- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 27, 2021

Texas and Oklahoma took another leap toward a major conference shift, formally applying for membership in the SEC with a letter sent to Commissioner Greg Sankey on Tuesday. In the letter, the two Big 12 schools noted the “mutual benefit” that could follow such a realignment.

The letter follows a statement Monday that said Texas and Oklahoma would not renew their grants of media rights following the expiration of the deal in 2025. To abide by the current media rights deal, Texas and Oklahoma said in the letter to Sankey on Tuesday that the schools could join the SEC on July 1, 2025.

“We believe that there would be mutual benefit to the Universities on the one hand, and the SEC on the other hand, for the Universities to become members of the SEC,” read the letter, which was co-written by Texas President Jay Hartzell and Oklahoma President Joseph Harroz Jr. “We look forward to the prospect of discussions regarding this matter.”

According to ESPN, SEC presidents and chancellors will meet Thursday to discuss the Longhorns and Sooners potentially joining the conference, bringing the number of teams to 16. The addition of Oklahoma and Texas could lead to more realignment elsewhere, as other power conferences attempt to keep up with what appears to be the first super conference.

To join the SEC, 11 of the current 14 schools must vote yes while four dissents would cancel expansion.

“While the SEC has not proactively sought new members, we will pursue significant change when there is a clear consensus among our members that such actions will further enrich the experiences of our student-athletes and lead to greater academic and athletic achievement across our campuses,” Sankey said in a statement. “The Presidents and Chancellors of the SEC, in their capacity as the conference’s Chief Executive Officers, will consider these requests in the near future.”

If Texas and Oklahoma wait until the end of their current media rights deal with the Big 12, they could avoid paying a penalty for leaving the conference. Leaving early could result in a penalty of at least $75 million, ESPN reported.

The Longhorns and Sooners could also leave the conference sooner if a buyout agreement is reached with the Big 12.

“The events of recent days have verified that [Texas and Oklahoma] have been contemplating and planning for the transition for months and this formal application is the culmination of those processes,” Big 12 Commissioner Bob Bowlsby said in a statement. “We are unwavering in the belief that the Big 12 provides an outstanding platform for its members’ athletic and academic success. We will face the challenges head-on, and have confidence that the Big 12 will continue to be a vibrant and successful entity in the near term and into the foreseeable future.”

• Andy Kostka can be reached at akostka@washingtontimes.com.

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