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Bohls: Texas' decision to leave the Big 12 and join the SEC is a win-win-win-win move

  • Texas worked behind the scenes for months to earn an invitation to the SEC.
  • The Longhorns won't run the SEC but they will bring a powerful voice.
  • The decisions by the Longhorns and Sooners were a business choice, pure and simple.

We’re all just waiting for the ink to dry.

The contracts are all prepared, the verbal agreements are in place, the lawyers are making their exorbitant hourly fees, lots of folks are pulling knives out of their backs, and Texas and Oklahoma are poised to sign on the dotted line as full-fledged SEC members.

Probably as soon as Thursday.

And while many are unhappy — eight (barely) surviving Big 12 members, a ticked-off Texas A&M, a disillusioned Bob Bowlsby, and the list is growing — the Longhorns and Sooners are kicking their heels in glee. Flush with new money and growing expectations.

Just call them the Brothers Banditos. Others will.

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Texas' (and Oklahoma's) decision to leave the Big 12 in order to join the SEC apparently has been months in planning, but it took the other Big 12 schools by surprise last week. Texas and OU have sent letters to the Big 12 stating they had no interest in extending the grant of rights beyond 2024-2025.

They’ve become the Baltimore Colts of college sports. Or will Thursday, when the SEC presidents and chancellors meet to approve the invitations to Texas and Oklahoma.

That said, it’s a bold strike for Texas. Even the right one, although being handled the way it was, cloaked in secrecy and darkness, Texas Board of Regents chairman Kevin Eltife, the driving force behind this move, will forgive the rest of the Big 12 for thinking he’s the Bob Irsay of college football.

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Texas and Oklahoma both sent letters to the Big 12 home office on Monday, stating they had no interest in extending the grant of rights beyond 2024-2025. That was the equivalent of divorce papers being served. You won’t find in the letters any mention of therapy or couples counseling moving forward.

The Big 12 has said goodbye to founding members Texas A&M, Nebraska, Colorado and Missouri and have welcomed in TCU and West Virginia but now stands in a precarious position as a Power Five conference with the impending departures of Texas and Oklahoma.

This has been a foregone conclusion, a done deal for more than a week now, if not much, much longer. Asked Tuesday morning if this was 99% done, Texas President Jay Hartzell texted, “One domino at a time!”

The dominoes are about to fall in a heap.

Lots of people were left in the dark, not the least of which the eight trusting Big 12 members who got blindsided by the news that Texas and OU were seriously wanting to bolt the league and join the premier conference in the land. Bowlsby, the Big 12 commissioner, was caught totally unaware as well. So was Texas A&M.

Some sources have suggested otherwise, that the Aggies were completely linked in to all these negotiations, but don’t believe it. The Aggies were caught off guard just as much as Oklahoma State and Baylor, as Bowlsby, as nearly everyone outside the SEC.

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You know why?

Because these were highly sensitive discussions.

Because they carried huge implications for the future.

Because it means large money.

Because Texas and OU ultimately didn’t care what everyone else thought.

Because — and this is the biggest reason — college football is big business. And this was a business decision, pure and simple.

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Texas does Texas things because it can. It has the muscle and the money to do so. It could have joined any of the Power Five conferences. A decade ago, it was all but in the Pac-12 until deciding no at the 11th hour to keep the Longhorn Network. DeLoss Dodds told me later that Texas probably would have joined the ACC with its friendlier time zone and like-minded academic schools if it had chosen to leave.

Texas fans cheer during last year's game against Baylor at Royal-Memorial Stadium. Texas is No. 4 all-time in college football victories, behind only Michigan, Ohio State and Alabama.

And it’s why so many other schools despise the Longhorns. In fact, given the recent developments, not only will Big 12 officials probably NOT flag opponents for taunting Texas with the ubiquitous Horns Down, they might encourage the gesture. Why not? And there’s likely more unwelcome gestures where that comes from.

People are pissed. And have a right to be. One high-ranking Big 12 official told me, “They need to fire Bowlsby this week. They’re paying him $4 million, and he read it in the paper. He got caught flat-footed, and he needs to retire this week.”

Bowlsby, who's smart and savvy, was caught unaware, and that’s a shame. He declined to comment, but released a statement claiming the Titanic … uh, Big 12, is just fine.

In the end, however, this is a win-win decision for Texas. No, make that a win-win-win-win-win-win-win (need I go on?) decision.

In every way.

The only downside — other than angering administrations, coaches, players, fans in five Big 12 states at a minimum, if not more in the SEC — is that Texas may not win on the football field. But would that be any different? It’s not been doing that anyway, having lost four or more games in 10 of the last 11 years and relegated to bowl victories in the Alamo and Holiday and occasionally a Sugar. The 2020 team lost three games in an abbreviated 10-game season.

Texas A&M's Jeff Fuller warms up on Kyle Field in College Station before the 2011 game against Texas on Thanksgiving night. It's the last time the two schools have played football against each other. The Longhorns won that game on a last-second field goal.

The Longhorns will help enrich other SEC members. It adds the benefit of the school’s AAU membership in the grouping of the 64 most prestigious, academic research institutions in the country, joining Texas A&M, Florida and Vanderbilt. It will help beef up the SEC’s revenue and may help that league approach $1 billion this decade, according to USA Today's numbers

There’s no end to the upside.

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While A&M got hoodwinked, it still smartly came to its senses and went along with a plan it could not stop. It will vote along with the rank and file to at least give the appearance of unanimity and its blessing to this otherwise unsavory deal. 

At least the Aggies had the onions to go first when it bailed on the Big 12. And they’re poised to contend quite nicely with their old rivals because their football team is far ahead of Texas’ current status, longtime history aside. A&M almost made the CFP last year. Texas almost beat TCU and OU.

To fight the move would have suggested weakness on the Aggies' part. A&M, just welcome the Longhorns to the party and then try to beat their ass on the field.

But Texas ultimately wins big with the move and likely will shore up its football program. In nearly every sport, the Longhorns will be no worse than equals in baseball and basketball and probably superior to most SEC programs in sports from swimming to golf to volleyball, given the fact they won the Learfield Directors' Cup as the best overall athletic department in the country, having produced 13 top-10 finishes and three national championships, albeit in nonrevenue sports.

By orchestrating this with the SEC’s “blessings,” Texas joins the most powerful and richest conference in the nation. “They’re trying to become the NFL 2,” a Big 12 source said. “It’s doing a pretty good job of it.”

Texas makes more money than Jeff Bezos and now will make even more. Texas thumbed its nose at A&M and won that fight. (Rivalry, back on.) 

Texas will now have no problems selling out Royal-Memorial Stadium and even less problem raising ticket prices. Since it averaged more than 96,000 tickets before the pandemic set in, the benefit of selling those extra 4,000-plus tickets at higher ticket prices could help offset the exit fees Texas will have to pay the Big 12. Well, maybe pay. 

It’s hoping — banking, to use a more appropriate word — the Big 12 just dissolves into thin air and Texas won’t have to pay exit fees to a league that no longer exists. Bang. Otherwise, Texas and OU are on the books to owe $80 million apiece to the Big 12 for breach of contract if they leave early. I’m betting Texas and OU play one more year in the Big 12.

I could go on all day.

No longer does Chris Del Conte try to push season tickets for home games that no longer included the Aggies and never included the Sooners but did include the less-appealing Cyclones and Cowboys and Jayhawks on the marquee. Sure, a lot of these schools beat Texas, but they aren’t as marketable as Texas and OU. That’s just a fact of life.

Don’t forget that Texas ranks fourth in all-time football wins. Fourth. Behind only Michigan, Ohio State and Alabama. OU comes in sixth. The next highest SEC team is Tennessee at 12th. The Aggies are 22nd.

Texas has won a lot of football games over the years. And will again. And if not, hey, SEC, you've got a powerful brand you can beat up on Saturdays. Again, win-win. Texas still fires a head coach after three losing seasons and after four consecutive bowl-win seasons. It cares.

Those eight Big 12 schools are left behind and in a world of hurt and uncertainty. I’ve got so many friends around the league that I truly empathize with them for their plight. They did nothing wrong but got mistreated by Texas and OU. No Hallmark card from the Longhorns and Sooners will salve those wounds. Those two schools joined at the hip deserve all the slings and arrows that come their way.

But that’s part of doing business these days. This ain’t Pop Warner football.

There are so many angles and facets to these news developments, but ultimately Texas won. If not on the football field, at least in the board room and at the local bank. It always does on those fronts. But Texas will not run the SEC.

“Texas is going to get its comeuppance,” one Big 12 source said. “They’re going to find out what it’s like to be an equal.”

Some schools, however, will always be more equal than others. A&M found that out the hard way.

So it says here Texas won. 

For now.

And maybe, just maybe, the Longhorns are just a great head football coach away from restoring themselves to national prominence.