What Do Texas-to-the-SEC Rumors Mean For Swimming & Diving?

The Houston Chronicle reported on Wednesday morning that the University of Texas and the University of Oklahoma have reached out to the SEC Conference about leaving the Big 12 and joining their conference, setting off a wildfire in the college sports landscape.

Since the departure of Texas A&M and the University of Missouri for the SEC prior to the 2012-2013 season, the eventual collapse of the Big 12 Conference as a major player in the college sports landscape has been discussed, if not expected. Past rumors include Texas joining the Pac-12.

If Texas and Oklahoma were to depart from the Big 12, barring some corollary move to add a major program, that would essentially neuter the 10 team conference. According to USA Today data, Texas ranked #1 and Oklahoma ranked #8 in the country in athletics revenue produced in the 2018-2019 season.

Kansas, driven mostly by their famous basketball program, ranked 28th, more than $40 million behind, followed by West Virginia, Texas Tech, and Iowa State. (This excludes Baylor and TCU, which are private schools and so are not required to publicly disclose their revenue like other schools. Baylor is believed to earn just over $100 million per year in revenue, similar to West Virginia, while TCU is estimated to be around $120 million in revenue, similar to Kansas).

Big 12 Schools by Revenue, 

  1. Texas – $223 million (M&W Swimming)
  2. Oklahoma – $163 million
  3. Kansas – $121 million (W Swimming)
  4. TCU – estimated (M&W Swimming)
  5. Baylor – estimated
  6. West Virginia – $102 million (M&W Swimming)
  7. Texas Tech – $96 million
  8. Iowa State – $95 million (W Swimming)
  9. Oklahoma State – $95 million
  10. Kansas State – $89 million

All of the directly-involved parties have repeatedly declined comment, though not rejected, this notion. Athletics directors of other schools that would be directly impacted have rejected the move – most vocally, Texas A&M AD Ross Bjork, who is concerned about the impact that adding another Texas team for the SEC would have, and Oklahoma State, that wants to protect its status in the Big 12.

Without the top two programs, the Big 12 would still be a strong conference, and would still likely be the 5th most-powerful program in the country. While there are other good football programs in the conference, it’s hard to say what would happen to those programs’ drawing power for recruits, and fans, without the two lightning rods at the top.

Meanwhile, adding two of the top eight most powerful financial machines in the NCAA to the SEC, which already dominates the NCAA financially, would create an absolute juggernaut. Besides the obvious competitive influences, this would give the conference an enormous political weight and influence in NCAA decision-making. Texas, already the biggest athletics brand in the country, would instantly become even bigger.

The two teams have a huge football rivalry, and while Texas would rekindle its rivalry with Texas A&M upon arrival in the SEC, it seems unlikely (though possible) that they’d leave the Big 12 without Oklahoma. That could make this move dependent upon political plays in Oklahoma and how much the state’s university administrators want to keep the state’s two flagship institutions together.

But What About Swimming?

Oklahoma doesn’t sponsor a swimming & diving program, but Texas, home to 4 of the last 5 NCAA Division I Champions in men’s swimming & diving, sponsors a juggernaut of a swim program.

Adding the Longhorns to the SEC Conference would substantially shift the paradigm of college swimming.

Many people believe that Texas benefits from swimming in a conference where they are essentially without serious competition. That has allowed Texas the freedom to do what they want – including not swimming athletes in maximum entries, having athletes scratch finals to focus on academics, hosting a lot of their own conference championship meets, swim off events, swim non-scoring swimmers, and still come away with conference championships that present as dominance to outside observers.

They could still do most of those things in the SEC – but coasting through the conference meet in that conference wouldn’t result in conference titles. While any Longhorn, especially those associated with the men’s team, will shout from every mountaintop that they only care about the NCAA Championships, we can’t pretend as though there will be no increased pressure to perform at the conference level in the SEC.

By the reverse token, there is perhaps some benefit for Texas to be in a more competitive conference. At present, if an athlete goes to Texas swim, the goal is to score at the NCAA Championships. With no competitive conference championship meet, and with several NCAA qualifiers on the men’s squad being left home every year, it would be easy for any but the most elite recruits to feel blasé about their season and what they accomplished.

Again, we know what the Texas faithful have said: that they’d rather be left home from an NCAA title winning team, and that the lack of a conference hasn’t hurt them so far. But with Eddie Reese on the verge of retirement, there is also no guarantee that the boundless Texas reach will continue forever, and this could matter more in the future than it does at the moment.

At some point, there has to be a consideration of fun, and a competitive conference meet is, if nothing else, more fun.

SEC Teams at the 2021 NCAA Men’s Swimming & Diving Championships (Big 12 Teams Inserted)

  • Texas – 1st
  • Florida – 3rd
  • Georgia – 4th
  • Texas A&M – 10th
  • Alabama – 15th
  • Missouri – 16th
  • LSU – 18th
  • Tennessee – 20th
  • Kentucky – 30th

SEC Teams at the 2021 NCAA Women’s Swimming & Diving Championships (Big 12 Teams Inserted)

  • Texas – 3rd
  • Alabama – 5th
  • Georgia – 8th
  • Tennessee – 10th
  • Kentucky – 11th
  • Texas A&M – 14th
  • Florida – 17th
  • Missouri – 18th
  • Arkansas – 27th
  • LSU – 30th

Texas would have been the highest-placing SEC team at both NCAA Division I Championship meets last season, all else equal.

As for the remaining teams in the Big 12, especially the two men’s programs, the conference would likely need to find cooperation with another conference. There has already been some talks about SMU, currently part of a two-team men’s meet in the AAC, joining the Big 12. SMU, which has men’s and women’s teams, would be a better competitive fit for the other Big 12 programs, and has some historical roots as a former member of the Southwest Conference that once formed the foundation of the Big 12.


Ultimately, swimming & diving outcomes will have essentially no impact on this decision. This will be 90% about football and 10%, generously, about basketball.

If this is true, and if it’s more than just rumors and idle chatter (which always exists in college athletics realignments), there are still hurdles to be climbed.

The television contract, which is the crux of these moves, doesn’t expire until 2025.

Follow-up reporting from Jason Whitely, among others, say that formal discussions are expected to begin early next week, and that Texas and Oklahoma are expected to send a letter to the Big 12 early next week saying that neither school will renew their current media contracts.

This all means that there is a lot of negotiations that have to happen before any moves can be made. At present, even if Oklahoma and Texas tried to join the SEC prior to 2025, the Big 12 would still own the television rights to their football games through 2025 – which means that move wouldn’t make sense.

Of course, that’s not an insurmountable hurdle, but it is one that will take time to negotiate.

The deal will definitely not be done in time for the 2021-2022 season. It’s possible for the 2022-2023 season, but that will become more clear over the following weeks, if the rumors prove to be true.

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1 year ago

No way Texas gets voted into the SEC. The SEC schools with other p5 schools in their states have all previously stated they don’t want to share their states with other schools. Only four NO’s will keep Texas out, and South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, and Kentucky all share with ACC schools. Add in A&M and that’s 5 against at minimum.

Oklahoma is another story but that obviously doesn’t affect swimming. It’s a shame considering they have an outdoor 50m pool and indoor 25y pool on their campus, and US Olympian Patrick callan comes from Oklahoma.

Reply to  Thezwimmer
1 year ago

Each SEC school is projected to get $16 million more from TV rights with Texas and OU added. You still think they’re going to vote no?

Reply to  Thezwimmer
1 year ago

Projected vote is 13-1 (but I agree with you in that I wish Oklahoma would add a swim team).

Last edited 1 year ago by Coach
1 year ago

From what I’m hearing, this is 90% done. Aggie and Texas Big 12 schools may want to fight it in the Texas legislation, but that’s not even in session until 2023 and the governor is a longhorn.

Aggie may hope to block SEC votes (they need 4 no), but one source I read estimates an incremental $16m per school from TV contracts. So you really think Aggie can get 3 votes? Money carried the day in 2012 for some SEC schools who were reluctant to add Aggie and Missouri.

Aggie has defined their identity the past decade with SEC-SEC over their own accomplishments, and a big part of that is that they could claim something that Texas could… Read more »

Reply to  Wethorn
1 year ago

Comments like this are why nobody likes Texas alums.

Also, I can tell from your diction that you spend way too much time on Texas message boards. You should get out more, there’s a big wide world out there.

1 year ago

Small point but add UT to the conference swimming meet and the SEC Championships will return to the separate meet format…too many bodies clogging up a pool deck, too many spectators.

Reply to  DJTrockstoYMCA
1 year ago

The SEC meet is already ridiculously over-crowded and too fast, as they try to get all the heats and competitors and events in. They’ve got swimmers on the blocks practically the moment the last group is out of the pool. I’ve watched the last couple of days of the SEC swim meet on TV the last two years–and it’s frustrating as the TV staffers can’t keep up. They barely get the names of the competitors up as a graphic before the gun goes off.

1 year ago

This is 127% about football and all other sports need to get over the delusion that they matter. Thats SEC math 😉

Reply to  Qqq
1 year ago

It has a lot to do with football, but it’s more about money and the eventual Super Conference that breaks away from the NCAA. This isn’t going to stop with Texas and Oklahoma.

Last edited 1 year ago by Coach
1 year ago

End the tri meet!

pete kennedy
1 year ago

So what does the Big 12 head of the conference – Bob Bowlsbey (I believe) ?

Samuli Hirsi
1 year ago

big12 is over, it is sec or independent, no going back for these cowboys, altho swimming does not matter that much in this equation, football only

1 year ago

This will really upset SEC fans but I ran a simulation and inserted UT’s big 12 times into the SEC results and UT came in second without even including diving so…….

I have said this in these discussions numerous times, but Texas is not gonna worry about trying to win a conference championship if it means it cost them the ability to win the national title. They are going to do what they always do and make the national title their goal.

Reply to  Charge
1 year ago

It’s less the focus on SEC’s and more that they wouldn’t be able to do whatever they want like Big 12s. No “B” relays. There is a limit to 19 swimmers on the SEC roster so they would be leaving home like 6 guys this year not only from NCAA’s but SECs as well – not making the NCAA team is one thing, not making the conference team when you’re an NCAA qualifier would be insanely tough.

Last edited 1 year ago by Riccardo
Reply to  Riccardo
1 year ago

Again, nobody at Texas cares about conference titles everyone’s trying to aim for NCAA‘s. So a couple of swimmers who wouldn’t make NCAA is anyway don’t swim at conference then go to some other school? You’re arguing if that’s gonna weaken the team at the top?

Reply to  Charge
1 year ago

I didn’t dispute that. I explained to you why it could be a challenge because they historically use Big 12s for whatever they need it for. Sometimes that’s getting guys to the meet and sometimes it’s figuring out which relay combinations are fastest with multiple relays. Its also a big opportunity for them to develop guys that are great swimmers and recruits that won’t make the NCAA team. SECs would not be that.

I’m also suggesting recruiting and roster management becomes more of a challenge when it’s no longer “you’ll be with us every step of the way except NCAAs” and becomes “you’ll be with us for everything but NCAAs, SECs and conference dual meets.”

I also understand that… Read more »

Last edited 1 year ago by Riccardo
Reply to  Charge
1 year ago

I think you’re wrong. Texas doesn’t care about conference titles because it eases to the Big 12 title every year without even trying. The SEC is a tough, bragging-rights conference. You win the SEC–in any sport–and it provides a boost to recruiting. Conversely, it you claim not to care about the conference title and don’t win it, you will suffer a bit in recruiting–even with the advantages that come with the big talent pool in Texas. Finally, there’s no such as not caring about a conference title in the SEC. If skateboarding were a college sport, every SEC school would be building the biggest and most modern skateboarding facilities they could find and go all-out to win it–all except Vanderbilt,… Read more »

Reply to  Riccardo
1 year ago

There is no limit to 19 swimmers. The rule was changed last year where each team can have 22 athletes regardless of swimming or diving. If a team wants to bring 22 swimmers, they can do that. They could also bring 15 swimmers and 7 divers if they want. Just can’t exceed 22 athletes

Reply to  JCO
1 year ago

Good to know. Texas might only bring 18 swimmers then as they routinely qualify 4 or more divers for NCAAs.

Reply to  Charge
1 year ago

It’s not really an accurate simulation because they aren’t pressed to swim fast in prelims at Big 12s. At SECs, if you don’t swim fast in the morning, you’re not making the final to score those points in the first place.

About Braden Keith

Braden Keith

Braden Keith is the Editor-in-Chief and a co-founder/co-owner of SwimSwam.com. He first got his feet wet by building The Swimmers' Circle beginning in January 2010, and now comes to SwimSwam to use that experience and help build a new leader in the sport of swimming. Aside from his life on the InterWet, …

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