The superconference era in college athletics has officially kicked off.
Friday, in a move that was as unexpected as it was dramatic in terms of the implications, Texas officially joined the Southeastern Conference as the league officially expanded to 16 teams.
Both schools, Texas and Oklahoma, are planning to stay in the Big 12 through June 30, 2025, when that conferences' media-rights deal expires. However, negotiations are expected to be held to facilitate a quicker departure.
Each university would have to pay a penalty between $75 million and $80 million to break the ongoing agreement. They would also be off the hook if the Big 12 dissolved as a conference.
“The addition of Oklahoma and Texas, two esteemed institutions of higher education with strong academic programs, will serve to make the SEC even stronger,” Alabama President Dr. Stuart Bell said in a statement. “We are excited to welcome them to the SEC and believe the addition of these two schools will heighten our student-athletes’ opportunities to compete, enrich the fan experience and bolster the entire conference.”
The Big 12 Conference initially came together in February 1994 when the four Texas schools that had been members of the Southwest Conference were invited to join the Big Eight Conference to form a new league.
Since then, it's won just three national championships in football, Nebraska (which is now in the Big Ten) in 1997, Oklahoma in 2000, and Texas in 2005. It had also won two men's basketball titles (2008 Kansas, 2021 Baylor) and two in baseball (2002 and 2005 Texas).
The league had been more successful in men's swimming, softball and men's golf, in addition to a variety of sports the SEC does not sanction as varsity sports including men's gymnastics, men's cross country, rifle, skiing, wrestling and women's bowling.
For the past few years, it's been a 10-school conference, with the footprint including the states of Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, West Virginia and Iowa.
This will be the third round of SEC expansion since 1990, when the league went from 10 to 12 member institutions with the addition of Arkansas and South Carolina. They began league competition with the 1991–1992 basketball season.
It's also when the SEC organized some sports including football into two divisions, which will obviously be updated and altered with the latest additions.
In 2011, the league added Texas A&M and Missouri to begin competition during the 2012-13 academic year.
The latest round of expansion has happened quickly, at least publicly. Word leaked out on July 21, during the 2021 SEC Media Days, that the schools had been in discussions to join the conference.
On Tuesday, UT and OU formally notified the SEC they are seeking "an invitation for membership" beginning July 1, 2025.
Texas president Jay Hartzell and Oklahoma president Joseph Harroz Jr. wrote: "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."
On Thursday, SEC presidents and chancellors met and extended the necessary invitations. The vote was unanimous.
The board of regents for both Texas and Oklahoma scheduled separate special meetings Friday morning. The conference subsequently announced their additions.
A decision from Texas was made earlier in the morning, with members of the Oklahoma Board of Regents approving the move to the SEC soon after.
“We would like to welcome Oklahoma and Texas to the Southeastern Conference,” Crimson Tide athletic director Greg Byrne said in a release. “The SEC has already established itself as the premiere conference in collegiate athletics, and the addition of these two tradition-rich programs will make for an even more competitive league in all sports.”