Sean Pendergast

How College Football Realignment Rumors Would Affect Texas Schools

Ten years after nearly moving to the Pac-12, Texas and Oklahoma could be on the way to the SEC.
Ten years after nearly moving to the Pac-12, Texas and Oklahoma could be on the way to the SEC. Photo by Jack Gorman
We are approximately ten years to the month removed from the last time that collegiate sports faced an earthshaking round of realignment. Once the summer of 2011 was over, Texas A&M had committed to leaving the Big XII for the SEC, Colorado and Utah would join the Pac-12, and the University of Texas would stay in the Big XII, provided they could launch the Longhorn Network.

There would be other realignment tremors after this, including a failed attempt by the University of Houston to join the Big XII a few years ago, but the most memorable ripple effects in the saga where the ones involving Texas and Texas A&M.

So now here we are, a decade later, and the realignment wheels appear to be spinning again. Whereas the talks in 2011 began with Texas and Oklahoma (among others) looking to head west to the Pac-12, this time it's solely Texas and Oklahoma (no others) approaching the mecca of college football, the SEC, about membership in their conference.

This is a story that will have LONG legs over the next several weeks, but for some initial gut reaction, let's focus on the colleges in the state of Texas, and how it affects all of them. Here is the one BIG question for all of the Power Five (and one non-Power Five) schools in Texas as it pertains to Texas and Oklahoma pulling up stakes and moving to the SEC:

Is Texas A&M okay with a reunion with the University of Texas?
A big reason why the Aggies left to go to the SEC was to get out from under the shadow of the Longhorns, and live in a world where they didn't have to deal with them anymore. Also, they are now in a conference where they are the only show in the talent-rich state of Texas. The Texas A&M athletics director, Ross Bjork made it very clear at SEC Media Day:
Now, there is probably a portion of the Aggie alumni base that wants Texas to join the SEC so the two schools can reprise their Thanksgiving weekend game each year. However, as of right now, it would appear that Texas A&M would be one of the four dissenting votes needed to keep the Longhorns and Sooners in the Big XII.

Is Texas engraving the lyrics to a perpetual death march?
If the proposed 12 team format for future College Football Playoffs existed since 2014, there would be 39 FBS schools who would have made the playoff. The University of Texas is not one of those schools. The Longhorns are having a hard time right now finishing in the upper half of the Big XII, so in the near term at least, they would get eaten alive in the SEC. These things are cyclical, and if Steve Sarkisian is the right head coaching hire, then the Horns may be okay, but as of right now, this feels like a cash grab for Texas. Nothing more, nothing less. It's certainly not an attempt to enhance their playoff chances.

Could the musical chairs work out for the University of Houston?
Five years ago, the University of Houston was about as well positioned as they could be to join the Big XII in some sort of conference expansion. The football program was ascending, and Tilman Fertitta was spending money to make things happen. Ultimately, the Big XII decided to stay at ten schools, and Houston was stuck in the American Athletic Conference. I would imagine that Houston still aspires to get into the Power Five, and the only way that happens is for the game of musical chairs to begin again. Granted, a Big XII with no Texas nor Oklahoma is probably not MUCH better than the AAC, but at least it has some name schools that would draw a crowd at TDECU Stadium.

What happens to the other Power Five Texas schools — Baylor, TCU, Texas Tech — if Texas and Oklahoma head to the SEC?
In short, they have to be terrified. Unless the Pac-12 wants to find a window into the state of Texas to expand to 14 or 16 teams, it would appear that the likely future for all three of these schools, in a world where Texas and Oklahoma leave for the SEC, would be joining a souped up Mountain West Conference or AAC. Those are significantly less lucrative and prestigious places in the college sports pecking order.

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Sean Pendergast is a contributing freelance writer who covers Houston area sports daily in the News section, with periodic columns and features, as well. He also hosts afternoon drive on SportsRadio 610, as well as the post game show for the Houston Texans.
Contact: Sean Pendergast