HOOVER, Ala. — Of all coaches, Texas A&M’s Jimbo Fisher was mid-interview at the SEC Media Days podium when the potential bombshell was dropped.
The Houston Chronicle report that Big 12 members Texas and Oklahoma had reached out about joining the SEC obviously caught Fisher off guard.
“I bet they would,” Fisher said after hearing the news in the midst of more routine football questions. “We got the greatest league in ball.”
The Chronicle story by Brent Swerneman, quoting a “high-ranking official with knowledge of the situation,” said an annoucement could come in a couple of weeks.
Wednesday there were only a host of vague non-denials.
“I’m going to focus on the 2021 season,” SEC commissioner Greg Sankey repeated over and over again while wading through a throng of reporters.
He was making his way down his conference Media Days’ “radio row” when the news broke.
Both Texas and
Oklahoma released similar statements.
“The college athletics landscape is shifting constantly. We don’t address every anonymous rumor,” an OU release said.
Added the Texas version: “Speculation swirls around collegiate athletics. We will not address rumors or speculation.”
If it happens, it would make the SEC the first 16-team super conference.
But there would be numerous roadblocks, notably existing TV contracts that would have to be adjusted. Texas’ ESPN-based The Longhorn Network, for instance, would have to mesh with the the SEC Network, also part of ESPN. Plus, SEC bylaws require three-fourths of the existing conference members to approve any additions.
Texas and Oklahoma is not likely to get Texas A&M’s approval.
“That will be for somebody bigger than me to decide,” Fisher said later.
His boss surely won’t be for the expansion.
“There’s a reason why we left the Big 12,” Texas A&M athletic director Ross Bjork said told ESPN’s Paul Finebaum. “We wanted to have a stand-alone identity in Texas.
“We love being the only (SEC) program in the state of Texas. We’re going to maintain that position, but we’re also going to make sure that we’re a leader in college athletics and we’ll see what the future holds.”
The Aggies, longtime arch-rivals of Texas, left the Big 12 (along with Missouri) to join the SEC in 2011, playing their first football seasons in 2012.
Texas A&M was particularly annoyed when Texas and ESPN launched The Longhorn Network. During Big 12 Media Days of the time, A&M refused to let its players be interviewed by The Longhorn Network.
The two schools could also face opposition from within the Big 12.
A statement released by Oklahoma State read: “If true, we would be gravely disappointed. While we place a premium on history, loyalty, we will aggressively defend and advance what is best for Oklahoma State and our strong athletic program.”