SEC expansion would lead to nation’s first super-conference, leaving future of Big XII uncertain
Texas and Oklahoma have expressed their interest in joining the Southeastern Conference, and that brings up two undeniable facts should that scenario come to fruition.
Fact one: The debate over which conference was strongest in college football would be moot. The addition of the Longhorns and Sooners not only would make the league head-and-shoulders above any conference, but the only rival below the Mason-Dixon Line might be the NFC South.
Fact two: The Big XII would be poached by other leagues to cause the extinction of the league.
While many believe the expansion falls under the “when” category rather than “if,” there is one SEC athletic director who has already voiced opposition to the expansion.
“We want to be the only SEC program in the state of Texas,” Texas A&M athletic director Ross Bjork said. “There’s a reason why Texas A&M left the Big 12 — to be standalone, to have our own identity.”
Yet another Big XII school released a statement that indicates that if Oklahoma and Texas leave the conference, it too would be looking for a new home. Oklahoma State seems to believe the departure of those two schools would be the demise of the conference.
Oklahoma State released a statement announcing the following:
“While we place a premium on history, loyalty and trust, be assured, we will aggressively defend and advance what is best for Oklahoma State and our strong athletic program, which continues to excel in the Big 12 and nationally.”
Oklahoma State on expansion of SEC
What would happen if the defection of Texas and the Sooners did happen? First, there would be divisional realignment in the SEC.
The logical structure would be for Alabama and Auburn to move to the eastern division joining Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, South Carolina, Tennessee and Vanderbilt.
Missouri would move to the western division – where geographically it belongs – and would compete with Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, LSU, Mississippi State, Ole Miss, Mississippi State and Texas A&M.
Those divisions seem to be a clear look of how the SEC could be in the future.
The future of the Big XII
What is unknown is what would happen to the eight remaining members of the Big XII?
A few moves would make sense. West Virginia could easily be absorbed by the Atlantic Coast Conference where the Mountaineers could renew their rivalry with Pitt and begin a new one with their neighbors to the south, Virginia.
Baylor and TCU would be a good fit in the American Athletic Conference. Southern Methodist, Houston and Tulsa are already members of the AAC, and the addition of the Bears and Horned Frogs would appear to be a natural fit.
Iowa State has been strong nationally in the past few years and the Big Ten would most likely want to add the Cyclones for their competitiveness and ISU’s proximity to Iowa and Nebraska.
Texas Tech would be a great addition to the Mountain West and its location in the west Texas town of Lubbock makes perfect sense. The only drawback would be the MWC would then have 13 teams.
That leaves just three schools with no clear-cut destination. What would become of Kansas, Kansas State and Oklahoma State?
Geographically, the trio of schools are in a kind of no-man’s land. But any of the major conferences would not mind the traveling distance between their established members and the three schools in the heartland. After all, who saw West Virginia in the Big XII in the first place?
Of course, the Jayhawks, Wildcats and Cowboys could join Liberty, BYU, Army, New Mexico State and UMass as independents. That would solve the football dilemma, but what would become of the other sports? The three programs would have to swallow their pride and join a mid-major conference. The three choices that make the most sense would be the Horizon and the Summit since neither of those leagues play football.
Other leagues like the Ohio Valley or Southland would be out of the equation because they each compete in the Football Championship Subdivision.
While what would happen to the Big XII schools will be a matter of speculation, until there is a final resolution of Oklahoma and Texas leaving the league, Fact One remains written in stone.
The addition of Texas and Oklahoma would make the SEC college football’s first super conference.
Steve Barnes joins The Rebel Walk staff as a senior writer and brings a trifecta of journalistic experience. As a writer, he has covered college sports for Rivals.com, Football.com and SaturdayDownSouth.com as well as served as a beat writer for various traditional newspapers.
He has been a broadcaster for arena football and several national tournament events for the National Junior College Athletic Association as well as hosting various shows on radio.
A former sports information director at Albany (Ga.) State University and an assistant at Troy and West Florida, he has helped host many NCAA conference, regional and national events, including serving five years on the media committee of the NCAA Division II World Series.
Barnes, a native of Pensacola, Fla., attended Ole Miss in 1983-84, where his first journalism teacher was David Kellum. The duo has come a long way since that time.
He will bring a proven journalistic track record, along with a knack for finding the out-of-the-ordinary story angles to The Rebel Walk.
Barnes continues to reside in Pensacola a mere ten minutes from the beach because he does have taste and a brain.