Big 12 expansion, future of college athletics: How does it affect Longhorn sports?

Nick Hargroue, Sports Reporter

The Big 12 officially invited BYU, Cincinnati, Houston and UCF to join its athletic conference last Friday, counteracting the departure of Texas and Oklahoma, which sent a shock wave throughout college sports.

What does this mean for the Longhorns? Simply put, the addition of these four universities to the Big 12 changes little when it comes to Texas’ plan to leave the Big 12 by 2025.

The expectation remains for the Longhorns to leave sooner than their agreed departure date, with a buyout of around $75 million required for an early exit from the conference. Texas seems to be targeting an entry into the SEC in either 2022 or 2023, but the only thing stopping the move is the required contractual obligation of the Big 12 media rights deal.

“Providing notice to the Big 12 at this point is important in advance of the expiration of the conference’s current media rights agreement,” said Oklahoma and Texas representatives in a joint statement to the Big 12. “The universities intend to honor their existing grant of rights agreements. However, both universities will continue to monitor the rapidly evolving collegiate athletics landscape as they consider how best to position their athletics programs for the future.”

This ambiguous statement by Texas and Oklahoma placed the Big 12 in an awkward position, forcing the conference to become aggressive in search of replacements for two of its founding members. This is where BYU, Cincinnati, UCF and Houston enter the picture.

The Big 12 dodged a bullet by adding these four universities to the conference, as without their addition, the Big 12 likely dissolves in the absence of Texas and Oklahoma’s revenue. Not only do the four additions keep the Big 12 intact financially, their combined program strength also brings an infusion of four hungry, up-and-coming athletic programs ready for competition.

“On a scale of 1-10, our excitement level is a 15,” said Caleb Turner, sports editor for The Daily Universe at BYU. “We are excited to be known as a Power Five school and be officially recognized as that. … Every sport that we are going to be competing in is going to be competitive. Our football team gets the most attention, but we have excellence across the board.”

If Texas is unable to leave the Big 12 in 2022, there will be ample opportunities for some rare and exciting matchups with the incoming schools. For instance, Texas basketball can match up with an elite Houston basketball program, while Texas football can take on a feisty BYU football team.

While fans might never get to see these matchups happen in reality, the potential for increased competition in the Big 12 before Texas’ departure will make these next couple of years extremely interesting for college athletics.