AP Source: Texas, Oklahoma Discuss Joining the League with SEC | Sports news

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By RALPH D. RUSSO, AP College Football Writer

The last time Texas got a wandering eye for another conference, it led to a series of realignments in college sports that nearly killed the Big 12.

Texas is re-exploring freedom of action, stealing headlines at the Southeastern Conference media days, and fueling speculation about another round of conference changeover. And the Longhorns aren’t the only ones looking around.

There have been talks between Texas and Oklahoma and SEC officials about changing conferences, but no formal invitations have been issued, a person with knowledge of the situation told The Associated Press on Wednesday night.

The person who spoke on condition of anonymity since the conversations were supposed to be kept confidential said officials from Texas started the discussion. The Houston Chronicle first reported on the discussions.

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The addition of two members would give the SEC powerhouse 16 teams, most in big college football. Losing two schools would be a devastating blow to the Big 12 of 10.

Questions about the report were answered by key stakeholders with a series of no comments but no rejections.

“I’m talking about the 2021 season,” SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey said at the SEC Football Media Days.

Texas A & M’s athletic director Ross Bjork didn’t want the Longhorns, once the school’s biggest rival, on the SEC.

“We want to be the only SEC program in the state of Texas,” Bjork told reporters. “There’s a reason Texas A&M left the Big 12 to be self-reliant and have our own identity. And that’s our feeling. “

The SEC bylaws require at least three-quarters (11) of members to vote in favor of being invited to join.

“The athletics landscape at colleges is constantly changing,” Oklahoma said in a statement. “We don’t go into every anonymous rumor.”

A Texas statement gave a similar answer: “Speculation always swirls around college athletics. We will not address any rumors or speculations. “

Big 12 Commissioner Bob Bowlsby did not return messages from AP for comment. Just last week, he spoke at the Big 12 Media Days in Arlington, Texas about reorienting the conference for the Big 12 no longer being a major concern.

“Not to say it couldn’t happen, but it’s not one of the things that keep me up at night,” he said.

Any move to leave the Big 12 would be complicated by an agreement their schools made after the last realignment to hand over their media rights to the league through their current television deals. The granting of rights is in line with the Big 12 contracts with Fox and ESPN and runs over the school year 2024-25.

In 2010, what was then Pac-10 tried Texas and five other Big 12 schools to join the West Coast conference to create a Pac-16.

Texas stayed and instead founded its own television network. After another flirt between Texas, Oklahoma and then Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott, Texas A&M fled for the SEC in 2012 and Missouri followed.

The Big 12, who had already lost Nebraska to the Big Ten and Colorado to the Pac-12, managed to hold out with the invitation from TCU and West Virginia.

College sports were turned upside down for about three years as conferences tried to strengthen and schools tried not to be left out. The Big East was poached straight out of the big college football business before eventually re-establishing it as the American Athletic Conference.

Life without Texas and Oklahoma would be uncertain at best for the other Big 12 schools.

Even an unconfirmed report sparked a confident response from the Oklahoma State.

“If that’s true, we would be very disappointed,” said the cowboys’ statement. “While we value history, loyalty and trust, we can be sure that we will aggressively defend and advance what is best for the state of Oklahoma and our strong sports program that continues to excel in the Big 12 and nationally.”

The mere possibility of adding Texas and Oklahoma to the strongest football conference in the country is sure to grab the attention of the other Power Five conferences. Especially since the leaders of these leagues are trying to expand the college football playoff from four to twelve teams.

Oklahoma is the only Big 12 team to make the playoffs four times. The path to the CFP would be more difficult through the SEC, but a larger field could offer more paths.

The SEC recently signed a new television deal with ESPN that grants all rights to the cable television sports giant. It’s unclear whether the addition of Texas and Oklahoma would provide the SEC with an opportunity to add value to these contracts for all of their members, rather than just providing enough to cover the additions at current price.

The SEC announced earlier this year that it had distributed around $ 45.5 million each to its members. The Big 12 schools got about $ 10 million less from their conference.

When Texas A&M coach Jimbo Fisher was asked during his meeting with the media in Hoover whether Texas and Oklahoma were interested in the SEC, he said, “I bet they would.”

“Look, we have the biggest league,” said Fisher. “Those are the decisions you make or what you do, I don’t know, but I don’t know how I feel about them.”

AP Sports Writer John Zenor of Hoover, Alabama contributed to this report.

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