Welcome to the Wild, Wild West known as the college football off-season. This year, we have the massive news of Texas and Oklahoma leaving the safety of the Big 12 and entering the land where barbecue flows like a river. Yes, I’m talking about the sweet tea hellscape of chaos and destruction known as the South Eastern Conference. Now this seems like shocking news, with people initially asking why the Longhorns and Sooners would make the jump not from out of the frying pan and into the fire, but out of the frying pan and into the seventh layer of Bear Bryant’s Inferno.
The answer is quite simple, actually: because college football is pro wrestling.
Allow me to expand. Texas and Oklahoma are the two big breadwinners of the Big 12, even though Texas hasn’t exactly been great since Mack Brown left in 2013 because of "undue pressure surrounding the program. They’re safe and comfortable beating up on the lower level teams such as Kansas (well, not exactly Texas) and Texas Tech while raking in money from FOX and The Longhorn Network.
However, the bottom line always makes a sweet noise, much like a siren to a wayfaring sailor, and these sirens are calling the two schools to the biggest conference in the sport—the SEC. Texas and Oklahoma have a chance to expand on the already large amounts of money they’re making, while bringing in even more cash flow from the SEC's lucrative TV deal—the conference will be moving to ESPN full time in 2024 as part of a contract worth $3 billion.
Much like Kevin Nash and Scott Hall leaving the WWF for WCW, this is Texas and Oklahoma’s curtain call. However, this split isn’t as friendly. According to reports, Texas and Oklahoma skipped the conference call held by the Big 12 to discuss the events, which is about as heel of a move since Roddy Piper graced Piper’s Pit.
They can do this, why? Simply because they are Texas and Oklahoma, two of the winningest programs in the history of college football. Whatever they say in that conference, they can do. If they want to leave for the SEC, they can do that (they’ll have to pay a hefty fee though). In the Big 12 bylaws, there is a buyout universities have to pay to leave the conference that is “equal to the last two years of distributions from the conference during the final two years of its membership,” and according to Wescott Eberts, that number could be in the $80 million range.
Ultimately, this similarity between college football and pro wrestling is solidified by a quote Orangeblood’s Geoff Ketchum got from a high level Texas source when asked about the future of the Big 12 if the Longhorns leave: "We don't care."
This is grade A, pompous heel work from the Longhorns, stuff that would make even MJF proud. The idea of doing whatever they want because they are Texas and not caring what happens to the other programs is exactly what college football and pro wrestling have in common. The ratings and TV money involved is far too high for the Big 12 powerhouses to stay in conference, and much like the world of professional wrestling, when the money calls, people will follow.
Not everyone in the land flowing with Bluegrass and Rocky Top is happy, however. Texas A&M AD Ross Bjork told ESPN after the reports surfaced that Texas A&M wants to be “the only SEC school in the state of Texas.”
“There’s a reason why Texas A&M left the Big 12,” he said. “To stand alone, to have our own identity.”
If you've watched Space Jam: A New Legacy, you're probably aware of how much Foghorn Leghorn complains about the rules—it's annoying. Just put an Aggies shirt on Foghorn Leghorn and give him $72 million and you get Jimbo Fisher and Ross Bjork talking about Texas wanting to move to the SEC.
The thought of Texas coming back from the dead, sitting up like The Undertaker and taking Texas A&M’s gimmick of being, "the only SEC school in Texas" is the funniest thing ever, because Texas A&M's entire gimmick is being not-Texas. The entire ordeal is also eerily similar to when WWE wrestlers cash in their "Money in the Bank" contracts, guaranteeing them a title shot. A&M is coming off of a very successful season, and is a potential favorite to win the SEC. They got the monster Crimson Tide on the ropes when-BAM! In comes Texas with their contract guaranteeing them something Texas A&M already has.
The egos of everyone involved in this situation are hilariously large, and all of them want to throw their weight around and play with the big boys. That’s what pro wrestling is about: the crazy gimmicks and pushing people around to make your name the biggest name out there.
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Andy Staples of The Athletic wrote that the Sooners and Longhorns could be the first chips to fall in a new round of realignment, which could bring about super conferences. However, this turning into a problem could be avoided if they implement some soccer-style rules like promotion and relegation.
Much like Alundra Blayze throwing the WWF Women’s Title in the trash, or D-Generation X storming into WCW unannounced, the moves Texas and Oklahoma are doing are probably more about television ratings and money than anything.
Yet, the wackiness of pro wrestling can also be seen in the people affected the most by this realignment: the fans. College football fans are a peculiar bunch, divided by regions and burn with a passion so intense for their hometown school that they will fight you over their college team.
Pro wrestling has its own set of fans altogether. As the wrestling world went through a pandemic and wrestlers interacted in front of empty crowds, it was evident that something was missing. Fans bring an element of passion, and energy to a stadium(both good and bad). Sounds just like college football fans right?
With this news of realignment, the fans who once cheered vehemently against the crosstown school could be subject to losing those local traditions because of the money involved. Sure you can try and make new rivalries, but that doesn't exactly work out(looking at you, UCF and UConn). Both pro wrestling and college football are driven by the fans, and their local traditions and little quirks is what makes college football special.
No, this won’t be the death of college football, as I’ve heard people say. When Texas and Oklahoma do, in fact move to the SEC, this could mean bigger football games and possibly better football games. This means more(wink wink) for the bottom line, which is ultimately a win for TV ratings and universities looking to boost their bottom dollar, a la WCW getting all of the old WWF stars in 1994-1995. However, the whole realignment ordeal could end up taking out it's biggest factors: the fans. Much like pro wrestling, the fans are a major part of college football, and losing them could hurt in the long run.
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