What you need to know about OU, Texas potentially moving to SEC and Big 12's grant of rights
NORMAN — With the report on Wednesday that OU and Texas are interested in leaving the Big 12 for the Southeastern Conference, here’s a quick look at some questions surrounding the logistics of a potential move:
What are the statuses of the Big 12’s grant of rights and television deals?
When conference realignment talk swirled about a decade ago, the league’s remaining 10 members — after four programs left the conference over two seasons and TCU and West Virginia were added — agreed to a “grant of rights” deal that gave the conference control of members’ “Tier 1” and “Tier 2” broadcasting rights.
Schools remained in control of their “Tier 3” rights, which Texas used to secure its deal with ESPN to create the Longhorn Network and OU used to form the Sooner Sports Network in partnership with Fox Sports Oklahoma (which has been rebranded as Bally Sports Oklahoma).
Much more recently, the other eight programs packaged those rights as part of an amended deal with ESPN that created “Big 12 Now” and ESPN+, the network’s streaming service.
That grant of rights was eventually extended to coincide with the expiration of the Big 12’s current television deal, which expires following the 2024-25 school year.
What does that mean for potential conference realignment?
The rights deals still having four more years left doesn’t necessarily preclude OU and Texas leaving for the SEC before then. As the years remaining on the deal dwindle, the potential money lost by leaving becomes more palatable, plus the remaining schools figure to be more likely to agree to a modified deal that would put them in a better position moving forward than if those two schools left without penalty after the end of the deal.
What about the SEC’s television deal?
The SEC has had a longstanding deal with CBS and ESPN, though beginning in 2024, ESPN (and ABC, its sister network), becomes the exclusive home of the league’s top games. That 10-year contract is worth $3 billion, according to the New York Times. ESPN also produces the SEC Network, which began broadcasting in 2014.
Texas A&M athletic director Ross Bjork said Wednesday he wanted to keep the Aggies as the lone school from the Lone Star State in the SEC. What would it take, procedurally, for the Sooners and Longhorns to join the conference?
According to the SEC bylaws, a vote of at least three-fourths of the current members is required to extend an invitation for membership, so Texas A&M couldn’t solely block the move. It would take at least three other schools joining the Aggies in a vote against to keep the Longhorns out of the conference.
What about the Big 12?
According to the Big 12’s bylaws, the 10 programs have agreed — with the other members — to remain in the conference until July 1, 2111, a period of 99 years from the July 1, 2012 agreement. It’s the grant of rights deal, though, that more closely ties the programs together. Without an agreement changing the terms, schools leaving the conference must notify the league at least 18 months in advance of departure, pay a buyout fee equal to the sum of the conference distribution money that otherwise would be paid out during the final two years of membership and forfeit all conference distributions during the period between notifying the league of departure and when the program departed. So the penalty for leaving during the grant of rights would be severe, though there would figure to be negotiations that would lessen that blow for departing schools while putting the remaining schools in better positions moving forward, for instance allowing those schools to join other Power Five conferences or add members to keep the league’s standing closer to where it is now than it otherwise would be.