Texas, Oklahoma’s early exit to the SEC could be helped by future non-conference games at Big 12 stadiums

With talks growing about the possibility of Texas and Oklahoma exiting the Big 12 to the SEC earlier than scheduled, the steps needed to facilitate such a move have come into focus. Any deal involving the Longhorns and Sooners joining the SEC in early 2024 would likely include the Big 12 rights holders being combined with a series of future non-conference games featuring those teams within league scope, industry sources told CBS Sports.

Right now, the rights grant to the Big 12 expires in 2025, freeing up Texas and Oklahoma to join the SEC that summer. However, discussions about Texas and Oklahoma receiving early exits from the Big 12 three weeks ago escalated. News of those talks began leaking out last week during the Big 12 meetings in Las Vegas.

The Big 12’s media rights owners, Fox and ESPN, are a major factor complicating the situation. In essence: How would viewership on Fox and ESPN be affected in 2024 if Texas and Oklahoma left before that season. There would be a definite drop in viewership for the Big 12 package — and, by extension, the value of the Big 12 media rights deal — without games from the conference’s biggest national names.

Texas and Oklahoma are using SEC TV advisor Alan Gold to facilitate a deal, sources tell CBS Sports. The idea would be to “use the games as currency” – atone for the drop in viewership as Texas and Oklahoma play a selection of future non-conference games at Big 12 schools.

They’ll have to play games in [Big 12] Even Fox and ESPN could have value,” an industry source told CBS Sports. If ESPN and Fox feel happy, [the Big 12] He will be happy.”

This could lead to a continuation of the Bedlam Series between Oklahoma and Oklahoma State that was expected to end when OU joined the SEC in 2025.

It is not yet known when these games will be played or how many games will be scheduled.

“At the end of the day, the Big 12 is a position that allows them to say ‘yes’ or ‘no,'” said one of the people involved in the negotiations.

The Action Network first reported escalating talks with Texas and Oklahoma potentially leaving to the Big 12 for the SEC in 2024.

Sources differ in classifying the likelihood of a deal as some believe it is imminent while others see a solution as unlikely.

“I don’t expect that to happen,” an industry source said of the early departure.

One source told CBS Sports that the announcement that Texas and Oklahoma will join the SEC in 2024, rather than 2025, could come as early as next year.

“It’s advanced. It’s beyond that,” said a source involved in those talks. “It was happening long before Las Vegas.”

If the deal goes through a year ago, the Longhorns and Sooners will officially become members of the SEC on July 1, 2024.

Texas and Oklahoma originally committed to staying on until the end of the Big 12 rights award and reaffirmed those plans when Brett Yormark took over as league commissioner in August. However, this situation changed about a month after Yormark’s arrival. The schools backtracked on their desire to leave early while the conference completed a complex new media rights deal starting in 2026.

The lack of fielding this year actually helped Texas and Oklahoma in their quest. OU’s ratings dropped significantly during an uncharacteristically 6-6 season. Industry analysts told CBS Sports that ratings for games involving the other incumbent Big Eight schools are up nearly 50%.

At least one reason why the two collegiate institutions wanted to exit early is to avoid sharing space with new Big 12 entries BYU, Cincinnati, Houston, and UCF. These four programs join the Big 12 for a league of at least 14 teams for 2023. This latest development likely explains why the Big 12 has yet to announce a scheduling format for next season.

“[Texas and Oklahoma] They’ve been pushing pretty hard that they want out sooner rather than later,” the Big 12 source told CBS Sports. They seem to have a problem with the four new universities we brought to our conference. This is kind of rushed stuff. I feel something will be done for them to leave the league a year early.”

Texas and Oklahoma will owe at least the Big 12 a termination fee for leaving early. The contract states that any school that graduates early owes two years’ worth of revenue. With an average annual figure of $42 million, the Big 12 could make up to $168 million if Texas and Oklahoma gave the league 18 months in advance notice.

This amount can be negotiated downward depending on each side’s desire to reach an agreement. Whatever money is paid could be used to fund a Big 12 expansion, sources told CBS Sports. It can also be distributed to existing members.

The Pac-12 is still without a new media rights deal. With their chances seemingly diminishing, the likes of Arizona, Arizona State, Colorado and Utah could be drawn into the Big 12. The idea would be to convince those schools that they can make more money in the Big 12.

Sources indicated that the Big 12’s new media rights deal, announced in late October, would guarantee the league’s schools a combined total of at least $48 million (including bowl revenue and NCAA tournament money). That’s nearly $5 million more than what conference members currently earn with Texas and Oklahoma. The new deal begins in 2025.

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