Oklahoma and Texas took the first formal step Monday toward moving to the Southeastern Conference, notifying the Big 12 they would not be renewing an agreement that binds the league's members through 2025.
The schools sent out a joint statement that made no mention of the SEC and said "the universities intend to honor their existing grant of rights agreements."
"However, both universities will continue to monitor the rapidly evolving collegiate athletics landscape as they consider how best to position their athletics programs in the future," the schools said.
Texas and Oklahoma have been in discussions with the SEC about joining the league, though neither school nor the powerhouse conference has acknowledged that publicly.
The "grant of rights" gives the conference control of the school's media rights and runs concurrent with the Big 12s television contracts with ESPN and Fox, which expire in 2025.
"Although our eight members are disappointed with the decisions of these two institutions, we recognize that intercollegiate athletics is experiencing rapid change and will most likely look much different in 2025 than it does currently," Big 12 Commissioner Bob Bowlsby said in a statement.
Bowlsby, who was part of a video conference this weekend with the university presidents of Oklahoma and Texas, acknowledged the future of the league will not include the only football programs to win national championships in the Big 12s 27-year history.
"Like many others, we will use the next four years to fully assess what the landscape will look like in 2025 and beyond," he said. "The remaining eight institutions will work together in a collaborative manner to thoughtfully and strategically position the Big 12 Conference for continued success, both athletically and academically, long into the future."
The remaining eight Big 12 schools — Kansas, Kansas State, Iowa State, Oklahoma State, TCU, Baylor, Texas Tech and West Virginia — were still hoping to persuade the conference's flagships schools to stay put.
The Big 12's TV deals make up the bulk of the conference's revenue. The conference distributed $345 million to its 10 members this year ($34.5 million apiece), down from the previous year because of the pandemic.
The SEC announced an average payout to each of its members of $44.6 million in January.
Joining another conference with the grant of rights still in effect is a nonstarter. Texas and Oklahoma would bring no media rights value to their new conference and it would cost the schools tens of millions of dollars per year.
Without Texas and Oklahoma, the Big 12 is in danger of falling apart. Even if it were to stay together by adding other schools, the value of the league would likely be severely diminished when it goes looking for its next television contract.