Winners and losers from the latest round of conference realignment
The SEC obviously was the biggest winner in the latest round of conference realignment. Just as obviously, the Big 12 was the biggest loser. Or was that the Big Ten?
Dig down a bit, and you’ll find plenty of other winners and losers in the wake of Texas and Oklahoma jumping to the SEC no later than July 2025 and likely much, much sooner.
Let’s sort it out:
Oklahoma: Nobody outside of the Big 12 footprint hates Oklahoma. That soon might change, but the expectation is that, whereas Texas will be mocked mercilessly just because, the Sooners will be welcomed as a welcome challenge and adversary to Alabama’s SEC supremacy. Lincoln Riley is the offensive equivalent to Kirby Smart and he has ties to the South as well. Opening up SEC states to his message, scheme, development and success? I can see Arch Manning breaking SEC records in Norman. Oklahoma will win an SEC title before Texas.
Notre Dame: The Irish are hell-bent on staying independent in football, and everything that has happened in the past month — from proposed 12-team Playoff expansion to Power 5 realignment — only reinforces that stance.
There’s never been a better (modern) time for Notre Dame football. They need a conference less now than at any point since Joe Montana threw passes there. With as many as 6 at-large berths soon a reality, the Irish will always be in the Playoff mix.
Greg Sankey: He reaffirmed his position as the top commissioner in college sports — and that might not be giving him enough credit. Who would you rather have running the NFL? Or the Olympics?
Paul Finebaum: You think he’s popular now? The entire state of Texas just opened up to his daily rants and musings.
SEC baseball: This was lost in the shuffle a bit, but Texas is a magic name in Omaha. Its history is unmatched by anybody in the SEC, even LSU and Vandy. Texas high school baseball is a gold mine. All of which means the best baseball conference in America is about to get that much better.
UCF: The Knights have options, and they’re all good. Much like Notre Dame vis a vis the pending 12-team Playoff expansion, there has never been a better time to be a dominant “mid-major.” Sure, the Knights could make more money if they joined a revamped Big 12, but I’d stand pat. They no longer need the Big 12. I’ve written for 3 years that the AAC is a better football league than the Pac-12. You can argue that it’s at least on par with the new-reality Big 12.
The AAC: See above. It’s long past time that we stop referring to this league as anything other than Playoff-worthy. The top teams in this league are about as “mid-major” as Gonzaga basketball.
Baylor: If the Big 12 dissolves, the Bears have everything you’d want in a new league member. If the Big 12 chooses to add teams, there’s nobody on the radar that would be an annual threat to what the basketball and football programs are building. Yes, the football team struggled last year, but it also has won 10 games 5 times in the past 10 seasons. Texas hasn’t done that. The Longhorns had 1 10-win season in the past 11 years.
Steve Spurrier: Do not give the Head Ball Coach an opportunity to reach into his quiver. He’s a straight-up assassin. In an interview with the Orlando Sentinel, Spurrier didn’t seem concerned about Texas joining the SEC: “They can’t win the Big 12, anyway.”
All that was missing was an updated “UT” “Citrus” joke.
The Big Ten: What’s their counter? Notre Dame isn’t joining. Kansas would detract from the B1G’s football revenues, though adding that basketball program certainly has benefits. There are moves to make, but at this point, the only way Kevin Warren pulls close to even is if he can poach USC and Oregon from the Pac-12. That would make the Big Ten better.
Remember: The most damning aspect in all of this isn’t the fact that Texas and Oklahoma are joining the SEC. It’s the fact that neither even bothered to express interest in joining the Big Ten.
Texas football: The SEC money will be outstanding, but Texas already is Texas. What more could the SEC possibly provide the Longhorns that they don’t already have — other than better BBQ and a reminder that they no longer run the joint? This is purely the case of being careful what you wish for. Texas quickly will learn what LSU, Auburn and Texas A&M already know: You can be really, really good and still finish 3rd in the SEC West. Now, there’s a very good possibility they blow up divisions and potentially go to 4 4-team pods, but the point will remain no matter the alignment. There are 3 or 4 SEC teams every year that could compete to win league crowns in every other Power 5 conference. Oklahoma is far more ready for that challenge than Texas.