Will the Sooners leave the Big 12 for the SEC? OU says it won't address 'every anonymous rumor'
NORMAN — The college sports world was abuzz Wednesday after a report that OU and Texas officials have been talking with the Southeastern Conference about a move from the Big 12 to the SEC.
In response to the Houston Chronicle story, officials from both sides didn’t exactly address the substance of the report.
“The college athletics landscape is shifting constantly,” an OU spokesman said in a statement Wednesday afternoon. “We don’t address every anonymous rumor.”
Reached by the Austin American-Statesman last week, Texas President Jay Hartzell took a similar approach.
“Sorry, I can’t comment on all the athletic rumors swirling around right now in this crazy time,” Hartzell told the newspaper.
But such a move would mean a seismic shift for college athletics as Big 12 rights deals are in their waning years after a grant of rights agreement between the schools, along with the league’s television and digital rights deal, expires in 2024-25.
The grant of rights helped bring the conference stability following the loss of Texas A&M and Missouri to the SEC before the 2011 season, a year after Nebraska left for the Big Ten and Colorado the Pac 12. The extension of that deal a few years later added even more stability.
Conference distribution money has been behind the SEC and Big Ten in recent years but ahead of the ACC and Pac 12.
While OU, with its Sooner Sports Network deal with the network now known as Bally Sports Oklahoma, and Texas, with ESPN’s Longhorn Network, retain their third-tier rights, the league’s other eight schools are part of a 2019 media rights agreement with ESPN that consolidated the Big 12 Championship Game to ESPN networks and gave the network broadcasting rights across all sports, with a significant number of them being televised on ESPN+, the network’s streaming service.
Such a move would also have a major effect on the eight remaining Big 12 schools, including Oklahoma State.
“We have heard unconfirmed reports that OU and UT approached Southeastern Conference officials about joining the SEC. We are gathering information and will monitor closely,” an OSU statement read.
“If true, we would be gravely disappointed. While we place a premium on history, loyalty, and trust, be assured, we will aggressively defend and advance what is best for Oklahoma State and our strong athletic program, which continues to excel in the Big 12 and nationally.”
SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey, at the conference’s media days in Hoover, Alabama, told CBS Sports on Wednesday that he had “no comment on that speculation.”
“We are only worried about the 2021 season,” Sankey told the site. “Somebody dropped a report from unnamed people.”
Texas A&M athletic director Ross Bjork told reporters at the event that he wanted the Aggies to be the only SEC program in Texas.
“There’s a reason Texas A&M left the Big 12 — to stand alone to have our own identity,” Bjork said.
Aggies football coach Jimbo Fisher said he wouldn’t be surprised if the schools wanted to join the SEC.
“I bet they would,” Fisher said. “I’m just worried about A&M.”