Big 12’s Texas, Oklahoma make request to join powerhouse SEC

Bryan Terry
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Texas and Oklahoma made a request Tuesday to join the Southeastern Conference – in 2025 — with SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey saying the league would consider it in the “near future.”

The wheels are in motion for a monumental move in college sports, but the Longhorns and Sooners are not yet free agents. And it’s doubtful they want to wait until the contract that binds them to the Big 12 for four more years runs out to bolt to the SEC.

It also might not be in the best interest of the Big 12 to have two lame ducks in the conference much beyond the 2021-22 school year.

“It’s similar to a divorce, but it’s business relationship where multiple parties realize that they just can’t be together anymore,” said Darren Heitner, a sports and entertainment attorney based in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. “You try to come to a resolution where perhaps nobody feels great about it, but at least there’s something where they feel as though they’re getting some fair value out of the equation.”

A day after Oklahoma and Texas notified the Big 12 that they would not be extending a grant of media rights agreement past its 2025 expiration date, the schools publicly stated for the first time they want to join the SEC.

Oklahoma and Texas sent a joint letter to Sankey, requesting “invitations for membership to the Southeastern Conference starting on July 1, 2025.”

“We believe that there would be mutual benefit to the universities on the one hand, and the SEC on the other hand, for the universities to become members of the SEC. We look forward to the prospect of discussions regarding this matter,” the schools said in a letter signed by each university’s president.

The grant of rights that ties Oklahoma and Texas to the Big 12 and its eight other members runs concurrently with the conference’s billion-dollar television deals with ESPN and Fox.

Big 12 bylaws state members leaving must give 18 months’ notice and pay an exit fee equivalent to two years’ worth of revenue distributions.

Big 12 revenue distribution fell off to $34.5 million per school this past year because of the pandemic, but it had been approaching $40 million per school before the downturn. That could mean about $80 million buyouts each for Texas and Oklahoma.

The schools could also be on the hook for other revenue losses brought on by their departure.

The Big 12 seems to have lots of leverage, but if there is a future for the conference without OU and UT, it needs to begin rebuilding soon to show stability heading into negotiations for its next television contract.

“If you’re the Big 12, you understand perhaps you have some leverage here based on the fact that there is an existing contract, but ultimately pushing hard on that contractual arrangement and either forcing the parties to remain situated as is or actually litigating if there is a breach is less desirable than peacefully resolving behind closed doors,” Heitner said.

Meanwhile, the SEC is poised to grow to 16 teams with Texas and Oklahoma, half of which have won at least one national championship in football since 1980.

The SEC’s most recent television contract with ESPN, set to take effect in 2024, is expected to increase revenue distribution to its member schools to about $67 million per year.

The news of discussions between the Texas and Oklahoma and the SEC broke last week during SEC media days in Hoover, Alabama.

“The events of recent days have verified that the two schools have been contemplating and planning for the transition for months and this formal application is the culmination of those processes,” Big 12 Commissioner Bob Bowlsby said in a statement Tuesday.

Sankey’s first public acknowledgment of the situation was careful to mention the SEC did not initiate talks with the schools.

“While the SEC has not proactively sought new members, we will pursue significant change when there is a clear consensus among our members that such actions will further enrich the experiences of our student-athletes and lead to greater academic and athletic achievement across our campuses,” Sankey said.

Heitner said the SEC does not want to get entangled in a messy divorce by being accused of actively trying to cause the breakup.

“If the SEC actually reached out first to Texas and Oklahoma with the intention to gauge interest and perhaps provide an offer, that could create a foundation for a tortious interference claim and put the SEC at issue of legal exposure,” Heitner said.

The SEC’s next action is to vote on whether to extend an invitation to Texas and Oklahoma. SEC bylaws state at least three-fourth of its members (11 of 14) must vote in favor to invite a new member. SEC presidents are scheduled to meet Thursday, but it is unclear if they will vote.

The boards of regents at Texas and Oklahoma each announced Tuesday that meetings would be convened Friday with conference affiliation on both the agendas.

The Big 12 was created from a merger of sorts between the Big Eight and Southwestern Conference in 1994 and began play in 1996. Texas and Oklahoma are the conference’s most notable brands. They have the richest and most successful athletic departments, and they are the only Big 12 schools to win national college football championships.

“We are unwavering in the belief that the Big 12 provides an outstanding platform for its members’ athletic and academic success,” Bowlsby said. “We will face the challenges head-on, and have confidence that the Big 12 will continue to be a vibrant and successful entity in the near term and into the foreseeable future.”

No. 2 Michigan beats Purdue 43-22 for Big Ten crown

Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports
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INDIANAPOLIS – Donovan Edwards ran for 185 yards and a score, J.J. McCarthy threw three touchdown passes and No. 2 Michigan beat Purdue 43-22 on Saturday night for its second straight Big Ten title and a likely No. 2 playoff seed.

College football’s winningest program has the first 13-win season in school history. Two more victories would give the Wolverines (13-0, No. 2 CFP) their first national championship since 1997.

And with injured star Blake Corum sidelined by a season-ending left knee injury, Edwards stole the show for the second straight week.

After shredding rival Ohio State for 216 yards and two scores last week, Edwards broke open this game with a 60-yard on the first play of the second half to set up one score. He added a 27-yard TD sprint on Michigan’s next series to make it 28-13.

Purdue (8-5) never recovered from Michigan’s quick, seven-play onslaught after it trailed 14-13 at halftime.

But quarterback Aidan O'Connell and receiver Charlie Jones helped the Boilermakers make it interesting for a while.

O’Connell was 32 of 47 with 366 yards and two interceptions after missing some practice time early this week to mourn the death of his oldest brother. Jones, who lost to Michigan in last year’s game while playing for Iowa, had 13 receptions for 162 yards.

It just wasn’t enough.

Michigan showed no signs of a hangover after last week’s rout over the Buckeyes, taking a 7-0 lead on its opening possession with a 25-yard TD pass from J.J. McCarthy to Colston Loveland.

Purdue answered with Devin Mockobee’s 1-yard scoring run to tie the score then took the lead on Mitchell Fineran’s 33-yard field goal.

Michigan answered by taking advantage of an offside call on fourth-and-6 by going for the first down, picking it up and eventually converting the drive into a 7-yard TD pass from McCarthy to Luke Schoonmaker. They never trailed again.

Edwards big run set up Kalel Mullings‘ 1-yard TD plunge before Edwards celebrated his own scoring run.

All Purdue could muster was three more field goals.

McCarthy was 11 of 17 with 161 yards and one interception.

Corum posted a message on Twitter on Saturday morning to say his knee surgery went well.

THE TAKEAWAY

Purdue: The Boilermakers’ magical season ended with a solid showing in the championship game where they played better than most expected. Still, they won the Big Ten’s wild, wild West, both trophy games and should be bound for a warm-weather bowl game.

Michigan: Yes, the Wolverines may have already locked up a top-two seed thanks to losses by Southern Cal and TCU. Michigan now has back-to-back conference crowns for the first time since 2003-04 though the hard part remains – ending its national title drought.

DIALING UP TRICKERY

Brohm played one season in the now defunct XFL and has acknowledged that experience helped him understand how to inject personality and creativity into play calling. It was on full display Saturday.

A surprise end around set up Purdue’s first score, a fake punt helped keep its second scoring drive alive and then Mockobee sprinted 25 yards on a fake flea-flicker in the third quarter.

UP NEXT

Purdue: Will find out its bowl game, destination and opponent Sunday.

Michigan: Waiting to see where its headed and who it will face in the national semifinals.

Klubnik, No. 10 Clemson rout No. 24 UNC 39-10 for ACC title

Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Backup quarterback Cade Klubnik completed 20 of 24 passes for 279 yards and a touchdown and ran for another score and No. 10 Clemson reclaimed the Atlantic Coast Conference championship with a 39-10 victory over No. 24 North Carolina on Saturday night.

Cornerback Nate Wiggins broke up two passes in the end zone, blocked a field goal and returned an interception 98 yards for a touchdown to help the Tigers win their seventh ACC title in eight seasons.

Clemson (11-2, No. 9 CFP) won six straight ACC championships from 2015 to 2020 before failing to reach the title game last season. But coach Dabo Swinney‘s Tigers rebounded in a big way, going 9-0 against ACC foes this season to reach the Orange Bowl.

They have Klubnik to thank for that.

With Clemson down 7-0, Swinney benched two-year starter D.J. Uiagalelei after the Tigers failed to pick up a first down on their first two possessions, Swinney turned to Klubnik, a 5-star recruit from Austin, Texas. He responded by leading the Tigers to four straight scores and a 24-10 lead at halftime.

Clemson stretched it to 39-10 heading into the fourth quarter.

It wasn’t the first time Swinney has turned to Klubnik.

He benched Uiagalelei in the second half against Syracuse and Klubnik responded by leading the Tigers to a come-from-behind 27-21 victory. Swinney also turned to Klubnik against Notre Dame, although the results were the opposite with the freshman throwing a Pick 6 in a 35-14 loss.

Swinney has never been shy about replacing veteran QBs with less experienced players. He did it in 2014, sitting Cole Stoudt for Deshaun Watson, and again in 2018 replacing Kelly Bryant with Trevor Lawrence.

ACC player of the year Drake Maye was limited to 268 yards passing and turned the ball over three times for North Carolina (9-4, No. 23 CFP), which was seeking its first ACC championship since 1980 when Lawrence Taylor was wreaking havoc on quarterbacks.

Maye got things started on the right foot for the Tar Heels, capping an 11-play, 78-yard drive with a 3-yard touchdown run for a 7-0 lead on UNC’s first possession.

But the Tar Heels repeatedly sputtered on offense inside the red zone after that, the biggest blow coming when Maye misfired near the goal line and Wiggins – who had struggled in Clemson’s 51-45 win over Wake Forest – returned his pass for a touchdown to give Clemson a 32-10 lead with 5:05 left in the third quarter.

Klubnik provided an immediate spark for Clemson.

He led the Tigers on a nine-play, 71-yard drive, culminating in a 1-yard TD pass to Davis Allen. After Maye’s fumble, Klubnik caught a 19-yard pass from Phil Mafah to set up Mafah’s 4-yard touchdown run – Clemson’s second TD in a span of 40 seconds.

Klubnik then showed off his arm strength with a 68-yard pass to fellow freshman Cole Turner to set up his own 1-yard TD run for a 21-7 lead.

END OF AN ERA

This is the final year the ACC will feature its two division winners playing for a championship. In future years, all ACC teams will be lumped together and the two teams with the best records will advance to the title game.

THE TAKEAWAY

North Carolina: Maye garnered plenty of Heisman Trophy talk during the season, but the Tar Heels offense has stalled resulting in a three-game losing streak. But as long as Maye doesn’t transfer – and there are no indications he will given his family history at North Carolina – the Tar Heels have a good chance to get back to the ACC title game next season.

Clemson: The Tigers have set a high bar by winning national championships, so as much as they will enjoy getting back atop the ACC mountain there will be plenty of talk over whether Swinney cost his team a chance at a spot in the College Football Playoff by not turning to Klubnik at quarterback earlier in the season. It seems Uiagalelei might be a logical transfer portal candidate.

UP NEXT

Clemson will play in the Orange Bowl, while North Carolina awaits a bowl bid.