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Why Texas is willing to risk aggravation, serious opposition to join SEC, play in the big-boy league

There reportedly is nothing in SEC by-laws to keep the league from inviting Texas to join. But there’s an old gentlemen’s agreement: No one gets in if the team in your state objects.

The Big 12 is probably already circling its lawyers, Texas A&M will hold its ground and the future of a 12-team playoff could even be in jeopardy, yet there’s an over-arching reason why Texas would risk all that aggravation and opposition to bolt for the SEC along with Oklahoma. And it’s not just money, either.

Texas has big money, and the boosters behind it want to play in a big-boy league.

Even if the Houston Chronicle source that dropped Wednesday’s bulletin is off on its timing, and no announcement is imminent or on the horizon, it doesn’t change the sentiment.

No offense, Iowa State. You, too, Kansas and Kansas State and Oklahoma State.

But you’re not Alabama, Georgia, LSU, Florida, Auburn and A&M.

Kentucky can hoop as much as Kansas can.

Heck, even Vanderbilt and Arkansas are killer in baseball.

Texas Tech and Baylor have seen this side of Texas before. The Longhorns tired of their playmates in the dying days of the Southwest Conference and decided to step up in class.

Now, according to unnamed sources, Texas boosters believe the Big 12 has run its course, too, and it’s time to move on again.

Not only did I not see it coming, I nearly wrote last week that the Big 12 had never seemed so stable. Bob Bowlsby, the commissioner, even thanked the media last week at JerryWorld for not asking about realignment. Hope you enjoyed the reverie while it lasted, Bob.

As previously noted, just because Texas probably wants to go doesn’t mean it will. The Longhorns would encounter serious opposition. Ross Bjork, A&M’s athletic director, couldn’t have been clearer Wednesday. The Aggies want to be the only SEC program in the state. It’s one of the reasons they left the Big 12, he said, “to have our own identity.”

Then there’s this, too: John Sharp, A&M’s chancellor, still has a lot of friends in the Texas legislature.

There reportedly is nothing in SEC bylaws to keep the league from inviting Texas to join. But there’s an old gentlemen’s agreement: No one gets in if the team in your state objects. It’s one of the reasons Florida State is still in the ACC.

The Big 12 obviously wouldn’t be in favor of it, either, because without Texas and OU, there wouldn’t be a Big 12. The league is protected by its grant-in-rights, a legal term meaning that if any school tries to leave the league before the TV contracts are up in 2025, it forfeits its share to the other Big 12 members. Pretty sizeable penalty. Then there’s the Longhorn Network. The Big 12 doesn’t mind the fact that Texas sacks $15 million a year from ESPN through 2031. Price of associating with such a big revenue producer. Any other conference, though, might object.

Last and not least, there are the political consequences. Remember the reaction when Texas and A&M tried to leave the SWC for the Big 8? It’s the reason why Arkansas initiated the SWC breakup in the first place. Frank Broyles, the late emperor, had already been told that the Razorbacks wouldn’t be included in a potential Big 8 merger. Broyles was left with the impression then that it was only a matter of time before A&M and Texas followed the Hogs to the SEC.

Except Ann Richards and Bob Bullock got in the way of the flagship schools going out on their own. The governor and lieutenant governor, among others in the legislature, stood up for Baylor and Texas Tech. Texas and A&M couldn’t go anywhere without them.

Which is why SMU, TCU, Houston and Rice were left out in the cold.

A similar fate awaits the rest of the Big 12 if Texas and OU leave. Bowlsby has no suitable replacements on hand, or they’d be members already. A 16-team SEC super conference would create a tidal wave of realignment. What’s left of the power five would no doubt scramble to form additional super conferences.

Could Texas and OU simply declare their intentions now and wait until contracts expire in 2025 to make their moves? Possibly. Arkansas played two additional football seasons in the SWC after announcing its SEC move. A&M played one more. Just the same, four more might be stretching everyone’s best intentions a little bit.

And what about the old saw that Oklahoma can’t go anywhere without Oklahoma State?

Might not be a problem as long as they play each other every year.

Frankly, even if Texas could pull this off, it’s not what I’d do. The Longhorns have a hard enough time trying to win the Big 12, much less the SEC. They couldn’t even beat Iowa State last year. Leaving for the SEC might also create enough of a firestorm that it could endanger the 12-team playoff, making a pathway to the College Football Playoff even more difficult.

On the other hand, if you’re going to lose, anyway, better to lose to Georgia or Alabama than Iowa State.

And not only would Texas and OU rake in more revenue in media deals with the SEC, all those big state schools would fill up Royal-Memorial Stadium.

You’ve got to remember how people like Tom Hicks think, and that’s big. Like Red McCombs, when asked in 2013 if Texas had enough money to make a run at Nick Saban:

“All the money that is not up at the Vatican,” the former Spurs owner said, “is at UT.”

Texas’ big money couldn’t lure Saban to Austin. Doesn’t mean they wouldn’t join him.

Find more Oklahoma coverage from The Dallas Morning News here.

Find more Texas coverage from The Dallas Morning News here.

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