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SEC expansion announcement could come next week, but when the move will happen is less clear

Texas and Oklahoma may be hoping for the Big 12 to quickly fall apart to avoid paying large exit fees.

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COLLEGE FOOTBALL: JUL 14 Big 12 Media Days Photo by George Walker/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

According to Chip Brown of Horns247 on Friday morning, the Texas Longhorns and Oklahoma Sooners plan on informing the Big 12 of their withdrawal on Monday with a vote from the SEC expected shortly thereafter.

The news comes after the Big 12 held a conference call without leaders from Texas and Oklahoma on Thursday, eventually releasing the following statement after the meeting with the remaining eight members:

Oklahoma and Texas are founding members of the Big 12 and we value their traditions and history of success.

- The eight members strongly desire to retain the current composition, which has proven it can compete at the highest levels.

- There is a recognition that institutions may act in their own self-interest, however there is an expectation that members adhere to Conference bylaws and the enforcement of Grant of Rights agreements.

- This is a time of dramatic change within intercollegiate athletics that presents both opportunities and challenges, and the Big 12 Conference looks forward to continuing to play a major role in its evolution.

There are a couple major takeaways from the statement.

The first seems rather self-evidence — the schools that don’t have a pending invitation to the nation’s best football conference would prefer that Texas and Oklahoma don’t threaten the league’s dissolution. It’s already too late for those opinions to matter.

The second is a nod to the lawyers and another pending victory for billable hours, as the grant of rights extends for four more years, but neither the Longhorns nor the Sooners are likely to want to stay in the conference for that period of time.

How much will it cost Texas to leave the Big 12?

According to Big 12 bylaws, the buyout amount is equal to the last two years of distributions from the conference during the final two years of its membership, a number that is likely close to $80 million each.

But that’s where the lawyers come in — in previous instances of conference realignment, the conference typically settled on exit fees significantly lower than dictated by the conference bylaws. In the case of Maryland leaving the ACC for the Big Ten, the legal process drew out for close to two years, included lawsuits from both sides and resulted in the Terrapins forfeiting $31.4 million in distributions instead of paying the $52.2 million the school owed. When Missouri and Texas A&M left the Big 12, the estimated total of around $30 million resulted in settlements for $12.4 million.

In other words, those schools settled for between 40 and 60 percent of what they owed, putting a potential exit fee for Texas at somewhere between $32 million and $48 million, but that’s just a rough guess based on previous settlements.

One recent hire that Texas has not yet confirmed could help the Longhorns in that regard — former Rutgers deputy athletics director Sarah Baumgartner. Her position is reportedly newly created, but her area of expertise is in fundraising. As Missouri transitioned into the SEC, Baumgartner oversaw a staff that raised $84 million. While Texas doesn’t have the same need to fundraise for capital projects, she could help raise the money to cover the Big 12 exit fee and for projects like the replacement for the Bubble, the aging football practice facility.

Another important note — with Texas owed roughly $150 million from Disney for the Longhorn Network contract, a settlement to fold LHN into the SEC Network could potentially result in a payout to Texas that would help cover the Big 12 exit fee.

What’s the timetable for Texas and Oklahoma moving to the SEC?

According to Horns247, both schools are willing to wait until 2025 until the grant of rights expires, but that timetable seems unlikely. The pressures of realignment will force the Big 12 to add members before the grant of rights expires in order to negotiate a new television deal. Those negotiations happen far enough in advance that the SEC, for instance, has already secured its new deal starting in 2024.

If the Big 12 collapses in on itself instead of adding the same schools it spurned when opting against expansion in 2016, Texas and Oklahoma may escape from exit fees and have an easier path to joining the SEC before 2025 — both schools are likely hoping for chaos at the moment and an exit to the SEC in 2022 or 2023.

Leaving the Big 12 next year would require a supermajority vote, as Big 12 bylaws require 18 full months before the notice date and the effective date of withdrawal. Or six of the remaining eight schools could potentially vote to dissolve the conference.

What happens to the Big 12?

Beyond the potential exit fees, the biggest question is whether the SEC’s move to 16 teams will spark the creation of similar super conferences from the other remaining Power Five leagues — the ACC, Big Ten, and Pac-12. Baylor, Oklahoma State, TCU, and Texas Tech might be strong fits in the Pac-16, while West Virginia will likely eye the ACC. Could Kansas and Iowa State join the Big Ten, a scenario that Kansas is pursuing by setting up a call with the conference? What happens to Kansas State in that scenario?

In the case of Iowa State, the fear is that the Big Ten could secure Notre Dame and then choose Kansas despite its current compliance issues and the continued sorry state of its football program.

Kansas State may have to hope for a call from the ACC or that the Pac-12 decides it doesn’t want to deal with Baylor’s baggage.

For the other eight members of the Big 12, landing in a 16-team super conference is an ideal outcome, but one that hardly seems assured.

What would would the expanded divisions in the SEC look like?

The additions of Texas and Oklahoma to create the first 16-team super conference in college athletics would likely include four four-team pods. The SEC Network already speculated about what those pods might look like and the proposal makes sense.

Pods for expanded SEC

Pod A Pod B Pod C Pod D
Pod A Pod B Pod C Pod D
Florida Alabama LSU Arkansas
Georgia Auburn Mississippi State Missouri
Kentucky Tennessee Ole Miss Oklahoma
South Carolina Vanderbilt Texas A&M Texas

The expanded conference would move from eight to nine conference games to feature three games against the other members of the pod and two games against each of the other pods.

Will Texas and Texas A&M should reprise their old rivalry? Not in this scenario, as Missouri makes more geographical sense and Texas gets to revive its Southwest Conference rivalry against Arkansas.

And perhaps the SEC keeps Texas A&M from having to play Texas every year as a bit of appeasement after reportedly cutting the Aggies out of the expansion discussions.

That’s gotta sting.