How Oklahoma, Texas change the SEC landscape in all sports
Oklahoma and Texas joining the SEC is essentially a foregone conclusion at this point.
The two schools officially notified the Big 12 on Monday that they will not renew their grants of media rights when they expire in 2025, which is the first major domino in what could be a significant round of realignment in college sports.
All signs point to the Sooners and Longhorns joining the SEC to create the first “super conference” with 16 schools. Texas A&M has been vocal in its desire to be the conference’s only program in the Lone Star State, but the SEC needs just 11 ‘yes’ votes out of 14 to make the expansion a reality.
Most of the attention has been on how this seismic shift will impact football in the SEC, which is already the strongest conference in the sport. Speculation has been rampant on social media, message boards and sports talk radio shows.
Will Alabama and Auburn shift to the East, bringing Missouri to the West along with Oklahoma and Texas? Will the SEC scrap divisions altogether in favor of pods? What would those pods look like? Does the SEC stick with eight conference games or move to nine? What happens to the other Big 12 schools? How does this impact the College Football Playoff?
All of that remains to be seen and will work itself out before the SEC officially expands to 16 teams. What we know now is that the strongest conference in America is getting stronger with the expected addition of two major programs.
For Arkansas, it will be a reunion of sorts with Texas, as the two schools were conference rivals for nearly eight decades. They were both founding members of the old Southwest Conference and competed against each other in that league from 1914-91, until the Razorbacks left for the SEC.
Although the Longhorns dominated on the gridiron and lead the all-time series 56-22, it was a fierce rivalry that featured many close games. It was at its peak in the 1960s, when the average margin of their 10 matchups was just 6.4 and seven of them were decided by five or fewer points, including the 1969 “Game of the Century” that Texas won 15-14.
Recently, though, Texas has hit a rough stretch. It hasn’t won a conference title since 2009, when it lost to Alabama in the BCS National Championship Game, and since then, it has just one 10-win season (2018).
On the other side of the Red River, Oklahoma - which was also a founding member of the SWC, but left for the Missouri Valley after just six seasons - has been one of college football’s premier programs.
The Sooners have won 14 conference titles since the turn of the century, including six straight. Even though they’ve yet to win a game, they’ve made the College Football Playoff four times.
Their presence in the conference will certainly further solidify the SEC’s status as the best conference in college football, but Oklahoma and Texas will also elevate the league in other sports. Here’s a quick sport-by-sport overview of what they bring to the SEC…
Even though neither school is known for its hoops, both programs have consistently made the big dance. Texas has been in 27 of the last 32 NCAA Tournaments, while Oklahoma has made 20 of the last 26 with a Final Four appearance in 2016.
Each program made coaching changes this offseason, with Oklahoma hiring Porter Moser from Loyola-Chicago and Texas hiring Chris Beard from Texas Tech. In addition to having stints at Little Rock, both of their resumes include trips to the Final Four.
They would join Auburn’s Bruce Pearl, Florida’s Mike White, Kentucky’s John Calipari, Mississippi State’s Ben Howland, South Carolina’s Frank Martin and Tennessee’s Rick Barnes as SEC coaches who’ve reached the Final Four. That’s half of the conference. On top of that, only two coaches in the league have failed to make it to at least one Sweet 16 - Ole Miss’ Kermit Davis and Vanderbilt’s Jerry Stackhouse.
The SEC has steadily climbed the ranks in terms of national perception in men’s basketball recently and, assuming their new coaches deliver, Oklahoma and Texas could elevate it even further, pushing the likes of the ACC and Big Ten for superiority.
A familiar face will be back on SEC sidelines, as former Arkansas assistant and Mississippi State head coach Vic Schaefer is now the head coach at Texas. In his first season in Austin, he led the Longhorns to a surprising Elite Eight run as a 6 seed.
At Oklahoma, Jennie Baranczyk is entering her first season at the helm of the Sooners after a successful run at Drake. She is replacing long-time coach Sherri Coale, who led Oklahoma to six regular-season Big 12 titles and three Final Fours in her 25-year career.
There is a strong case to be made that the SEC is even stronger in baseball than in football. The conference has had a team in the College World Series finals in 12 of the last 13 tournaments, with seven different teams either winning a national title or finishing runner-up.
In the past decade, there have been three all-SEC finals. There have also been five instances of a single conference having four teams make it to Omaha in one year and four of them have been done by the SEC, most recently in 2019.
Texas would fit right in, as it has more College World Series appearances than any other team and its six national titles are tied with LSU for second all-time. The Longhorns have been really good recently, too, earning the No. 2 overall seed in the 2021 NCAA Tournament and making it to Omaha for the 37th time.
It isn’t on Texas’ level, but Oklahoma also has a solid baseball history with two national titles (1951 and 1994) and 10 College World Series appearances - albeit only one (2010) in the past two and a half decades.
Although the Pac-12 can probably claim to be the top conference in college softball, the SEC is right on its heels and adding Oklahoma might push it ahead.
The Sooners just completed one of the most dominant seasons in the history of the sport by winning their fifth national title with a 56-4 record. It was also their ninth appearance in the Women’s College World Series in the last 10 tournaments. They are led by legendary coach Patty Gasso, who has been there since 1995.
Adding Texas will also strengthen the conference, as it has five trips to Oklahoma City since starting its softball program in 1997. None of those have been since 2013, but the Longhorns have made it to the super regionals in each of their two full seasons under Mike White. White’s previous job was at Oregon, where he led the Ducks to the Women’s College World Series five times in nine years - and reached the super regionals the other four years.
~The Texas women’s track and field program has won 11 national titles (six indoor, five outdoor), but none since 2006. The men’s program has never won a championship, but does regularly compete for the Big 12 crown in indoor and outdoor.
~Oklahoma is a national powerhouse in women’s gymnastics, winning four national titles, making nine NCAA finals appearances and capturing 11 Big 12 titles in the past 12 years.
~Both programs have excellent men’s golf teams, as they’ve finished runner-up in the last two national championships (Oklahoma in 2021, Texas in 2019). The Sooners (2017) and Longhorns (2012) have each won a national title in the past decade.
~Texas and Oklahoma have also enjoyed recent success in men’s tennis, with the Longhorns winning it all in 2019 and the Sooners finishing runner-up three straight years from 2014-16. On the women’s side, Texas won the national championship this year.
~The Longhorns are one of the country’s premier programs in women’s volleyball, winning a national title in 2012 and finishing runner-up four times since 2009.