What's in it for OU? Revenue and recruiting

Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby speaks July 14 during the Big 12 media days in Arlington, Texas.


NORMAN — More revenue. Better recruiting.

That’s part of what’s in it for the University of Oklahoma if it and the University of Texas make the jump to the Southeastern Conference.

That move has been the talk of the college football world since reports broke last week that the two Big 12 schools were exploring a move to the SEC.

Let’s look at some financial numbers that are being reported for both conferences, as well as the impact the SEC could have on the Sooners’ recruiting efforts

It’s not a shocking revelation, but a lot of signs point toward a financial benefit for the Sooners if the move becomes official.

The Big 12’s situation isn’t bad, but it could be better. Per the Associated Press, the conference distributed $345 million of revenue equally to each of its 10 schools for the 2020-2021 fiscal year, or $34.5 million per school.

This was down from the $37.7 million that was distributed to its schools during the 2019-2020 fiscal year.

During a league board meeting last year, conference commissioner Bob Bowlsby admitted that overall revenue was about $50 million short of what had been expected before the COVID-19 pandemic.

It’s understandable that the Big 12, like many other industries across the country, experiences issues related to the pandemic.

We don’t know what SEC schools will get for the 2020-2021 fiscal year, but we do know that all 14 schools were given $45.5 million for the 2019-2020 fiscal year. That was actually a slight increase from the $45.3 million that was distributed to each school in 2018-2019, per USA Today.

The SEC also distributed an extra $23 million to each school as pandemic relief, which is being borrowed from future increases in media revenue, per CBS Sports.

In other words, the conference would likely have more revenue to disperse, not less, with the additions of OU and Texas, even if they have to divide the revenue among 16 teams instead of 14.

And that means more money to Oklahoma.

The Big 12’s 13-year, $2.6 billion contracts with ESPN and Fox Sports expire after the 2024-2025 season.

The conference reportedly made an effort to negotiate a new TV deal, but the networks were not ready to discuss an extension beyond the current deal, per a May 25 report in the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal.

Again, compare that to the SEC. On Dec. 11, ESPN announced a 10-year, $3 billion TV deal with the SEC that will make the network the exclusive rights holder of SEC football and men’s basketball beginning in 2024.

As part of the deal, ABC will air an SEC game every week, including a late-afternoon kickoff. ABC can also feature an SEC matchup on the network’s Saturday Night Football primetime slot.

For Sooner fans, that likely means fewer 11 a.m. kickoffs.

The team has played at least five early-kickoff games in each season since 2017. The Sooners already have two early games scheduled this season, Tulane and the highly-anticipated matchup with Nebraska.

The kickoff time for Texas’ matchup with Arkansas on Sept. 11? 6 p.m. on ESPN.


When Bowlsby was asked about the early kickoffs, and OU Athletic Director Joe Castligione’s frustration with the early kickoff against Nebraska, during Big 12 Media Days last week, Bowlsby was not exactly sympathetic.

“We all signed the TV deal,” Bowlsby responded.

So joining the SEC would likely mean fewer early kickoffs and more late afternoon or primetime slots for the Sooners.

It’s hard not to be intrigued by how the move could impact the Sooners’ recruiting efforts.

The Sooners’ recruiting has been good under coach Lincoln Riley. According to 247Sports, the Sooners currently have the fifth-ranked 2022 recruiting class, and rank second for 2023.

But it’s hard to ignore the recruiting differences between the SEC and the Big 12.

In the class of 2019, 247Sports had four SEC teams ranked inside the top five.

In 2020 and 2021, the SEC had three, respectively.

Texas was the lone Big 12 team inside the top five in 2019, and the conference didn’t have any top-five spots in 2020 or 2021.

Look no further than Texas A&M, who left the Big 12 for the SEC in 2011. In the 10 years prior to leaving the Big 12, the Aggies’s recruiting classes had an average national ranking of 20, per 247Sports. Since joining the SEC, they’ve jumped to 11th.

The Aggies have also been inside the top 10 in each of the past three recruiting cycles.

The Sooners would have to compete with Alabama, Georgia, Texas A&M and the rest of the SEC in getting recruits to commit to the Sooners. But they would also have an advantage for recruits that want to go to the SEC and live closer to Norman than Tuescaloosa.

It’s still too early to know how the Sooners’ recruiting classes would be impacted. But maybe the move would open doors for the Sooners that they struggled to get a foot into in the past.

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