On Monday morning, following the timetable quickly established last week, the Texas Longhorns and the Oklahoma Sooners released a joint statement officially announcing both school’s intent to leave the Big 12 Conference.
The University of Texas at Austin and The University of Oklahoma notified the Big 12 Athletic Conference today that they will not be renewing their grants of media rights following expiration in 2025. Providing notice to the Big 12 at this point is important in advance of the expiration of the conference’s current media rights agreement. The universities intend to honor their existing grant of rights agreements. However, both universities will continue to monitor the rapidly evolving collegiate athletics landscape as they consider how best to position their athletics programs for the future.
Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby responded to the news with his own statement on Monday.
Although our eight members are disappointed with the decisions of these two institutions, we recognize that intercollegiate athletics is experiencing rapid change and will most likely look much different in 2025 than it does currently. The Big 12 Conference will continue to support our member institutions’ efforts to graduate student-athletes, and compete for Big 12 and NCAA championships. Like many others, we will use the next four years to fully assess what the landscape will look like in 2025 and beyond. The remaining eight institutions will work together in a collaborative manner to thoughtfully and strategically position the Big 12 Conference for continued success, both athletically and academically, long into the future.
It was the second statement made in less than 24 hours by Bowlsby, who met with the presidents of Texas and Oklahoma on Sunday in a discussion that the commissioner termed as “cordial” as the Big 12 continues further last-ditch attempts to convince the Longhorns and Sooners to remain in the conference.
According to CBSSports.com, the Big 12 has already offered Texas and Oklahoma 1.5 revenue shares per year in an effort to reduce the margins between current revenue and the revenue both schools stand to make in the SEC.
But that effort isn’t expected to work, raising the question of whether the schools will actually remain in the Big 12 until the grant of rights expires — the part of the statement about honoring the grant of rights agreement seems necessary for legal reasons even as the following sentence leaves open the possibility that the schools join the SEC before 2025.
In fact, an SEC athletics director told Matt Hayes of Saturday Down South that the expectation is for Texas and Oklahoma to join the SEC in 2022, but it’s not clear how that will happen on such a short timetable with Big 12 bylaws requiring 18 months between notice date and effective withdrawal from the conference.
Fighting for the full exit fees from Texas and Oklahoma — roughly $80 million each — may be a huge priority for the Big 12 with industry sources telling CBSSports.com that the conference is losing 50 percent to 75 percent of its value from the two departures. That valuation matters in the short term because the grant of rights agreement includes language allowing the television partners to reduce payouts due to membership changes.
So there could be a catastrophic drop in revenue payments to Big 12 schools, potentially to less than $10 million per school.
Now the next step for Texas and Oklahoma is acceptance into the SEC, which could happen as soon as this week. After that, the legal battles will begin as the schools establish a real timetable for departure.