Whitley: Texas, OU are coming! Should the Gators panic or party?

David Whitley
The Gainesville Sun
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Start practicing your Horns Down hand gestures, Florida fans. Another orange team is heading to the SEC, and it’s bringing Big Red with it.

That’d be Texas and Oklahoma, if by some chance you haven’t heard the big news. It’s not quite a done deal, but all that remains is crossing a few i’s, dotting a few t’s and talking Jimbo Fisher off the ledge.

 The mega-deal comes with mega questions, many of which can’t be answered because SEC commissioner Greg Sankey is still denying he’s ever even heard of Bevo.

The big thing SEC fans want to know is whether this will help or hurt their team’s chances of making the playoffs. To which SEC brass would say, “All we know is it enhances our chances of making more money than Apple.”

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Answering questions about Texas, Oklahoma to SEC

To (hopefully) clear up some confusion, here’s a Q&A that addresses the most burning questions. ...

How did this come about?

Texas and OU are very big fish and tired of swimming in the Big 12’s small pond. They want out, and the SEC makes more financial, competitive and geographical sense than joining the Big Ten, ACC or the United Federation of Planets.

When will this happen?

No later than 2025, and perhaps sooner. It depends on Big 12 breakup negotiations and how soon the College Station Fire Department can get an air rescue cushion to break Fisher’s fall.

Why is he threatening to jump off a ledge?

Texas A&M joined the SEC to get away from Texas. Being the only SEC team in the Lone Star State plays big with recruits. Now those haughty Horns can entice 17-year-olds with thoughts of getting drilled on a semi-annual basis by Alabama and LSU.

Could anything torpedo the deal?

A few pro-Big 12 politicians in Texas are rattling their sabers, but they’ll probably be bound, gagged and disappear into the trunks of Longhorn boosters.

Otherwise, 11 of the SEC’s 14 members must vote “yes” on the proposal. Sankey will probably rub down the Aggies’ ruffled feathers enough to make approval unanimous.

What’s in it for the SEC?

Other than more power, money and prestige, not much. The league was humming along fine, but when a company can acquire two premium assets it has to act. As “content delivery” expands into streaming and other platforms, video rights to a super conference will be worth zillions.

Zillions?

Okay, a lot of billions.

That sounds more like CNBC talk than ESPN. Has college athletics become more a business than an extracurricular pursuit?

Duh.

The math of why Texas, Oklahoma moved to SEC

Will you bore me with some math?

Sure. The Big 12 distributed $34.5 million to its schools this year. The SEC distributed $47 million per school.

And just wait until the 10-year, $3 billion deal with ESPN kicks in in 2024. With Texas and OU on board, that deal might be renegotiated into Bezos-like stratosphere.

When the Big 12 sent out feelers for a new TV contract this spring, networks yawned. The Longhorns and Sooners would pay a hefty price for leaving the Big 12 before its TV deal is up in 2025, but they’d more than make it up once those SEC checks started rolling in.

What will this do to the Big 12 scraps?

It’ll be a mishmash. Okie State could go Pac-12. West Virginia to the ACC. Kansas State might end up working the drive-through at Wendy’s.

How will this impact recruiting at SEC schools?

Probably be a net loss. The league didn’t need Texas and OU to burnish its recruiting credentials. Quite the opposite.

Florida was by no means dependent on Texas talent, but it does have five players from that state on this year’s roster. The closer a school is to Texas, the more it might be hurt by this.

Who is Bevo?

He’s Texas’ mascot, pending the Department of Agriculture banning all meat products and UT having to construct a robotic cow made of tofu to fire up fans.

Will Steve Sarkisian awaken the sleeping giant that is Texas football?

Time will tell. But if he does, the SEC will be even more of a meat grinder. Or tofu grinder.

Exactly! Won’t adding Lincoln Riley and a roused Bevo make it harder for SEC teams to get into the playoffs?

Again, time will tell. The playoff committee values strength of schedule, so a respectable loss to Oklahoma is probably better than beating the tofu out of FAU and Georgia Southern. With the playoffs expanding from four to 12 teams by perhaps 2023, it’s not hard to imagine an SEC team with three quality losses getting in.

Sankey was the big mover and shaker behind all this. If there’s a Three-Dimensional Chess fantasy league, he’s the slam-dunk No. 1 draft pick.

How will a 16-team conference operate?

The SEC could go for two 8-team divisions, with Alabama and Auburn the most likely to move to the East. The other option is a pod system in which four schools play each other every year and play everybody else on a rotating basis.

Florida’s likely pod partners would be Georgia, South Carolina and Vanderbilt. It’s safe to say the Gators would choose that pod over Alabama and Auburn joining their division.

What about sports besides football?

Buy those baseball, softball and gymnastics tickets now. The Sooners and Longhorns excel in just about everything.

Just what is Florida’s position on all this?

So far, no comment. What reservations it has will be soothed by all those dollar signs.

But money can’t buy happiness, can it?

Maybe not, but it can buy coaches, facilities and uniforms for the cross country team. The pandemic shutdown put a lot permanent budgetary fear in a lot of athletic directors. Coaches and fans might not sleep better with Bevo and Big Red joining the SEC, but the bean counters sure will.

Understood, but all this upheaval is giving me a headache. What can the average fan do?

Nothing, other than buy a new 110-inch TV to watch some great SEC games starting no later than 2025. By then, Fisher will hopefully have been talked off the ledge.

— David Whitley is The Gainesville Sun's sports columnist. Contact him at dwhitley@gannett.com. And follow him on Twitter: @DavidEWhitley

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