Following a bombshell report from the Houston Chronicle on July 21, it was rumored that the University of Oklahoma and the University of Texas had reached out to the Southeastern Conference about potential membership.
Just five days later, the universities released a joint statement announcing that they would not be renewing their grant of media rights with the Big 12 Conference and later declared their intention to join the SEC as early as 2025.
The decision to admit Oklahoma and Texas was made during a vote on July 29. Presidents of all 14 SEC schools came to the unanimous decision to allow the Sooners and Longhorns to join the conference, despite concerns that Texas A&M may vote no.
These developments are likely just the beginning of a cosmic shift in the college football landscape. If these dominos fall as expected, Georgia would be part of a 16 team super-conference that threatens the current college football ecosystem.
The addition of the Red River Rivalry schools not only adds to the raw competitive strength of the conference, but also further bolsters its prestige. In a league where “it just means more,” donning that SEC patch just gained a new meaning.
In the immediate future, the exodus of Oklahoma and Texas leaves uncertainty for the future of the Big 12 as more member schools will look to jump ship or get scooped up by other power five conferences looking to maintain competition with the newly formed SEC juggernaut.
On the horizon, with the Power Five likely transitioning to a power four, the creation of an exclusive league of the nation’s elite perennial programs may be a real possibility, the architects of which will undoubtedly be dominated by the powers that be, such as tier one SEC programs including the University of Georgia.
The expansion gives the Bulldogs a higher seat at the table in college football politics and gives the program greater influence in the years that come, especially considering the relative governing weakness of the NCAA at present.
While the addition of OU and UT is likely imminent, the future divisional structure of the SEC is still up in the air. Some have suggested a simple solution in which the newcomers would join the western division, pushing Auburn and Alabama to the east.
A more nuanced idea would be the implementation of “pods,” dividing the conference into four divisions, similar to the divisions of the AFC and NFC in the NFL. Each team would play the other three teams in its pod each season and then two teams from each of the other three pods on a rotating annual basis in order to complete the nine-game conference schedule.
This would mean that the Bulldogs would face certain scenarios like playing Nick Saban’s squad every year or giving up the annual version of the Deep South’s Oldest Rivalry with Auburn, only facing off every other year under a pod structure.
This a critical juncture for the SEC, and while the move was met with initial excitement, some are skeptical of what the expansion would do to the college game.
UGA junior Brad Leventhal voiced his rejection of the inclusion of Oklahoma and Texas in the SEC, stating that the expansion is "terrible for college football.”
“It's good for [Oklahoma and Texas], but I don’t even think it's good for the SEC because it makes it to where it's way too hard of a conference,” Leventhal said. “I, as an SEC fan, don't like it because now [Georgia] has a way harder schedule every year.”
All eyes will be down south this season as college football looks to get back to pre-COVID-19 conditions in the wake of these dramatic developments.