Since signing on the dotted line, Oklahoma and Texas have shown why they're SEC-worthy
When somebody moves into the neighborhood, there’s a certain level of attention that’s paid to them.
It varies. Some neighbors immediately introduce themselves, casserole in hand. More times than not, baked into that casserole are ulterior motives. It’s a nice way to see what this new person or family is all about. Do they run a chaotic household? Are they blasting music into the wee hours of the morning? Do they plan on maintaining their property?
Not everyone is Casserole Carol. Other neighbors keep a side eye and simply pay a little extra attention to the new neighbors when they go by their house. Do they mow and edge their grass? Do they have cars parked in the front yard? Do they constantly have people coming over? Side-eye Steve doesn’t mean any harm. He wants the same thing as Casserole Carol — make sure the new neighbors aren’t driving down property value.
Oklahoma and Texas are the SEC’s new neighbors. The 14 current SEC programs are probably some version of Casserole Carol or Side-eye Steve (A&M is definitely Casserole Carol and dropping a “bless your heart” right in Texas’ face upon arrival). After all, they want to make sure their new neighbors aren’t driving down property value, or rather, that they’re going to be a contributing piece of the conference’s future revenue streams.
Since signing on the dotted line almost a year ago, Oklahoma and Texas look like they’re going to be ideal neighbors. They have an immaculate front yard that’s watered and edged regularly (they make sure the sprinklers don’t water the sidewalk). They don’t constantly have cars double-parked in the street. They’re even building a beautiful new bonus room addition to the back end of their house, but they were nice enough to give the neighbors a friendly warning.
How so? Think about it.
Since agreeing to join the SEC:
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- A) Former No. 1 overall 2021 recruit Quinn Ewers transferred from Ohio State to Texas
- B) No. 1 overall 2023 recruit Arch Manning commits to Texas
- C) Jocelyn Alo leads Oklahoma to (another) softball national title
- D) Oklahoma and Texas reach College World Series
- E) All the above
It’s “E.” It’s always “E.”
Oh, but what about Lincoln Riley leaving Oklahoma? And isn’t it a bad look that Texas went 5-7 with Steve Sarkisian?
Riley leaving Oklahoma wasn’t necessarily the best look considering it was pretty obvious he felt like he couldn’t win a title in Norman. I’d spin that by saying he didn’t have the formula to recruit those elite trenches players, and it’s possible that Oklahoma actually becomes a more balanced team with Brent Venables running the show. But that’s perhaps a bit too spin zone-heavy, and I’ll instead just say let’s wait a couple of years to see what the post-Riley era looks like before making that determination.
As for Sarkisian going 5-7 in Year 1 and losing to Kansas, that’s like the new neighbor leaving out their trash cans an extra day. We’ll probably forget about that. We forgot that Nick Saban lost 4 SEC games in Year 1, and we never talk about Kirby Smart losing to Vanderbilt in Year 1. Neither of those coaches had stellar Year 1 showings, but they loaded up on recruiting talent amidst their struggles. With Ewers, Manning, a slew of incoming transfers and a No. 5 class in 2022, Sarkisian is already doing just that.
Obviously, there’s a chance that Ewers never plays in the SEC (he’s draft-eligible after the 2023 season) and Manning could only have 1 year in the conference his uncles and grandpa dominated. Still, those 2 are going to have as big a say as anyone as to whether Texas will be able to keep its head above water whenever that move happens. Landing the 2 highest-rated quarterback recruits of the 21st century is, by all accounts, a step in the right direction.
(Yes, I realize Arch hasn’t signed yet. I also realize that Vince Young is technically tied with those 2 as the highest-rated quarterback recruits of the 247sports era. You get what I’m saying.)
Keep in mind that Texas doesn’t have to win national titles to show its worth to the SEC. Recruiting at a high level, not getting embarrassed by Maryland in nonconference play and being in the mix still go a long way.
But let’s back up because as much as football moves the needle, seeing Texas and Oklahoma dominate the 2 biggest revenue spring sports was certainly a plus.
Alo was the face of this new, home-run fueled era of college softball. She ended her career as an Oklahoma/college softball legend who helped grow the sport in tremendous ways. Oklahoma baseball might not have had that type of lasting impact within the sport, but getting to the College World Series finals certainly suggested that the Sooners will be just fine joining the SEC’s ever-growing baseball brand. (The Sooners have won 2 CWS titles, by the way. Texas has 6, which matches SEC-leader LSU. Vandy and South Carolina are the only other SEC teams with multiple CWS crowns; both have 2.)
Neither Texas nor OU’s men’s basketball program did anything remarkable since the ink dried on that SEC contract, but it’s also worth bringing up that it was Year 1 for Porter Moser and Chris Beard. I mean, Beard is making $5 million and he just signed the No. 3 class in America. The Longhorns have every intention of trying to become a basketball force nationally, which will only help the SEC as it continues to try and grow its hoops brand.
With all due respect to A&M and Mizzou, both of which had top-5 finishes in football within 2 years of joining the SEC, Oklahoma and Texas will enter the conference with more to offer across the big revenue sports. To A&M’s credit, it now spends like an SEC power (no other university in the country filled all of its 4 major coaching vacancies with sitting Power 5 head coaches). If the Aggies have it their way, they’ll make Texas the butt of the joke upon arrival.
What’s undeniable is that a year into their courtship, Oklahoma and Texas both appear like they’re making proper preparations ahead of their move.
The SEC’s Casserole Carols and Side-eye Steves won’t have a chance to truly observe their new neighbors up close for a little while. I guess in this scenario, Oklahoma and Texas bought the plot of land and their SEC houses are in the process of being built.
So far, that foundation looks about as solid as Carol and Steve could’ve hoped for.