Texas, Oklahoma SEC expansion: Georgia football makes initial winners & losers list

Texas has just one winning season in the last 11 years but the Longhorns could be big winners by joining the SEC. (Bob Andres/AJC)
Bob Andres

ATHENS — Oklahoma and Texas are on the verge of joining the SEC from all recent indications. It’s been a secret a long time in the making about to become a sudden reality.

It’s expected to be announced sooner than later before public perception has time to settle. The stealthy nature of this transaction was calculated.

Where SEC football and its passionate fans and unique traditions are concerned, newer is not always better and often met with resistance even in the face of rationale.

There’s an argument to be made the Sooners and the Longhorns are winning brands across most all sports, both with illustrious histories, traditions, and coaches. Adding Austin and Norman (an Oklahoma City suburb) means two more major metropolitan markets and quality destination cities for SEC fans.

Money changes everything

The biggest and most pivotal driving force, however, is money. There is no denying the SEC schools benefit as a whole from a financial standpoint.

It’s estimated each SEC school would take in an additional $15 million-plus from the league distribution pool (from $44 million to $60 million) by adding Texas and Oklahoma.

Outside of the money factor, it’s hard to see where Georgia or most any other SEC school benefits.

Adding Texas and Oklahoma will make it that much harder to win championships and maintain recruiting edges.

The Sooners’ have an elite football program already and could gain more momentum by joining the SEC.

As is, players flock to Oklahoma now to become a part of an explosive offense. If the SEC move takes place, the Sooners will be adding significantly more money to the budgets for recruiting, facilities and coaches.

Sleeping giant

Texas is the real sleeping giant in this deal. The Longhorns’ monstrous $223 million in annual revenue (2019) is at the top of the list of all schools.

Texas would be a real threat should it ever realize its vast potential. Amazingly the Longhorns have only the sixth-best league record in Big 12 football play over the past 10 years, with only one 10-win season mixed in.

The potential is there for that to change quickly. Texas is a school that can trump almost every other school in three key ways:

• UT’s bigger budget and resources mean the Longhorns can pay their coaches more and build better facilities

• Texas’ public university academic ranking (No. 13, U.S. News & World Report) knocks every SEC school down a peg with the exception of Florida (No. 6).

Four of the top 30 metropolitan areas in the nation are in Texas, favoring those schools in potential local NIL transactions. The Austin market ranks 27th, making it larger than any immediate SEC team market (Nashville is 40th).

Georgia fans might quickly claim Atlanta (No. 7), and Texas A&M could reach for Houston (No. 4), but Texas can claim a majority in most every Lone Star State municipality, including No. 5 Dallas. Fort-Worth and No. 21 San Antonio.

Cautionary tales

That’s not to say money translates to instant success. The University of Michigan, with the No. 4 overall budget and celebrated coach Jim Harbaugh, has been evidence of that. Much like Texas, the Wolverines have struggled despite vast resources, still looking for what would be their first-ever appearance in the Big Ten championship game.

Still, for the Longhorns, joining the SEC is a win-win. More money, more resources, and now more exposure by playing in the SEC.

There’s more of a risk involved for Oklahoma, which has won the five most recent Big 12 Championship Games.

The last time the Sooners didn’t win a Big 12 conference championship game was the last time Texas won it, in 2009, when the Longhorns beat Nebraska 13-12.

Nebraska is the cautionary tale for Sooners’ fans, having left the Big 12 for seemingly greener pastures in the Big Ten following the 2010 season.

The Cornhuskers, for all of their support and tradition, have yet to win a Big Ten title. Nebraska hasn’t finished a season ranked in the AP Top 25 since its second season in the league (2012), when the Cornhuskers were ranked 25th.

Oklahoma seems better positioned financially than was Nebraska, based on USA Today’s pre-Covid numbers, ranking 8th in the nation in revenue with only three SEC schools ranking ahead of it, Texas A&M (2nd), Georgia (5th) and Alabama (7th).

Here’s a way-too-early winners and losers list from the addition of Texas and Oklahoma

Winners

Texas: Joining the SEC is one more resource and advantage for the school that would already seem to have more resources and advantages than any other. Money? Check. In-state recruiting? Check. Exposure? Check. Centralized location? Check. And now, SEC.

Alabama: Texas A&M was fast becoming the biggest threat to the Tide in the West Division with all of its resources and money (a budget second only to Texas in the nation). The addition of the Longhorns, however, could slow the Aggies’ role, taking away the major recruiting they had of offering an SEC playing field.

Tennessee: Remember the Alamo? The Vols will take positive publicity any way they can get it, but also the conference expansion could lead to the elimination or change of their annual crossover game with Alabama. The bad news? If the SEC maintains division and an annual crossover opponent, Texas would be a logical choice for Tennessee to play each season.

Greg Sankey: The SEC commissioner might just as well become the commissioner for all of college football because his clout (and pocketbook) will increase even more with this new super conference. Sankey’s move solidifies the SEC atop the collegiate world, as it also prevents Texas and Oklahoma from joining any other league, and potentially creating a more attractive TV deal elsewhere.

Losers

Texas A&M: Just when Jimbo Fisher was starting to feel brash enough to call out Nick Saban, the Aggies’ in-state footing is threatened. Texas A&M is still loaded, but being No. 2 in-state is a tough gig when you share a conference with No. 1 — ask Auburn.

Georgia: Kirby Smart has built a dynamo, one of only a few annual national championship contenders. Adding two more teams — both potential contenders — raises the bar. UGA’s ability to recruit Texas also just got harder, something worth noting with two current starters in the secondary hailing from the Lone Star State. Conference realignment could mean Auburn in the East Division, which could mean a new cross-division annual opponent: Oklahoma?

Arkansas: It’s a gut-punch for Sam Pittman and the Hogs, who according to some have more projected starters from Texas (7) than Arkansas (6). Ironically, it was Arkansas that triggered modern era realignment when it made the decision in 1990 to leave the Southwestern Conference (which became the Big 12). The Razorbacks began play in the SEC in 1992 motivated by -- you guessed it — more money, via shared television contract revenue. What comes around, goes around.

The Big 12: This seems rather obvious, and we could just as easily lump every other major conference into this as the SEC will further elevate above the rest of college football. The remaining eight Big 12 teams are in scramble mode, Kansas and Iowa State candidates for the Big Ten, and West Virginia a seemingly logical decision for the ACC. The Pac-12 might be interested in other Big 12 schools, as it must find an answer to become more relevant and profitable.

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