights deal, in a move that carries the potential to cause widespread realignment and expansion across the Football Bowl Subdivision and dramatically alter the landscape of college sports.
"The events of recent days have verified that the two schools have been contemplating and planning for the transition for months and this formal application is the culmination of those processes," Big 12 Commissioner Bob Bowlsby said in a statement.
"We are unwavering in the belief that the Big 12 provides an outstanding platform for its members’ athletic and academic success. We will face the challenges head-on, and have confidence that the Big 12 will continue to be a vibrant and successful entity in the near term and into the foreseeable future."
The potential ramifications of SEC expansion has drawn the interest of senators as they continue to weigh the merits of the NCAA model.
“The conference realignment happening in college sports right now is further proof that these decisions aren’t about the athletes or the game — it’s about the money that lines the pockets of the coaches, administrators, and sports industry executives," Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., who has offered two pieces of legislation on the issue, said in a statement provided to USA TODAY Sports.
"That’s why I’m fighting for college athletes’ right to collectively bargain, so we can make sure that the players have a full seat at the table — especially when it comes to these money-driven decisions — and finally get their fair share of the billions in revenues they produce."
In response, Sankey confirmed receipt of the letter and called Texas and OU "two esteemed academic institutions with storied athletics programs."
Sankey's response represents the SEC's first public recognition of the interest expressed by the two blueblood programs, which have combined for 82 conference and 11 national championships.
Sankey's statement also suggests the Longhorns and Sooners would not have any trouble garnering the votes needed to join the conference. According to SEC bylaws, any new member must get 11 schools to vote yes; four no votes would deny expansion.
It’s possible the SEC will vote on expansion this week, a person with knowledge of the situation told the Austin American-Statesman. The person requested anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the matter publicly.
"While the SEC has not proactively sought new members, we will pursue significant change when there is a clear consensus among our members that such actions will further enrich the experiences of our student-athletes and lead to greater academic and athletic achievement across our campuses," Sankey said.
"The Presidents and Chancellors of the SEC, in their capacity as the conference's Chief Executive Officers, will consider these requests in the near future."
Contributing: Steve Berkowitz
Follow colleges reporter Paul Myerberg on Twitter @PaulMyerberg