How the new-look SEC will impact sports other than football
The dominant storyline across college sports over the past week has been the impending move of Texas and Oklahoma from the Big 12 to the SEC. With each passing day, the transition looks more and more likely. Tuesday, SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey announced that the two schools submitted formal requests to join the conference. The primary question now is not whether the two Sooners and Longhorns will be part of the SEC, but how soon.
The move has primarily been discussed in terms of how it will impact football in the SEC, and rightfully so. Football has always come first in the SEC, and it’s revenue from the gridiron that’s driving this change.
But the addition of Oklahoma and, particularly, Texas, which won the Learfield IMG Directors’ Cup in 2020-21 as the highest-achieving all-around athletics department in the country, will impact the conference landscape in more than just football. The Sooners and Longhorns combined to win four national titles last year, although one came in women’s rowing, which Missouri does not sponsor.
So, let’s take a look at how the almost-certain addition of Texas and Oklahoma will impact the SEC in the 16 sports not named football in which the Tigers compete in the SEC. (As we reported Monday, the departure of Texas and Oklahoma is not expected to impact Missouri’s planned return to the Big 12 in wrestling in 2021-22.)
Missouri already operated at a disadvantage in the baseball-crazed SEC, and the new additions will only make the Tigers’ climb out of the conference cellar more difficult. Texas brings both historic and recent success on the diamond. The Longhorns advanced to the College World Series this season and fell just a win short of making the finals. The CWS appearance marked Texas’ second trip to Omaha in the past three seasons and ninth since 2000. The Longhorns claim six baseball national championships, most recently in 2005, and should immediately contend for conference titles. Oklahoma hasn’t been quite as successful in baseball, as the Sooners have earned NCAA Tournament berths just two times since 2013. Oklahoma has just one College World Series appearance since 1995, that coming in 2010.
Texas had a solid, albeit unspectacular, run under longtime head coach Karen Aston, but the Longhorns appear to be on the rise after poaching head coach Vic Schaefer from Mississippi State prior to the 2020-21 season. The Longhorns made six straight NCAA Tournaments under Aston but only once advanced past the Sweet 16. Schaefer, who led Mississippi State to two national title game appearances, took Texas to the Elite 8 in his first season in Austin. He should have the Longhorns positioned to be a top-three team in the SEC. Oklahoma has experienced women’s basketball success in the past, making consecutive Final Fours in 2009 and 2010, but the Sooners haven’t returned to the NCAA Tournament since 2018 and haven’t advanced past the first weekend since 2013.
Texas just made a splashy hire on the men’s side, as well, by luring Chris Beard from Texas Tech. Beard earned national coach of the year honors in 2019 after he took a Red Raider program that had never advanced past the Sweet 16 to the national title game. He accumulated a 112-55 overall record in Lubbock. It shouldn’t take long for Beard to get Texas rolling, as he inherits some talent from departed coach Shaka Smart. Oklahoma, too, hired a new coach during the offseason after the retirement of Lon Kruger. The Sooners tabbed Loyola Chicago’s Porter Moser to take over a very solid program. Oklahoma advanced to seven of the past eight NCAA Tournaments under Kruger, including a Final Four berth in 2016.
Women's Cross Country
Texas’ athletic dominance hasn’t extended to the cross-country course. The Longhorns’ best finish at the NCAA championships since 1989 came in the form of a 20th place in 2010. Oklahoma has had just one runner qualify for the NCAA championships since 2010.
Men's Cross Country
Oklahoma has been a bit better in men’s cross country, finishing in the top 15 teams at nationals four times in the past 10 years. The Sooners finished sixth nationally in 2011 and eight in 2012 but haven’t cracked the top 10 since. Texas has consistently qualified for the national championships but has not cracked the top 25 since 2013.
Texas has qualified a team for each of the past five NCAA championships and won the stroke play portion of the event in 2019. Oklahoma had a strong run during which it finished sixth nationally in 2012, ninth in 2013 and fourth in 2014, but the Sooners have qualified for just one NCAA championship as a team since then.
Texas has been a men’s golf powerhouse for years, having produced a litany of PGA Tour professionals that includes Scottie Scheffler and Jordan Spieth. The Longhorns have finished among the top five teams at the NCAA Championships five times in the past 10 years, including winning it all in 2011. Texas would immediately be one of if not the best program in the SEC — if it weren’t for Oklahoma. The Sooners have finished no worse than fifth place in each of the past five NCAA championships, including a runner-up finish this spring and a national championship in 2017.
The SEC has long been the premier gymnastics league in the country, and now it is adding perhaps the best program in the country in Oklahoma. Led by coach K.J. Kindler, the Sooners have won three of the past five national championships and finished as the runner-up in each of the other two. With Oklahoma a member of the SEC, the league will have accounted for eight of the past 10 national title winners. Texas does not sponsor gymnastics.
New Missouri soccer coach Stefanie Golan will face a challenge stepping into the SEC, but the addition of Texas and Oklahoma shouldn’t make the job too much tougher. Texas has advanced to the NCAA Tournament in three of the past four seasons but has not made it past the first round since 2017. Oklahoma hasn’t appeared in the postseason since 2016 and since then has not recorded a winning season. The Sooners went 1-12-2 in 2020.
Much like in gymnastics, a daunting league just got even better with the addition of Oklahoma. The Sooners just capped off a dominant 56-4 campaign to win the national championship, their third title in the past eight seasons. Oklahoma has advanced to each of the past five Women’s College World Series. Texas hasn’t had near the success of the Sooners, but the Longhorns have advanced to each of the past six NCAA Tournaments. In both of the past two, Texas has made it to a Super Regional and come within a game of its first WCWS berth since 2013. Missouri coach Larissa Anderson has a lot of momentum after getting the Tigers back to a Super Regional in 2021, but competing for league titles just got a whole lot more challenging.
Women's Swimming and Diving
Texas has a decorated swimming and diving history, but at least on the women’s side, had seen its success wane. That has changed recently, however. Texas finished third in the most recent NCAA Championships, its highest finish since 2001. The Longhorns finished fifth in 2019. They should immediately compete with Georgia and Texas A&M at the top of the SEC. Oklahoma does not sponsor either women’s or men’s swimming.
Men's Swimming and Diving
The SEC has long been the deepest conference in the country for men’s swimming, and now the addition of Texas introduces the most dominant program in the nation. The Longhorns won the national title in 2021, their fifth championship in the past six years. It looked like the dynasty might be coming to an end, as legendary head coach Eddie Reese announced this spring that he would retire, but Reese recently announced that he will return to the pool deck for his 44th season. The Longhorns should be favored to win not only the SEC but the NCAA title again in 2022.
Women's Track and Field
Texas has consistently been a factor at the women’s track national championships. The Longhorns won national championships in 2005 (outdoor) and 2006 (indoor) and have logged six top-10 finishes at the past seven outdoor NCAA championships, including a seventh-place finish in 2021. Oklahoma finished 15th at the 2015 outdoor championships and 18th in 2016 but hasn’t cracked the top 50 since.
Men's Track and Field
Texas has enjoyed a resurgence in the past few years. After failing to crack the top 25 at the outdoor national championships from 2016-18, the Longhorns finished ninth nationally in 2019 and sixth this season. Oklahoma finished 27th at the outdoor championships in 2021 but generally hasn’t been a factor on a national level.
Women’s tennis represents another sport in which the SEC will add the reigning national champion to the conference. Texas defeated Pepperdine for the team title this spring for the Longhorns’ first national title since 1995. Oklahoma hasn’t quite reached those heights but has qualified for the NCAA Tournament each of the past two seasons.
Once again, Texas will bring some elite competition to the SEC in the one sport in which Missouri has won a conference title. The Longhorns advanced to the national title game last fall before falling to Kentucky, which won the first ever volleyball national championship for an SEC program. Texas brings three championships to the league, the most recent one coming in 2012. The Longhorns have finished among the top five teams nationally in 14 of the past 15 seasons. Oklahoma has made a few runs in the past, advancing to the Sweet 16 in 2006 and 2010, but the Sooners have earned a berth in just one of the past seven NCAA Tournaments.