You’ve heard the story. Texas and Oklahoma won’t be renewing their media contracts after 2025.
#BREAKING:— Jason Whitely (@JasonWhitely) July 22, 2021
Early next week, the @TexasLonghorns and @UofOklahoma will send a letter to the @Big12Conference stating that neither school will renew their media contracts when they expire in 2025.
Texas and Oklahoma have reportedly reached out to the SEC to see about joining as conference members. Greg Sankey didn’t deny it. Texas and Oklahoma didn’t say it was wrong. Texas A&M Ross Bjork said that they want to be the only team in the SEC, but if 11 other ADs want them, his opinion doesn’t matter. The Big 12 itself is surprised, upset, likely ready to start prolonged legal battles, and working on a plan to not get left behind and become, effectively, a Group of Five conference.
Let’s take a second and not talk about why Texas and Oklahoma would want to leave the Big 12 (money). We can also skip whether this is a power play for even more power in the Big 12 and if the SEC would let them in. Don’t worry if this makes sense from a recruiting point of view or from the standpoint of the 12-team playoff. That all matters if this were to happen, but it’s not important here. Let’s take it all for assumed that they’re going to join the SEC, for now.
The number one reason why a team leaves a conference for another is to make more money on their media deal. On the other hand, the conference won’t let you in unless you raise the value of each current member school’s shares. That’s why the Big 12 hasn’t expanded from 10 teams to this point-UCF, Cincinnati, or some other G5 school wouldn’t add enough TV value to offset dividing up their shares. Of course, most of that value is in Texas and Oklahoma, so that point might be moot going forward.
Either way, if this bit of realignment were to happen, there would be a major trickle-down impact on the other conferences. That includes the AAC, who would be staring one of three potential futures in place going forward.
The first thing that could happen is what everyone expects to happen. That’s to say that the Big 12, in a panic to not get left behind, takes on an expansion project. From the AAC, UCF and Cincinnati would make a lot of sense, in terms of their fanbases and recent success. Houston and SMU both make geographic and cultural sense, before you consider their potential.
That would put the Big 12 back to 12 teams. It would also leave schools like Memphis and Tulsa behind. Furthermore, it assumes they’d only look to draw from the AAC, and not a conference like the Mountain West. Boise State, San Diego State, and even a BYU could all be up for consideration too.
In other words, if the Big 12 expands, they’ll either decimate the G5 or leave a mad dash for a limited number of spots.
The second thing that could happen is that the Big 12 finds itself extremely devalued. As their media deal comes up, they realize that they’re going to be getting a fraction of what they got before. Essentially, they would be a G5 conference at that point. Now, they look into expansion, but the value isn’t there. So, they don’t expand and the top member schools look for a way out. Oklahoma State, TCU, Iowa State...they go scrambling and the conference becomes a scrap heap.
In this case, the AAC would stand still, potentially adding a Big 12 school or two that has no other home and would add value to the current media deal.
Then, there’s the third option, which sees the AAC aggressively expand. This would mean grabbing schools like BYU and Boise State, which should boost the current media deal. As the Big 12 struggles, they would become much more on level with the AAC. However, with the AAC expansion, they wouldn’t have leftover G5 name brands to pull from. No Power Five schools want on the sinking ship, and the conference ultimately would collapse.
In both the second and third situations, the Big 12 would ultimately collapse and largely be replaced in that middle tier of conferences by the AAC. It’s just two different paths to get there.
To put it simply, if Texas and Oklahoma leave the Big 12, it will either mean that the AAC is poached from, before trying to restore itself from lower level G5 conferences, creating a tsunami effect, or it will mean that the Big 12 collapses in some form to allow the AAC to surpass them.
Of course, for now, it’s impossible to say which option will happen. It’s even difficult to tell if Texas and Oklahoma are actually going to leave or not. One thing it is easy to tell, however, is that there is a major shift to the current landscape on the horizon.