The league was flush even before that agreement, scheduled to begin in 2024. For 2018-19, the last full fiscal year before the coronavirus pandemic, the SEC divided $651 million in revenues among its members, one of the largest distributions in college sports. The additions of Oklahoma and Texas, industry officials believe, will allow the league to command even grander sums, some of which will be routed toward the newcomer schools in Austin, Texas, and Norman, Okla. (The Big 12, which had four fewer members, said it had split about $388 million for 2018-19.)
The SEC also stands to gain no small amount of athletic tradition, in part because of the ties between Oklahoma and Texas, whose ritual entanglements include the Red River rivalry football games that have been played annually since 1929.
Although Oklahoma has not won a national championship in football since the 2000 season, it has reached the College Football Playoff four times since 2015. Its men’s and women’s gymnastics programs are some of the country’s most formidable, and the university won this year’s national title in softball.
Texas football has had a checkered 21st century. Although the university won a national championship at the end of the 2005 season, the Longhorns have not earned even a conference title since the 2009 season, when they last played for a national championship. This season will bring the debut of Texas’s fourth head coach in less than a decade.
But Texas has thrived in other areas. The men’s swimming program is revered, and the university also won titles this year in women’s rowing and women’s tennis, propelling the university to win the 2020-21 Directors’ Cup, awarded annually to the country’s top college athletic program.
In a statement on Friday, Greg Sankey, the SEC commissioner, said the votes by the regents amounted to “an important moment for the long-term future of the Southeastern Conference.”
The flirtations of Oklahoma and Texas with the SEC, which is based in Alabama, became public just last week, when The Houston Chronicle reported the schools’ interest in changing leagues. Neither university denied the report. More tellingly, neither pledged allegiance to the Big 12, and instead insisted they would not respond to, as Texas put it, “rumors or speculation.”