Big 12 reaches agreement with Oklahoma and Texas for early withdrawal
Barring any future nonconference scheduling arrangements, the Kansas football program has played its last home game against the Texas Longhorns.
And on Oct. 28, during Week 8 of the 2023 season, the Jayhawks will play their final home football game against the Oklahoma Sooners, as well.
That much was learned Thursday evening, when the Big 12 announced that it had reached an agreement with Oklahoma and Texas to depart the conference a year earlier than the two schools were contractually obligated to stay.
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.
The agreement must still be approved by the Texas and Oklahoma boards of regents, but that is considered a formality.
OU and UT are now headed to the Southeastern Conference at the end of the 2023-24 athletic year, which means the Jayhawks’ 2023 football schedule will be the last with the Sooners and Longhorns on it for the foreseeable future.
KU will play at Texas in Week 5 on Sept. 30.
Other teams and programs, of course, will begin their final farewells to the two SEC-bound programs, as well. But given the fact that so much of conference realignment has been about football, it’s worth noting the end of an era for the KU football program.
KU and Texas have been conference foes for the past 22 seasons, since the Big 12 opened play in 1996.
The history between Kansas and Oklahoma dates back much further, to 1920, when the two were both in the Missouri Valley Intercollegiate Athletic Association and then competed in the Big Six Conference (1928-47), Big Seven Conference (1948-58) and Big Eight (1958-96) before forming the Big 12.
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.
SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey said in a statement that Oklahoma and Texas 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.”