The next domino: Texas, Oklahoma formally ask to join the Southeastern Conference in 2025

Brian Davis
Austin American-Statesman

The next SEC domino has fallen. University of Texas and University of Oklahoma officials announced Tuesday they have formally asked to join the Southeastern Conference on July 1, 2025.

The move will undoubtedly cause a ripple effect throughout college sports, but Ohio State athletics director Gene Smith is hoping the Big Ten, at least, reacts cautiously.

"Working with my colleagues in the Big Ten, gaining insight from the AD's in other conferences, getting feedback from our coaches in an effort to assess the impact of the change," he told The Dispatch about his next steps. 

"Having participated in the Committee to move the Big 8 to the Big 12 (as athletics director at Iowa State), and being a part of the past expansion planning in the Big Ten, it is critical to not overreact to changes in the landscape."

Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith doesn't want the Big Ten to rush their next move.

SEC presidents are scheduled to meet Thursday and possibly vote to accept the Longhorns and Sooners, according to a Texas A&M source. 

“The University of Texas at Austin and The University of Oklahoma (the “Universities”) request invitations for membership to the Southeastern Conference (the “SEC”) starting on July 1, 2025,” Texas and OU university presidents wrote in a letter that was emailed to SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey.

“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,” the letter continued.

“We look forward to the prospect of discussions regarding this matter.”

The letter is signed by Texas President Jay Hartzell and Oklahoma President Joe Harroz.

In response, the SEC issued a statement on its Twitter account acknowledging that Texas and OU have applied for membership.

“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,” the SEC statement said.

“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,” the SEC added. “Per the Bylaws of the SEC, a vote of at least three-fourths of the SEC’s 14 members is required to extend an invitiation for membership.”

Four no votes out of the 14-team SEC membership would kill expansion.

Today’s letter represents Texas and OU’s second step in the legal process to leave the Big 12 and join another conference. On Monday, the two schools issued a joint statement saying they informed the Big 12 they did not wish to extend their grant of television rights beyond the 2024-25 athletic year. 

More:Texas sends critical letter to Big 12 officials, signaling the Longhorns intend to leave for SEC

Should SEC presidents vote to accept Texas and OU as new members, everyone will be looking at their calendars. The remaining eight schools in the Big 12 can hold Texas and OU contractually bound to complete their terms in the league.

However, UT officials hope new television deals can be struck beforehand, short-circuiting a possible four-year divorce from the Big 12, school sources said. Some Texas officials are privately hoping to start playing an SEC schedule in 2022 or 2023, at the latest.

One high-ranking UT source said the school did not want expansion talk to steal attention from the 2021 season. The Longhorns begin practice on Aug. 6. The season opener is scheduled for Sept. 4 at home against Louisiana.

The UT System Board of Regents announced Tuesday a special meeting for Friday. According to the brief agenda posting, UT regents will engage in “discussion and possible appropriate action related to legal issues associated with athletic contracts and conference membership matters.”

Oklahoma regents also announced a similar meeting Friday as well to “consider athletics conference membership.” Harroz and athletic director Joe Castiglione are scheduled to attend, according to an OU news release.

The Texas A&M System Board of Regents have also been busy this week. A&M regents met via teleconference for 90 minutes Monday night in executive session but took no official actions. They are scheduled to meet again at 4 p.m. Wednesday in College Station.

Former A&M President R. Bowen Loftin, who oversaw the Aggies’ move to the SEC a decade ago, has done several interviews in recent days about a “gentlemen’s agreement” A&M once had with the league.

“There’s this understanding among the membership — at least it was 10 years ago — that you don’t admit a school from the same state as a member school unless that member school's OK with it,” Loftin told ESPN. 

That agreement was never in writing, Loftin admits, and it was with former SEC Commissioner Mike Slive, who retired in 2015 and died in 2018.

Nothing, it appears, will stop Texas and Oklahoma’s move now.

Reporter Bill Rabinowitz of The Columbus Dispatch contributed to this story.