Even as Texas and Oklahoma bide their time in the Big 12, the SEC is preparing for their arrival.
The change from 14 schools to 16 sparks more debate than you might imagine and has been one of the key topics. It was a major talking point at the recently concluded SEC Spring Meetings — once the public Saban-Jimbo feud collapsed.
Several reports have indicated that the SEC will abandon the two-division setup for a very large league. The format this will take is yet to be determined.
“We’ve really narrowed it down to a few options,” Commissioner Greg Sankey said after the meetings. “You never know what might emerge as we dig deeper.”
Sankey said a decision could be made by late summer or early fall and the urgency was because members needed to start planning their future football schedules.
This is where things get interesting for the Longhorns, Aggies and Sooners.
Reports have two options for getting the lion’s share of attention.
The current eight-game conference schedule would be retained, but with one permanent opponent each and seven rotating opponents. It would be great for variety, not so much for traditional rivalries beyond one.
In this case, Texas and Oklahoma would almost certainly push to be each other’s permanent adversary. The Red River Showdown is simply too important, too steeped in history to be dropped on a conference trip.
“You don’t want to mess with Oklahoma’s game,” said a source familiar with the Texas thought.
In recent Big 12 meetings, OU athletic director Joe Castiglione made it clear where the series stands with Texas in his mind, regardless of conference.
“A way, shape or form,” Castiglione said. “There will always be a game in Dallas for the foreseeable future.”
Of course, that leaves the A&M-Texas Series revival not quite where everyone expected when news broke in July 2021 of the Longhorns and Sooners joining the SEC by July 2021.
Yes, both schools would play in an eight-game schedule, but it would be twice in four years, not every year.
Cue the sad sound of the trombone.
A nine-game schedule would include three permanent opponents and five rotating conference foes, which would solve some problems.
It’s not hard to imagine Texas with Oklahoma, Texas A&M and former Southwest Conference rival Arkansas as three permanent adversaries.
A&M also favors the nine-game series, AD Ross Bjork said recently.
“In an eight-game model, Texas wants to keep Oklahoma and Oklahoma wants to keep Texas,” Bjork told the Houston Chronicle. “So if you only have one ‘permanent’ rival, that leaves us with LSU. We’re fine with LSU, but we want to play Texas and we want a third permanent rival. That brings you to the pattern in nine games.
Additionally, Oklahoma could schedule Texas, Missouri’s old rival, and possibly A&M or Arkansas.
Everyone would be happy.
The problem is that the eight-game schedule seems to have the advantage at halftime following SEC meetings. The reason given, according to Sports Illustratedwas the uncertainty regarding future college football playoff formats as well as television revenues.
But it would be the ultimate anticlimax for A&M and Texas to finally be together and not play every season.
They know that. Hope everyone understands.
Find more college sports coverage from The Dallas Morning News here.