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.

Timing

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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Add Em'
1 month ago

A&M just doesn’t want to play UT in football… give the fans what they want! Seeing Texas in the SEC for swim would be extremely interesting though

Kachow
Reply to  Add Em'
1 month ago

I feel like Texas’s ability to swim through their conference meet is a part of the reason they win NCAAs so often. Would be interesting to see them try to double taper some of their swimmers in order to win conference as well as NCAAs.

Charge
Reply to  Kachow
1 month ago

NCAA title > SEC title

Texas would not rest swimmers anymore than usual if they believe they have a real fight on their hands for NCAA title

This is a tried argument from people looking to justify why their team can’t win a National title

Where is the angst for Cal not having to taper hard to beat Stanford?

Stewie
Reply to  Charge
1 month ago

Charge is spitting’ facts.

Texas doesn’t care about anything other than getting the guys to swim faster, ideally at NCAAs.

They certainly don’t care about conference titles – not SWC, not Big 12, and not SEC.

You don’t win 15 (and counting) NVAA titles worrying about where you’re gonna place at a conference meet.

Dan
Reply to  Stewie
1 month ago

what conference meet, sometimes they have a Texas ‘A’ team and a Texas ‘B’ team so that there are enough swimmers at the meet to fill the A final

B1G Daddy
Reply to  Stewie
1 month ago

Of course they don’t care about it, it’s a double-dual for God’s sake. Little different over five nights in Gainesville or Tuscaloosa.

Dan
Reply to  Charge
1 month ago

Cal do not really have to taper that much either, there are 6 schools with Men’s swimming

Charge
Reply to  Dan
1 month ago

Exactly, but people only b about texas

I’m telling you I’ve run the numbers, take the top 19 texas swimmers/divers and their times from 2021 Big12’s and insert them into SEC’s

Texas wins. Even if texas were second or third , why would they care if they then go on to win the National title ?

And if they don’t, they don’t need a conference title to console themselves, that’s not their goal as a program.

Not that I have room to talk trash, but does anyone outside the big 12 care that OU has won 43,519 straight big 12 football titles?

No.

Because national titles are more important. That’s how a program is universally measured

Armchair
Reply to  Charge
1 month ago

It’s easier to win national titles if you dominate a relative weak conference in a sport. Fact. There is less recruiting competition.

Coach
Reply to  Armchair
1 month ago

Is that why Alabama football keeps winning championships?

Stewie
Reply to  Kachow
1 month ago

This may be the weakest non-Olympic take this week…

Riccardo
Reply to  Add Em'
1 month ago

Objectively A&M has towered over Texas in football since joining the SEC. It also completely transformed their recruiting. They’ve been able to brand themselves as the Texas school that competes in the most competitive conference in college sports.

This is why A&M will certainly vote no on Texas joining the conference. The SEC needs 11 of 14 schools to vote yes to bring a new member in. Which other 3 would vote no and block it? LSU, maybe Arkansas and perhaps Missouri. Anyone that competes with Texas geographically for fans and recruits.

Joel Lin
Reply to  Braden Keith
1 month ago

A great analysis of the ecosystem inside Texas as these institutions battle to be king of the hearts of casual fans. College sports is a huge commercial enterprise in Texas.

I must say, UT “leaking” the flex that it sure would be neat to be a part of the SEC just hours before THE SEC FOOTBALL COACHES MEDIA DAY!!! wasn’t too subtle. This rumor appeared to have everyone flummoxed at the media day. Seemed like it came from straight outa nowhere, which, of course it did. Everything is bigger in Texas. Even the A&M rivals shade and hype. I’m here for it.

Last edited 1 month ago by Joel Lin
Right Dude Here
Reply to  Joel Lin
1 month ago

As I understand, it was an A&M-adjacent reporter for the Houston Chronicle who leaked it.

Joel Lin
Reply to  Right Dude Here
1 month ago

And how do you think the A&M-adjacent reporter got that scoop? C’mon man, this is Texas velvet hammer stuff. UT wanted this out there.

Swim3057
Reply to  Joel Lin
1 month ago

A&M leaked the story. The leak was done to try and get it out there to begin a campaign to get the votes to stop this from happening. The Chronicle beat reporter posted the story 10 minutes before Jimbo Fisher spoke at the media days and the first question was a plant about the UT/OU story. The A&M athletic director was the only AD at the media days – it’s unusual for ADs to attend – and happened to be made available just as the story was breaking. Give A&M credit, it was a well planned campaign to get the story out there and go on the attack.
As far as votes against counting A&M they will get Missouri… Read more »

Joel Lin
Reply to  Swim3057
1 month ago

I’m also guessing Ole Miss & Kentucky are a hard no. Each are in a good position now with high profile coaches after a long history of misery. Those two won’t be able to recruit in football against OK & TX.

Not for nothing, the Big 12 has also been arguably the best men’s basketball conference in the recent 2 years. Baylor just won it all, Texas Tech went to the prior championship game. This blows all of that up just so Texas can have their just desserts in football. Selfish and short sighted. It. Is. Stupid.

Last edited 1 month ago by Joel Lin
Armchair
Reply to  Joel Lin
1 month ago

I don’t see why LSU or Miss. State would support this either–unless it can be shown that adding these two schools will boost revenues for SEC members significantly. Even so, why would mid- or lower-level SEC athletic programs—who already know, to their chagrin, what an uber-competitive, dog-eat-dog conference it is, athletically–want to be further eclipsed by two additional big programs? They’d be pushed even lower down the totem pole.

Armchair
Reply to  Joel Lin
1 month ago

Wrong: A&M leaked the news.

Redhawk
Reply to  Braden Keith
1 month ago

So basically A&M doesn’t want to have to compete with their “big brother”.

Doesn’t seem to be in the correct nature of sports in general…the attitude of the A&M AD should be “Bring it on, horns down”

Charge
Reply to  Riccardo
1 month ago

Fact check

In 9 years how many wins over P5 teams that finished the season over 0.500

In 9 years how many wins over group of 5 or division 2 teams?

In 9 years how many wins against SEC teams not named ole miss, miss state, vandy, Arkansas and South Carolina? In other words, teams that matter.

The fact that you made cups to celebrate beating LSU should really be a self reflective moment for you guys

But carry on

🙂

Riccardo
Reply to  Charge
1 month ago

I’m not an A&M fan and have no affiliation with either University but its like just common indisputable knowledge A&M football has been vastly more relevant than Texas since joining the SEC.

They have the same number of major bowl appearances (1) and wins (1) since A&M moved. They have had a Heisman winner, a #1 overall pick, the same number of current NFL players with 39, and there are a lot more current studs on Texas A&M’s list of NFL players than there is for Texas. We’re talking Myles Garrett, Mike Evans, Von Miller…the most accomplished current NFL player from UT is Justin Tucker.

The list of significant accomplishments tilts toward A&M and they’ve had to do it with… Read more »

Last edited 1 month ago by Riccardo
Jeff Hammond
Reply to  Riccardo
1 month ago

The Ags have been better recently in football than UT but the Ags do not and have never had top notch sports. They have not won a naty in football since the ‘30’s (Texas has won four since then. But the real striking stat is that in its history in all men’s and women’s sports, the Ags have only won 13 national championships, ranking them 40th all time. Texas has more men’s swimming championships than a&m has total. The Ags have a lot of good traditions but they don’t have a tradition of winning sporting events.

Riccardo
Reply to  Jeff Hammond
1 month ago

Did I say that or even attempt to argue that? I specifically mentioned that since joining the SEC, they have towered over Texas in football, no mention of other sports. And really everyone but Texas football fans seem to have an easy time admitting that.

I mean isn’t it obvious that one of the main motivating factors for considering this move is that their football relevance is nearly completely gone? Their best NFL player is a kicker.

Coach
Reply to  Charge
1 month ago

If you don’t think A&M has been more relevant in football than Texas over the past few years, you haven’t been watching college football. While A&M boosters were pushing to get A&M into the playoffs last year, Texas boosters were convincing themselves that Urban Meyer really was going to be the next head coach at Texas.

Charge
Reply to  Coach
1 month ago

Did I say that? Go back and read. Then read again.

Over 9 years, overall, atm has been marginally better, owing to consistent 7-9 win seasons built on weak scheduling, while Texas made the bone headed hire of Charlie Strong. Nothing for Texas to be proud of.

Towering over? Texas has not been up to their own standards the past 9 years, no doubt. But towering? That’s cute. I mean the word “objectively” was even used to describe the extremely subjective term “towering over”. That’s rich.

The past 4 years atm has one top 10 and one top 25 finish in the AP, Texas has one and two respectively. But towering over. Sure

Did you find… Read more »

Coach
Reply to  Charge
1 month ago

Where in the world did I use the word “towering”?

Texas A&M Swim Fan
Reply to  Charge
1 month ago

Your team can’t win the “small 12”😁. If y’all are admitted, my advice is for y’all to take off those “diapers” y’all have been wearing over there & find some “big boy pants” because that “small 12” y’all have been “competing in” (supposedly) was like eating “baby food”!! Get ready for a lot of L’s coming y’all’s way. SEC is “tough” every week of play. Y’all have had major trouble with OU & have lost “a lot” of games y’all should have won👋👋. Plenty of OU’s & better in SEC. And I hope SEC doesn’t “cave in” Iike “small 12” did about the “ horns down” sign. Y’all’s “cryin” worked over there but doubt it will over on this side… Read more »

Last edited 1 month ago by Texas A&M Swim Fan
Armchair
Reply to  Riccardo
1 month ago

Missouri has already said it is opposed, so two more ‘no’ votes would be needed. SEC schools might favor the addition if it can be shown that Texas and Oklahoma will bring even more money to the conference via TV rights packages. The Big12 has a broadcast deal with ESPN that doesn’t expire until 2025, and I think Texas has its own, separate deal–both of which complicate this move. It is, as usual, all about the money. Or, put more bluntly, greed–as if there is one school in America that doesn’t need more money, it’s texas. The longhorns would be in for a rude awakening on the football field if they joined the SEC.

Coach Macgyver
Reply to  Riccardo
1 month ago

Other than Johnny Manziel, neither team has done much since A&M moved to Sec, much less toward over anything.

Armchair
Reply to  Add Em'
1 month ago

Silly comment as A&M has had better teams over the last decade or so, I believe.

This is just Oklahoma and Texas seeking more money. A&M joined the SEC specifically to get away from Texas, which big-foots every other school in the Big12. Missouri did the same. If four of the SEC’s 12 schools oppose the idea of adding these two schools, the idea will be dead. A&M and Missouri are already opposed, so they need two more SEC schools to join them. Most conferences are too big already; they sure as hell don’t need to be bigger.

DJTrockstoYMCA
1 month ago

Would be AMAZING to have the Longhorns and Sooners join the SEC. Hopefully OU will add swimming! UT is pretty good at swimming now.

SwammaJammaDingDong
1 month ago

This would mean that the Big 12 would be the first major conference to eliminate the sport of swimming. (They probably wouldn’t be considered a major conference anyway at that point.) It would also mean that any top swimmers / recruits at schools like WVU, TCU, or Kansas would probably looks elsewhere for their academic and athletic interests.

Redhawk
Reply to  SwammaJammaDingDong
1 month ago

If the conference dissolves as the result of UT and OU leaving did they really “eliminate” swimming? Even if UT leaves there are other schools in the conference with swimming.

Meeeeeee
Reply to  SwammaJammaDingDong
1 month ago

If this happens there will no longer be a Big 12. Others will leave ASAP

Coach
1 month ago

I agree that this move would probably lead to the first power 5 conference without swimming and diving, but I just don’t see Texas giving up the Longhorn Network, and that may be a requirement to join the SEC.

Last edited 1 month ago by Coach
Swim3057
Reply to  Coach
1 month ago

ESPN gets full SEC rights in 2 years (taking FB from CBS) in all sports. ESPN owns the SEC Network and has partial ownership of the Longhorn Network. This will be resolved to everyone’s satisfaction. The LHN will not ever be the dealbreaker and likely will be part of the bigger SEC network.

Joel Lin
Reply to  Swim3057
1 month ago

I think you are greatly underestimating the leverage ESPN has in this matrix. No way on earth would ESPN humor along a carve-out for UT to maintain LHN. Not happening. This was the main blocker to Notre Dame becoming a full ACC member. They solved it by allowing a carve-out for ND to remain an independent in football & keep their NBC $$$ contract. But ND held a lot of appeal for the ACC without football. Most of their non revenue sports + men’s & women’s basketball were glove fits for the ACC. That plainly isn’t the case here. Without UT football, the SEC won’t have any interest in UT or would ESPN.

I think after all the shoutin UT… Read more »

Swim3057
Reply to  Joel Lin
1 month ago

I agree with your points, I just feel confident in believing this has already been worked out behind the scenes and won’t be an issue.

Awsi Dooger
Reply to  Swim3057
1 month ago

I love how powerful ESPN is, considering how many American sports fans are scared of ESPN and rant against it

MKW
1 month ago

Wow, this would shake up college athletics in general let alone swimming

Old Retired Guy
1 month ago

Unexpected…
Interesting…..

Charge
1 month 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.

Riccardo
Reply to  Charge
1 month 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 month ago by Riccardo
Charge
Reply to  Riccardo
1 month 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?

Riccardo
Reply to  Charge
1 month 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 month ago by Riccardo
Armchair
Reply to  Charge
1 month 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 »

JCO
Reply to  Riccardo
1 month 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

Riccardo
Reply to  JCO
1 month ago

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

Aquajosh
Reply to  Charge
1 month 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.

Samuli Hirsi
1 month 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

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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