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Two ways the Big 12 could fall apart before 2025

Texas and Oklahoma have requested membership in the SEC starting in 2025, but the conference won’t make it there.

NCAA Football: Big 12 Media Days Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

Texas and Oklahoma formally requested an invitation to the SEC on Tuesday morning, triggering what will be a very chaotic next few months/years. Here’s their co-authored letter, sent to the SEC.

You’ll note that Texas and Oklahoma have requested a “start date” of July 1, 2025. That is conveniently the date the Big 12’s current grant of rights agreement ends. It’s highly unlikely the Big 12 survives all the way to 2025 in its current form, though, and there are two ways the Big 12 could see it’s time come to an end before then.

Texas and Oklahoma buy their way out

The Horns and Sooners would have to pay two years worth of distribution each ($76 million) to leave early in this scenario, and the earliest they’d be able to leave is prior to the 2023 season.

Texas could afford this pretty easily, seeing how they’d get a fat payout from ESPN as a part of ending the Longhorn Network.

But wait, wouldn’t that essentially mean that ESPN is paying Texas’s buyout, the result of which is that Texas will join the SEC and add value to another ESPN contract? Hmmmmmm...

Of course, any other school is equally capable of buying their way out of the conference prior to 2025 as well. Should TCU and Oklahoma State, for example, get invited to the PAC-12, they could also pay $76 million to leave before 2025.

Conference members vote to dissolve the conference

In my opinion, Texas and Oklahoma should be working to find new landing places for the conference mates they are abandoning. According to Big 12 Bylaws, the conference can be dissolved with a 75% vote to do so. Thus, if six other universities find good landing spots (Say, Iowa State and Kansas to the Big Ten, West Virginia to the ACC, and TCU, Texas Tech, and Oklahoma State to the PAC-12), schools could call a vote to dissolve.

Doing so would mean that every school could go its separate way without paying an exit fee to the Big 12.

There would be some litigation involved in this process as well. Kendall Kaut of Our Daily Bears explains it pretty well here:

Theoretically dissolving the league or changing the bylaws requires eight votes or 75% of members to change them.

A majority of the conference can vote to settle litigation. Bylaw 1.5.2(a)(6). Dissolution requires 75% (8 votes). See 1.5.2(b). That means six Big 12 schools (a majority) could leave the conference, sue, say “We owe nothing and the league is dissolved.” Then those six members could say, “We agree with the lawsuit filed by those six, and therefore, we concede the lawsuit.” So really I think you’re looking at six votes being sufficient to stop the Grant of Rights payments, not eight.

Now, if Baylor, Iowa State, Kansas State and West Virginia are left homeless, those schools will argue that the departing schools are no longer members of the league because those schools are obligated to provide notice of withdraw. You then get into a very complicated legal debate about Big 12 Bylaw 3.2, which is here.

I fully expect one or both of these to happen prior to 2025, whether its one or the other, or a combination of the two, who knows.