Oklahoma football: Are Sooners making mistake moving to SEC?

Oct 12, 2019; Dallas, TX, USA; Oklahoma Sooners fans hold up the number one prior to the game against the Texas Longhorns at Cotton Bowl. Mandatory Credit: Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports
Oct 12, 2019; Dallas, TX, USA; Oklahoma Sooners fans hold up the number one prior to the game against the Texas Longhorns at Cotton Bowl. Mandatory Credit: Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports /

After six consecutive Big 12 championships and 14 in the last 21 years, Oklahoma football is moving to a new neighborhood, but not before likely adding at least a couple more championship trophies to the decorative display case at the Barry Switzer Center.

What was once the Big 12 Conference — and since 2011 has been operating as a league of 10 — for all intents and purposes is now back to the Big Eight.

On Friday, the board of regents of both Oklahoma and Texas sealed the deal, accepting the unanimous invitation extended by the Southeaster Conference to join what is widely perceived to be the strongest football conference in the college game.

As this story has played out in rapid-fire, dramatic fashion over the past week or so, we’ve been hearing daily about how two of college football’s blueblood teams have decided to up their game — not to mention their wallets — by joining a conference where the big boys play.

“It became obvious that standing pat would be falling behind.” — OU athletic director Joe Castiglione

Of course, there is an argument to be made — good and not so good — on both sides of this move. On the plus side, Oklahoma and it new best buddy Texas are assured of a higher annual payout — as much as $22 million more in their first season in the SEC —  better exposure, a broader recruiting footprint and stronger competition.

That last part is not something Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby or what remains of the Big 12 Conference want to hear, but the hard, cold fact is the top teams in the SEC represent the cream of the crop in college football. Last season, three SEC teams finished in the top 10 in the country in the final Associated Press poll, and the year before four teams out of the SEC finished in the top 10.

Additionally, an SEC team has been crowned national champions in five of the seven College Football Playoffs, and a team out of the SEC has appeared in all but one of the national championship games in the playoff era.

Sooners will no longer dominate, but you can be assured they will compete

With two of the biggest athletic budgets in the country and resplendent reputations to match, Oklahoma and Texas are undeniably the big dogs of the Big 12 and, like it or not, the two main pillars that make the conference relevant in football, not to mention a number of other athletic programs.

That will not be the case in the SEC, where the quality of play is much higher and there are a handful of national championship-caliber teams.

The next question to be answered is when the move will formally take place. Both Oklahoma and Texas have informed the Big 12 that they intend to fulfill their media rights agreement, which binds them to the Big 12 through June 25, There is growing speculation, however, that the Sooners’ and Longhorns’ remaining time in the Big 12 will be shorter than that.

“It became obvious that standing pat would be failing behind,” Oklahoma athletic director Joe Castiglione told reporters before the meeting of the OU board of regents on Friday. “It would mean putting our program in a precarious position, both competitively and financially. I would leave us to play catch-up with our competition.”

Some media outlets around the country have run headlines over the past week along the lines that the strongest conference in the nation is getting a pair of superpowers in OU and Texas.

The Sporting News, for one, took some exception to that notion, contending that Oklahoma was, indeed, worthy of the “superpower” reference, given its track record over the past two decades. But Texas? Not so much. After all, Texas suffers from the reputational albatross of “what have you done for me lately?” The Longhorns have won three Big 12 football championships to the Sooners’ 14 and have finished in the top 10 just once in the past 11 years.

Former SEC head coach and star shares thoughts on new SEC additions

Steve Spurrier, former head coach at Florida and South Carolina and a Heisman winning quarterback at Florida had some choice comments about Oklahoma and Texas joining the SEC.

The former Florida All-American told the Orlando Sentinel that he can understand why Texas was anxious for a change of scenery, but it won’t really matter, he says, because they really didn’t win that regularly in the Big 12.

As for Oklahoma, Spurrier (who Bob Stoops coached under at Florida and who was a mentor to the former Sooner head coach) says he has doubts about he Sooners being able to contend for championships in the SEC. It may be all about money, he says, but Oklahoma is not winning six championships in a row in the SEC like it does these days in the Big 12.

All of this remains to be seen, but the fact is, the SEC’s gain in admitting OU and Texas — probably Sooner rather than later — is a loss of prodigious proportion for what remains of the Big 12.