By JIM VERTUNO
AP Sports Writer
AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — Texas and Oklahoma are heading to the Southeastern Conference in 2024, a year earlier than originally planned, after Big 12 officials cleared the way Thursday for the storied programs to exit their league.
Texas and Oklahoma will leave behind the $50 million each school would have received over the next two seasons under the Big 12’s media contracts.
Big 12 Commissioner Brett Yormak said the league would only agree to an early departure “if it was in our best interest.”
“By reaching this agreement, we are now able to accelerate our new beginning as a 12-team league and move forward in earnest with our initiatives and future planning,” Yormak said in a statement announcing the agreement.
BYU, Central Florida, Cincinnati and Houston are joining the Big 12 prior to the 2023 football season, giving the league a temporary membership of 14 schools.
The agreement must still be approved the Texas and Oklahoma boards of regents, but that is considered a formality.
SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey said in a statement that the schools will become full members of the conference on July 1, 2024.
“We are continuing our preparation for this membership transition, and we look forward to welcoming the conference’s new members and moving into our future as a 16-team league,” Sankey said.
The moves by Texas and Oklahoma have been in the works since 2021, when the SEC invited the Big 12’s marquee programs to join what is already the strongest football conference in the country.
Oklahoma and Texas have combined for 10 national championships as determined by The Associated Press, but none since the Longhorns’ 2005 season championship. TCU, which made it the College Football Playoff championship game last season, joined Oklahoma as the only Big 12 teams to make the playoff.
Big 12 officials were initially stunned by the departure. Former Big 12 Commissioner Bob Bowlsby even accused ESPN of trying to “destabilize” the league to help Texas and Oklahoma leave early.
Thursday’s announcement was much more cordial. Texas Tech President Lawrence Schovanec, who is also the chairman of the Big 12 Board of Directors, called the agreement “fair to all parties,” and said it could not have happened without collaboration with the league’s broadcast partners ESPN and Fox.
Money has been a driving factor in the shifting landscape of college athletics realignment. The SEC reported a revenue distribution of $49.9 million per school for the 2021-2022 school year, exceeding by more than $7 million what the Big 12 distributed to its members for the same period.
Adding Texas and Oklahoma to the SEC’s broadcast portfolio is expected to only increase the league’s payout. They will land in their new league just in time for a new $3 billion deal with ESPN that gives the network the broadcast rights to all the conference’s football games.
The additions of BYU, Cincinnati, Houston and UCF will boost the Big 12’s national footprint and push the league into new media markets.
Texas and Oklahoma haven’t already left for the SEC because both schools have been tied to the Big 12 and its other members through a grant of media rights through the 2024-25 school year. That deal ran concurrently with the conference’s television contracts with Fox and ESPN.
“We have always been committed to fulfilling our contractual obligations to the Big 12. The collegiate athletics landscape has continued to evolve rapidly, and working together to accelerate our exit produced benefits for all parties,” Texas President Jay Hartzell said. “The Big 12 has been a respected partner for nearly three decades, and we look forward to a final season of spirited competition with our friends and rivals.”
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