The Texas Longhorns’ time in the Big 12 is coming to an end — the same can be said for the Oklahoma Sooners. The longtime bitter rivals effectively teamed up behind the scenes and while the rest of the college athletics world was unsuspecting, the Horns and Sooners were positioning themselves for a seismic move to the SEC.
The news of their interest to jump to the SEC was reported in late July, and within a matter of just more than a week, the officially sent notice of their intent to leave the Big 12, requested invitations to the SEC, and were unanimously voted into the league by the SEC’s current 14 members.
With that, the Burnt Orange Nation staff got together to share some thoughts on the move, memories of what Texas is leaving behind, and what’s to come in the SEC.
A little over a week ago, life was normal. Then news broke that Texas and Oklahoma were eyeing the SEC, and almost overnight, it became reality. What was your main thought when it became clear that the Longhorns and Sooners were headed to the SEC?
Cody Daniel — This is such a seismic move that it almost seems impossible, primarily in football. When the move does happen, the matchups will simply be much more existing. In my mind, the Big 12 had become a bit dull for Texas — they didn’t play a true rival at home, and now they’ll soon reignite rivalries with Texas A&M, Arkansas, and start playing generally more improved competition. But playing generally better teams in much larger, better college atmospheres means Texas simply has to return to some semblance of its glory days or the SEC will be more exhausting than exciting.
Gerald Goodridge — Initial thought was disbelief mixed with “Ah. That makes sense.” I knew another round of realignment was coming sooner or later, with both the Pac-12 and Big 12 rights agreements set to expire right around the same time. I honestly figured the Big 12 would snatch some schools from the Pac-12 and get back to at least 12, if not 14 or 16 teams, but I didn’t see the two biggest brands in the Big 12 circling the wagons and heading to the SEC. But when the move happened, it made sense that the Longhorns and the Sooners would align with the other titanic brands of college football.
Daniel Seahorn — I wanted to make sure I wasn’t getting trolled, but as more and more info began to come out the more it made sense. College football is rapidly changing and it is not going to surprise me if this starts pushing the game towards super conferences. If super conferences are happening then it makes sense for Texas to align itself with the premier conference and get a seat at the table now rather than to hold tight on a sinking ship.
Evan Kirschner — The rumors had about a half week’s head start before anything official came out, so by the time the official statement that Texas and Oklahoma would not be renewing their Big 12 tv rights was announced, I had already gotten through the shock and awe of the decision. The move makes too much sense for both Texas and Oklahoma, and neither school owed anything to the Big 12 or the remaining seven conference members to stay. Instead, I went through what SEC divisions or pods would look like, who would Texas play every year, who would be on UT’s half of the conference, those sorts of things. And though football may be a struggle to remain competitive (at least initially), the move to the SEC is incredibly exciting with loads of potential to compete from day one for our basketball and baseball/softball programs.
Texas and OU noted that they intend to honor their contracts until 2025, but that’s unlikely to prove true. How soon do you expect these two to begin playing football in the SEC?
Cody — If I were a betting man, I’d say the 2023 season to give Texas time to give an 18-month notice and pay the approximate $80 million to leave early. It doesn’t look like there’s enough interest from other P5 conferences for many of the Big 12’s members to find another home before 2025, so the conference completely imploding in time for 2022 seems less likely.
Gerald — I bet if Steve Sarkisian and his recruiting staff got their way, Texas has that circular patch on their jersey at the start of the 2022 season. I think Chris Del Conte is well aware that both his legacy and his employment with the University of Texas are tied to Steve Sarkisian’s success as a head coach, so putting him in a position to win now on the recruiting trail should be a priority. That means getting to the SEC in the next two seasons.
Seahorn — I would be shocked if both programs were not in their new conference in 2023 at the latest. It doesn’t make sense for either program to hang around longer than they need to at this point and I would be surprised if they didn’t already have a handle on when and how they are getting out of their current contract.
Evan — There’s no way the SEC, ESPN, or even the respective school boards are content with Texas and OU being lame duck members of the Big 12 until 2025. It’s too late to finagle a move to the SEC for 2021, but given all the money that could be had moving early, it wouldn’t shock me to see Texas and OU in their new conference to start the 2022 season.
We know how Texas beating Texas A&M in the final Big 12 meeting has been a talking point for a decade. If Texas is gone by 2022, how significant is it for Texas to exit the Big 12 on a high note?
Cody — I don’t think it’s necessarily who they beat, but where they finish in the Big 12. Iowa State is the clear No. 2 in the conference behind Oklahoma, but if Texas can somehow steal that seat and make a conference title appearance in its final Big 12 season, that will hold much more weight in sports conversations than if Texas dropped a game to Kansas State and another to TCU. In short, Texas needs to leave the conference on a high note and not finish in fourth or fifth place.
Gerald — This is a weird question because the way they exit the Big 12 will likely determine their trajectory into the SEC. That being said, I don’t know what fair expectations are for the 2021 Texas Longhorns, so what even is a high note? I think if the team can put together a nine or 10-win season, coupled with the move to the SEC, they will likely be able to snag some high-priority recruiting targets to take with them.
Seahorn — It is imperative for the overall program trajectory and for recruiting purposes. Texas staffs have been selling recruits on hopes and dreams for a long time now and with a tougher task on the horizon in the SEC they will need some tangible proof in the near future that kids can buy into before they take their talents East.
Evan — I don’t think it matters at all in the long run. Texas and OU are both leaving the Big 12 for the SEC for the same reasons, yet those schools have had polarizing degrees of success in the past decade. The only ones years from now who will still care about how Texas performed in its final seasons in Big 12 play are those who allow Texas to live rent free in their heads. The only reason many people care about the final UT vs A&M game is because that was a longstanding, great rivalry that came to a seemingly abrupt end over bitter terms. Texas isn’t leaving any of those rivalries behind in the Big 12.
With Texas’ exit now official, what was your favorite Longhorns moment from their time in the Big 12?
Cody — This isn’t recency bias, but for me it was Texas winning the Big 12 Tournament title last season. I’ve always been partial to basketball, and Shaka Smart’s tenure aligned with me moving back to Texas after college, so that was essentially the first Texas team I’ve covered in person. Then, seeing some of the uneventful and frustrating lows that team went through leading up to the Big 12 tourney win, from untimely injuries to Andrew Jones’ cancer diagnosis to Texas falling just short time and time again, it felt good to see that group enjoy that high note. Of course, chaos ensured shortly after that... Now, we just need Chris Beard to run it back to Texas possibly leaves with back-to-back Big 12 tourney titles.
Gerald — Don’t make me pick. I was lucky to be on campus from the Fall of 2004 to December of 2008, so I got two football seasons of Vince Young and three of Colt McCoy. I also got to see Cat Osterman, Kevin Durant, Destinee Hooker and dozens of other players that people would totally make sense if they were your all-time favorite Longhorn. I was at the 2004 Oklahoma State comeback, so that’s definitely up there, as well as the 45-35 Red River game back in 2008. The Kevin Durant/Acie Law battles on the hardwood were also some incredible games. For me, a dark horse was being at the 2007 volleyball game when Destinee Hooker went off for 17 kills and Texas swept then No. 1 Nebraska - something that hadn’t been done in a decade.
Seahorn — Tough just to pick one. I grew up a big baseball fan, so watching Augie’s baseball teams dominate in the early 2000s and becoming a staple in Omaha was always fun for me. I was also particularly fond of the football squad that end the year in the Fiesta bowl against Ohio State. That team was a bad break from playing for a Natty and they were so much fun to watch that year.
Evan — As one of the “newer” Longhorns who was on campus from 2013-2017, I missed pretty much all of the best years in most every sport. My favorite moment since then was Kody Clemens’ ridiculous run in the 2018 season that propelled Texas to its first Big 12 Title in nearly a decade, ultimately ending with a trip to Omaha and a visit to the College World Series. Watching Clemens will that team to victories at times was nothing short of amazing, and being able to cover that season here at BON makes that spring and summer especially memorable.
Looking forward to 2022 — or beyond — aside from Texas A&M, which SEC program are you most looking forward to Texas meeting?
Cody — I’m a Kentucky grad and I’ve got plenty of family and friends in the Bluegrass, so I’m looking forward to those matchups after years of talking trash throughout college, especially considering both schools have quality teams across several sports. Plus, not having to pay for a hotel when I head back out to catch a game is a plus.
Gerald — I’m not of the generation that really remembers the Arkansas rivalry from the SWC, but I know the historical importance of it, so that excites me. I am also going to love playing LSU at least somewhat regularly. It already feels like a rivalry in many ways, so I’m excited to see that.
Seahorn — Night games in the SEC are hard to put into words and I am really looking forward to Texas being able to go into places like Tuscaloosa and Baton Rouge for prime time games.
Evan — LSU seems like such an obvious answer. The game in Austin in 2019 was a great game surrounded with plenty of hype and fanfare. I think both fan bases will travel to Austin and Baton Rouge extremely well. Also, kind of cheating here, but it was important that OU made the jump to the SEC with us. Keeping that rivalry game on the schedule each year is something to look forward to.
Lastly, with the move now official, what makes you most nervous about Texas’ jump to the SEC, and what are you most excited about?
Cody — At least before Sarkisian’s first season, Texas hasn’t fared too well in the Big 12 lately, and things are only going to get significantly more challenging on a weekly basis in the SEC. I think Texas will be fine, if not great in other sports, but football is king and they’ll need to use this transition to bring the best back out of the program or a lot of Saturdays won’t end well. On the other hand, in most cases, every game is going to feel like a big game on a big stage with an amazing atmosphere. I’ll take that over 11 a.m. kickoffs versus Kansas State and Baylor.
Gerald — I’m not one that is scared of competition. Either you’re good enough or you’re not, so there’s not really any reason to worry about it. I do think Texas needs to find a way to win early and not get embarrassed in any losses. The thing that has me most excited is that nearly every week during conference play will feel like a marquee matchup.
Seahorn — I’d say the discrepancy in talent and on-field execution is at the top of the list for me when it comes to things that worry me. The SEC is a big boy league week in and out and even teams in the bottom tier can give you issues if you try to sleep walk your way through a game. If Texas wants to reap the benefits of playing in the SEC then they will need to show up on the field in short order to do so.
I’m most excited to see the yearly matchups and the renewed excitement around the programs. This is something that can revitalize an athletic department that has been a bit of a sleeping giant for the past decade if they can take advantage of it
Evan — Obviously football scares me, only because of the state of the current football program such an unknown without much recent success. Texas hasn’t had too much trouble recruiting blue chip talent, but it’s failed tremendously at developing that talent. What excites me most is that Coach Sark and Co. will have no shortage of resources to get UT football back to its 2000’s hey-day. The potential of this coaching staff being able to put it together in this conference would place Texas in the National Championship conversation each and every season.