Sooners, Longhorns accept SEC invites

By: Tom Murphy
Published: Saturday, July 31, 2021
The Red River Showdown logo is displayed on the field of the Cotton Bowl, prior to an Oct. 10, 2020, NCAA football game between the University of Texas and Oklahoma in Dallas. - Photo by Michael Ainsworth of The Associated Press
The Red River Showdown logo is displayed on the field of the Cotton Bowl, prior to an Oct. 10, 2020, NCAA football game between the University of Texas and Oklahoma in Dallas. - Photo by Michael Ainsworth of The Associated Press

FAYETTEVILLE — Nine days after news leaked out during SEC Media Days about Big 12 powers Oklahoma and Texas expressing interest in joining the SEC, the moves became official Friday.

Governing boards from Oklahoma and Texas agreed to accept the SEC’s invitation to join the conference. The move solidifies the SEC as the top power broker in college athletics as the first 16-team super conference, and it is sure to command lucrative TV rights deals in the near future.

The SEC’s announcement stated the Sooners and Longhorns officially will join on July 1, 2025, with competition to begin in all sports during the 2025-26 academic year.

However, many industry insiders believe Oklahoma and Texas will negotiate exits with the Big 12 that will hasten their departure.

Texas A&M Athletic Director Ross Bjork, speaking last week at SEC Media Days, said the Aggies broke away from the Big 12 in 2012 to be the only SEC program in Texas, a clear rejection of the powerful Longhorns’ bid.

However, in voting by SEC presidents and chancellors Wednesday, the decision was unanimous to extend an offer to the Longhorns and Sooners, who for decades ruled in the old Southwest and Big 8 conferences, respectively, before joining forces in the Big 12 in 1994.

SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey seemed to presage the move by Oklahoma and Texas by beginning his opening remarks at SEC Media Days by quoting “The Times, They Are A-Changin’,” the name of a Bob Dylan song.

According to reports, the move of Oklahoma and Texas had been in the works for months.

“This is an important moment for the long-term future of the Southeastern Conference and our member universities,” Sankey said in a statement. “Oklahoma and Texas are outstanding academic institutions with two strong athletics programs, which will add to the SEC’s national prominence.

“Their additions will further enhance the already rich academic, athletic and cultural legacies that have been cultivated throughout the years by our existing 14 members. We look forward to the Sooners and Longhorns competing in our Conference starting in the 2025-26 academic year.”

Arkansas will have the first football meeting against one of the new members, hosting Texas on Sept. 11 at Reynolds Razorback Stadium.

The Razorbacks, who have not beaten Texas A&M in football in nine games since the Aggies joined the league, accepted the two new members with open arms, just as school officials did for Texas A&M and Missouri in 2012.

In a statement on Friday, Arkansas Athletic Director Hunter Yurachek thanked the SEC and league institutions for working to strengthen the conference.

“The addition of the University of Oklahoma and the University of Texas, two institutions with successful all-sports programs, loyal fan bases and recognized traditions, will further establish the SEC as the leader within intercollegiate athletics,” Yurachek said in the statement. “For the University of Arkansas, old conference and regional rivalries will be renewed, linking our future with our storied past. And with more than 25,000 University of Arkansas alumni living in Texas and Oklahoma, it will bring our program even closer to Razorback fans throughout the region.

“The University of Arkansas came to the SEC to compete against the best in the nation. And it has, including winning 10 SEC Championships last year, the most of any conference school.

“With the addition of the Sooners and Longhorns, the nation’s most competitive conference will get even more challenging, but I am confident our student-athletes, coaches and Razorback fans will not only embrace these opportunities but also rise to the challenge.”

Texas leads the all-time series with Arkansas by a 56-22 margin. The teams have met five times since Arkansas left the Southwest Conference after 1991 and the Razorbacks hold a 3-2 advantage. That includes a 27-6 win in the Cotton Bowl after the 1999 season for second-year coach Houston Nutt, and a 31-7 win in the Texas Bowl after the 2014 season for second-year Coach Bret Bielema in the last game between the teams.

Oklahoma leads its series with the Razorbacks by a 10-4-1 count. The last three meetings have been in bowl games, starting with Arkansas’ 31-6 upset of the No. 2 Sooners in the 1978 Orange Bowl under first-year coach Lou Holtz.

Oklahoma has won the last two meetings by scores of 42-8 in the 1987 Orange Bowl and 10-3 in the 2002 Cotton Bowl.

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