As we gear up for an SEC-dominated national championship, Law Library Sports Law Correspondent Ross Crowell’s got you covered with this post on the possible legal consequences of new additions to the conference.
On July 29, the Southeastern Conference (“SEC”) unanimously voted to add the University of Oklahoma and the University of Texas, effective July 1, 2025. Oklahoma and Texas, who have been members of the Big 12 Conference (“Big 12”) since the conference’s inception in 1994, potentially could join the SEC even sooner than 2025, as they could be playing in the SEC as early as 2022, as reported by Matt Hayes.
While this move has some Longhorn and Sooner fans thrilled about the new competition, there are a few legal hurdles the universities face.
First, the Big 12 said that it expected Texas and Oklahoma to adhere to its bylaws and television contracts that the schools signed, and if the schools failed to do so, each school would owe the Big 12 over $76 million. Additionally, the Big 12 bylaws provide that a departing member must give the Big 12 at least 18 months’ notice that they are leaving the conference, and also must pay the Big 12 a “commitment buyout fee”, equal to the amount of distributions the schools would have received during the last two years of its membership. The bylaws additionally provide that Texas and Oklahoma would have to give up all distributions the school would have received during the interim period between the schools’ notice and departure. The consequences of the Big 12 bylaws result in Texas and Oklahoma missing out on tens of millions of dollars.
Further, following the schools’ announcement of departure, the Big 12 sent ESPN a cease and desist letter, demanding that the sports network stop communicating with Big 12 members and other conferences over matters regarding Big 12 schools. Big 12 commissioner claimed that ESPN “actively engaged in discussions with at least one other conference regarding that conference inducing additional members of the Big 12 Conference to leave the Big 12 conference.”
These are just a few of potential legal issues the schools (and ESPN) are facing due to the move. While both Texas and Oklahoma’s football teams alone bring in over a combined $200 million a year in revenue, with that number likely increasing when they join the SEC, the programs will likely have to pay tens of millions of dollars back to the Big 12 due to this move.
As you can see, SEC football is not so different from a Contracts exam. Leave a comment if you spot any additional issues with the teams switching conferences!