Oklahoma football: Move to SEC by Sooners now official — for real

Athletic director Joe Castiglione called OU's deal with ESPN "the most expansive agreement ESPN+ has" with one school.tramel jump
Athletic director Joe Castiglione called OU's deal with ESPN "the most expansive agreement ESPN+ has" with one school.tramel jump /

What many of us may have thought was already an officially done deal became official for real on Friday, making it officially official that Oklahoma football will be playing games in the all-powerful Southeastern Conference beginning in the 2024 season.

In a specially scheduled meeting on Friday, the Oklahoma Board of Regents approved the required “official” contractual documents with both conferences to legally finalize the move from the Big 12, where the Sooners have been a member going all the way back to 1919 when the conference was known as the Missouri Valley Intercollegiate Athletic Association.

Athletic director Joe Castiglione cautioned Sooner fans not to get too far ahead of themselves in this process with a year still remaining in the now 14-team Big 12.

“We have a year of competing there and competing for Big 12 championships before we move on to the SEC,” the OU athletic director told reporters on Friday, “so we want to continue to be very respectful, very positive and a contributing member of the Big 12.”

That’s the right corporate spin on Friday’s news, but make no mistake, everything Brent Venables and the Oklahoma football program are currently doing is feeding and building the Sooners to be competitive and successful once they formally make the move to the SEC in the summer a little over a year from now.

The University of Texas Board of Regents took a similar action this week, authorizing UT president Jay Hartzell to sign agreements to move the Longhorns to the SEC.

The official date for the move by both Oklahoma and Texas to the SEC will be July 1, 2024. That is one year earlier than both schools were previously contractually obligated to remain in the Big 12 based on the existing media rights agreement.

Although both OU and Texas had been adamant that they planned to stay in the Big 12 through the 2024-25 academic year, OU’s Castiglione acknowledged that the recent conference realignment developments both in the Big 12 and in other major conferences factored into the decision by the Sooners and Longhorns to leave earlier than planned.

With four new teams — Houston, Cincinnati, UCF and BYU — joining the Big 12 this summer — it opened up the opportunity for all interested parties in the exit of Oklahoma and Texas to come back together and, in the words of Oklahoma president Joseph Harroz, “to engage in really constructive conversation about how, at the end of the day, it is better for everybody if we expedite this.

OU and Texas will, of course, forfeit any revenue distribution the two schools would have received for 2024-25. They will also pay the Big 12 a reported combined $100 million as a previously agreed upon exit fee for leaving the conference early.

Now, let the officially official countdown begin for Oklahoma’s July 1, 2024 move to the SEC.