Official newspaper of The University of Texas at Austin

The Daily Texan

Official newspaper of The University of Texas at Austin

The Daily Texan

Official newspaper of The University of Texas at Austin

The Daily Texan

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October 4, 2022

Changing the game: Texas and Oklahoma softball transition into the SEC

Skyler Sharp

The two softball teams that played in the 2024 Women’s College World Series championship series, Texas and Oklahoma, are not just moving conferences and joining the SEC: They are looking to change the game of softball. 

Although the NCAA conference realignment means greater travel time and expenses for teams, especially with the dissolution of the PAC-12, it provides potential for collegiate softball to expand its fanbase and become more competitive.

“It’s going to help softball itself,” Texas head coach Mike White said to the media before the WCWS. “We saw an SEC team (in the NCAA Austin Super Regional) and that was a knockdown, drag-out series. As I told my friends, ‘Every weekend is going to be like this, going into those environments.’”

White referred to Texas A&M, who beat Texas in the first game of the Super Regional. With Aggie fans shouting in the stands, the Longhorns had to pull together to win two consecutive games. 

“It’s just different. The SEC is different,”  Florida head coach Tim Walton said to the media before the WCWS. “I thought we were good and then we get our butts kicked by somebody in one weekend. Gosh, it’s tough. The travel, the fans, the passion, the number of fans, it’s just different. ”

Eight of the top 10 Division 1 schools with the highest average home game attendance in 2023 were SEC schools. Alabama has the highest average, with around 3,573 fans coming to each home game. Texas is 15th on the list, having an average home game attendance of 1,549 fans. 

“I think it’s going to be tremendous,” Alabama head coach Patrick Murphy said. “We already sell out. When OU comes to us, and they’re coming to us next year … it is going to be a premium game just like when LSU comes to play football at Alabama.”

Florida is also excited about what the realignment will mean for their program. 

“I’m excited that they’re coming to the SEC,” Walton said. “I think they’re going to expand recruiting bases for their programs and our programs, the television coverage and the popularity (of softball).”

The transition into the SEC will not only bring more publicity to the sport, but it may also create better softball players. 

The game has been elevated through film and statistics. With an additional fourth coach added to each roster after a 2023 NCAA rule change, the teams have multiple pairs of eyes watching film and the game. The teams know what to expect from their opponents, especially when it comes to pitching. 

“It’s changing the way we think as coaches,” White said. “I think we’re having to use multiple pitchers.”

For the first time in WCWS history, a single team used five pitchers in one game. Oklahoma and Texas put in eight pitchers combined for the final championship game, double the number of pitchers used in the last game of the 2021 WCWS championship series.

“We’re both going into a new conference together, but Texas always makes us better,” Oklahoma head coach Patty Gasso said. “And I think we can both agree that we do that for each other. And that’s how we get here. That’s why we’re looking at each other on the national championship stage.”

If Texas and Oklahoma continue to improve, especially with talented young players on their roster, then they might be looking at a successful transition into a new conference. However, how much the change will affect the two teams is yet to be seen. 

“We’re down the totem pole, so to speak, as a sport in relation to the breadwinners as far as football and men’s basketball, but women’s sports is catching up,” White said. “And we’re hoping that whatever the conference realignment does, it benefits softball in the long run.”

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