Oklahoma, Texas formally apply for SEC membership

It’s happening, and it’s happening fast.

In a joint statement released Tuesday morning, the University of Texas and University of Oklahoma announced that they have sent a request for membership to the SEC.

“The joint request seeks an invitation for membership in the SEC starting on July 1, 2025. The two universities look forward to the prospect of discussions regarding the matter,” the statement says. July 1, 2025 is when the two schools’ media rights deals with the Big 12 expire.

In the formal “request for invitations” sent to SEC commissioner Greg Sankey, the two schools — who are founding members of the Big 12 — said they 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 joint letter was signed by Texas president Jay Hartzell and Oklahoma president Joseph Harroz Jr.

Not long after the schools made their announcement, Sankey released a statement of his own acknowledging that the conference had received requests from Texas and Oklahoma.

“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.

Sankey said the presidents and chancellors of the SEC will “consider these requests in the near future.” That group is slated to meet on Thursday. Per SEC bylaws, a three-fourths vote is required for the conference to officially “extend an invitation for membership.” That means 11 of the league’s 14 members must vote “yes” for OU and UT to officially join.

With the vote expected to be a mere formality, Texas and Oklahoma both have board meetings scheduled for Friday morning. On the agenda for Oklahoma is “athletics conference membership.” On the agenda for Texas is “conference membership matters.”

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SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey speaks to reporters during the NCAA college football Southeastern Conference Media Days Monday, July 19, 2021, in Hoover, Ala. (AP Photo/Butch Dill)

When could Texas, Oklahoma actually join the SEC?

Texas and Oklahoma informed the Big 12 on Monday that they did not plan to extend their grant of rights with the conference past the 2024-25 season. That got the ball rolling to officially execute this process, which has been ongoing behind the scenes for “nearly a year,” according to reporting from Yahoo Sports’ Pete Thamel. 

In the statements from Texas, Oklahoma and the SEC, the year 2025 is used for contractual reasons. July 1, 2025 is when their media rights with the Big 12 expire. 

Thamel explained the reasoning here, which includes the schools entering wait-and-see mode with the eight schools left behind in the Big 12:

First off, announcing a contract break isn’t wise. Second, officials from Oklahoma and Texas have buyouts that total nearly $150 million. If they want to avoid paying more than $75 million each in exit fees, the schools’ best chance is to sit back, sing “Kumbaya” and wait to see if the Big 12 ends up dissolving. That strategy could save a lot of money.

It’s still unlikely that Oklahoma and Texas would slog through four more years in the Big 12. It would be a recruiting disadvantage, as one of the main reasons that Texas is going to the SEC is that it lost its recruiting foothold in Houston and kept losing marquee talent around the state to Alabama and Ohio State.

UT and OU will certainly play out the 2021 season in the Big 12, but it would be shocking if they did not find a way to negotiate their way into the SEC by 2022 or 2023. 

Big 12 responds

A few hours after Texas and Oklahoma announced they had applied for SEC membership, Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby released a statement. 

In the statement, Bowlsby said it is clear that the two schools have been planning this move “for months.” He said that the remaining members of the conference will face the impending challenges “head-on.”

Below is Bowlsby’s full statement. 

The Big 12 Conference has learned that the University of Oklahoma and the University of Texas have submitted formal requests to the SEC to be considered for membership beginning with the 2025-26 athletic year. 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. 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 we have confidence that the Big 12 will continue to be a vibrant and successful entity in the near term and into the foreseeable future.

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