HOOVER, Ala. — It was a pretty quaint Wednesday before the bombshell of a news story regarding Texas and Oklahoma reaching to join the SEC.
Brent Zwerneman of the Houston Chronicle was the first to report the news that the Longhorns and Sooners are considering leaving the Big 12. The news sent shock waves throughout the conference.
“I bet they would,” Texas A&M coach Jimbo Fisher said when told of the news.
Commissioner Greg Sankey was less forthcoming when asked about the news, telling reporters he does not respond to anonymous sources.
Yet the news very quickly became what everyone was talking about. Such a potential move would reverberate throughout out not just Athens and the SEC, but the sport as a whole.
It would also add two sizeable powers to the league. Oklahoma has made the College Football Playoff four times since it started in 2014. While Texas routinely fluctuates from back to not back, more often than not the Longhorns would likely field a competitive team.
So what does all this mean for the Georgia football program? Right now it’s hard to project a direct impact on Kirby Smart’s team.
For one, expanding the league is going to be a tricky needle to thread. Eleven of the 14 schools must vote yes to expanding the league. According to Kirk Bohls of the Austin American-Statesman, Texas A&M and Missouri are already opposed to bringing in their former Big 12 conference members.
Texas A&M athletic director Ross Bjork came out with a strong response to the news on the Paul Finebaum show.
“We love being the only school in the state of Texas in the SEC,” Bjork said. “We’re going to maintain that position, but we’re also going to make sure that we’re a leader in college athletics and we’ll see what the future holds.”
The reasons are obvious for why Texas A&M and Missouri feel so strongly. They have an advantage over Texas and Oklahoma when it comes to telling recruits they can come play in the best conference in the country. It’s a great recruiting pitch to prospects, specifically those from Texas. The Aggies signed 14 players from the state in the 2021 cycle.
Georgia can relate to what A&M is going through, as the Bulldogs have another Power 5 team in their state. Imagine how some would feel if Georgia Tech reached out and asked to join the SEC(stop laughing). The same could be said in South Carolina with Clemson, Florida with Florida State and Miami and in Kentucky with Louisville.
The biggest impact of these additions would come in the scheduling aspect for the Bulldogs. Before even getting into the conference ramifications, Georgia is set to play home-and-homes with Texas and Oklahoma over the next 10 years as a part of the Bulldogs aggressive non-conference scheduling.
Georgia played Oklahoma in the 2018 Rose Bowl, a thrilling double-overtime win. It then saw Texas in next season’s Sugar Bowl, a deflating 28-21 loss to cap the 2018 season.
Under the suggested format, the SEC would also move to play nine conference games annually. Florida head coach Dan Mullen made said suggestion while speaking at SEC media days earlier this week.
Maybe the Florida coach knew something we didn’t.
“I don’t want to get the commissioner in trouble here, but I’d love us to maybe do away with the permanent crossover team so you get these type of games more often,” Mullen said on Monday. “I think for the players, for the fan bases, I really think it’s exciting to see some more of maybe mixing up the teams from the west and playing two different teams each year instead of a permanent crossover.”
Perhaps the biggest hurdle with all of this is what would happen to the SEC’s new television contract with ESPN/Disney? Texas and Oklahoma leaving the Big 12 would likely gut the league, which ESPN shares television rights with FOX Sports.
And it’s not like adding Texas specifically increases the television network size, as the Aggies already account for the footprint in that state.
Adding Texas and Oklahoma opens up a number of side doors that would fundamentally alter the entire college football landscape. It could possibly restart the expansion movement we saw at the beginning of the 2010′s, when Texas A&M and Missouri first joined the league. Do the Big Ten, ACC and PAC-12 go out and try to scoop up more teams from other conferences?
The tidal wave of questions that comes with this news would clearly have some sort of impact on Georgia. From recruiting, to scheduling, to possible playoff entry, it’s clear the potential addition of those two programs would send shockwaves through the sport.
Those would very clearly be felt in Athens.
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