The move of Texas and Oklahoma football to the SEC impacts college football recruiting everywhere. The new conference will be a tough competitor for other schools, but it also opens up new opportunities in terms of exposure and money.
The college football season is a time where college football programs across the country try to recruit the best players. This is because of the potential move of Texas and Oklahoma from the Big 12 Conference to the Southeastern Conference.
Texas and Oklahoma’s decision to leave the Big 12 for the SEC may have far-reaching implications for college football recruitment beyond the two institutions.
Because of this ruling, SEC teams recruiting in Texas, Longhorn State prospects, and even colleges across the country may see some changes. These consequences, whether good or bad, may lead to additional reforms to avoid future harm to rival teams and conferences on the recruiting trail.
Here’s who this decision will affect, as well as what that effect will be in the future.
The Aggies are dissatisfied with this possible move for Texas and Oklahoma, partly because they had a strategic edge. Because they were the only SEC school in Texas, the coaches were able to convince recruits that they could remain in the state while still playing in the league.
Every year, they could play Alabama, and their families could attend. That has been extremely appealing to Texas prospects who want to play at the top level, and it has given Texas A&M a distinct pitch.
If Texas enters the league, Texas A&M will have to share that idea, which means its cache will be thrown away. Coaches value every advantage in recruitment, so losing a significant component of a school’s attractiveness is a major setback.
“One of A&M’s greatest sales, certainly in state, is the SEC versus the Big 12,” said one SEC personnel director. “As a result, that selling pitch isn’t going to be as powerful.” They’ll still have their past, such as their first year when they did very well, but I believe they’ll lose that major selling factor with A&M. They may rely on Coach [Jimbo] Fisher’s victory against [Steve] Sarkisian as the head coach.
“I believe the sale in recruitment will become much more difficult as they attempt to discover new methods to market to youngsters.”
Texas will have a comparable presence inside the league to attempt to persuade recruits to their school, which may harm A&M’s pursuit of prospects in SEC states.
Texas A&M signed 51 SEC prospects between 2012 and 2021, while Texas signed 32. Because the Aggies have been in the SEC since 2011, they have an advantage over Texas in terms of SEC prospects. The Aggies have been recruiting top-end talent from SEC states for a long time, so just because Texas joins the conference doesn’t mean they’ll stop recruiting.
The Longhorns can not only imitate the Aggies’ presentation, but they can also persuade all of their recruiting targets to join the SEC. The distinctions between conferences and their different degrees of success are well understood among recruits.
The Big 12 has only sent one team to the College Football Playoff four times: Oklahoma, while the rest of the conference hasn’t done much else on the national stage.
“It would make Texas more attractive,” said Allen, Texas native David Hicks, the ninth-ranked talent in the 2023 class. “It would be really amazing since the SEC is sort of like the best because it has the best teams.”
The Longhorns must improve on the field, but Sarkisian, who hails from Alabama, is well-versed in the SEC’s recruiting environment. He has developed recruiting connections both inside the SEC and throughout the nation.
Sarkisian will be able to use his existing connections outside of Texas to persuade recruits to join the Longhorns while still competing in the SEC. Recruits from Alabama, Georgia, Florida, and Louisiana, all of which have top-tier Schools in the SEC, desire to play in the league.
With the Longhorns going to the SEC, Steve Sarkisian will be able to use connections from throughout Texas, as well as Florida, Louisiana, and Georgia, to entice prospects to Austin. Icon Sportswire/Adam Davis
While they may like Sarkisian’s offense, they may find it less attractive if Texas remains in the Big 12. With Texas joining the SEC, that appeal to prospects in southern states has a better chance of resonating and bringing them to Austin.
Sarkisian has already taken use of his connections in California, earning ESPN 300 quarterback Maalik Murphy’s pledge. Sarkisian was a major part of Alabama’s decision to recruit quarterback Bryce Young from California, the No. 1 quarterback in the 2020 class.
Giving the Texas coaching staff any more clout in those areas than they currently have may help the Longhorns recruit more effectively.
Outside of the money and the fact that the Sooners wouldn’t want to remain in the Big 12 without Texas, the move makes little sense for Oklahoma.
The Sooners already have a high level of recruitment, have reached the playoffs four times, have an apparel partnership with Jordan, and have top-end coaches.
Oklahoma has signed high school talents from 21 different states in the last six recruiting classes, including six from the SEC. Over the last five recruiting classes, the coaches have signed the 11th-most ESPN 300 candidates and are essentially hand-picking the quarterback they want in each class.
Riley signed Spencer Rattler, Arizona’s No. 1 dual-threat quarterback in 2019, Caleb Williams, Washington, D.C.’s No. 1 dual-threat quarterback in 2021, and now has a commitment from Malachi Nelson, California’s No. 17 overall prospect in the 2023 class.
Under coordinator Alex Grinch, the coaches have also strengthened their defense, securing commitments from 24 defensive prospects rated four stars or higher in the last four recruiting cycles.
In addition to those statistics, from 2017 through 2021, the staff has signed 22 ESPN 300 prospects from Texas. They signed 18 offensive players, including CeeDee Lamb and Theo Wease, wide receivers.
Is entering the SEC beneficial to Oklahoma’s pursuit of Texas prospects, or is it detrimental? On the one hand, prospects want to play in a high-powered offense, and they can now do so while playing in the SEC at Oklahoma.
Stephen A. Smith discusses why Texas and Oklahoma entering the SEC would be good for the league but bad for collegiate football as a whole.
“I believe if they add Texas and Oklahoma, it’s going to be a lot tougher to pull students out of Texas,” one SEC personnel director said. “If you want to play for the SEC, I now have two colleges that are considerably closer to you. Maybe they’ll simply attempt to extend their recruiting footprint by going west, north, or whatever, and pitching to some other states that they can come play for the SEC at a closer school than having to go all the way down to Texas A&M or LSU.”
Does it make it easier for Texas prospects to remain home and choose the Longhorns or Aggies now that Sarkisian has the same chance to pitch the SEC? As a result, the Sooners will face more competition in Texas, as other SEC schools will try to entice top prospects away from them.
In the 2021 recruiting class, Alabama traveled to Texas to rob the state of its best athletes. Tommy Brockermeyer, the No. 1 recruit in Texas (and the No. 2 prospect overall), committed to Alabama alongside his ESPN 300 brother, James.
In 2021, the Crimson Tide recruited seven ESPN 300 prospects from Texas, and they’re undoubtedly salivating at the prospect of Texas joining the league.
While Texas A&M has informed prospects that they can come to Tuscaloosa and play in the SEC while staying at home, Alabama has told Texas recruits that they can come to Tuscaloosa, play in the SEC, and return home every other year when they face Texas A&M.
If Texas is on Alabama’s schedule on a regular basis, it’s twice the recruiting pitch and double the chance for Alabama to sell that Texas prospects can still play close to home, depending on how the alignment works out.
“If they get two opportunities to play in front of their family in Texas, I think that’s certainly enticing,” one SEC personnel director said. “I believe LSU, too, could make it a hit simply because they’re right there.” “It’ll be fascinating to watch whether that’s the pitch that people choose. Because you have Bama and LSU, I’m not sure whether the East teams will be impacted much until the league alignment is announced. If they can sell the idea of how near it will be to play more games for Texas students returning home several times a year, that could work.”
From 2017 through 2021, LSU signed 13 Texas prospects, and the coaching staff would love to have another pitch in their back pocket to land more. Others have tried, but not every SEC school has enjoyed the same level of success in Texas as Alabama and LSU.
In the same time frame, Georgia has signed four ESPN 300 prospects, while Auburn, Arkansas, Florida, and Mississippi State have each signed three.
Those statistics don’t rule out the possibility that the schools would want to go into Texas, and the addition of another school to the SEC may enable some of the conference’s institutions outside of LSU and Alabama to increase their numbers in the state.
Texas and Oklahoma, according to Sam Acho, will have no trouble competing in the SEC.
Under head coach Ryan Day, the Buckeyes have done a decent job recruiting the state of Texas, acquiring seven ESPN 300 prospects from the state since he came over in 2019. This includes wide receiver Garrett Wilson and quarterback Quinn Ewers, the No. 2 overall recruit in the 2022 class, who will not sign his national letter of intent until December.
This round of conference realignment is still fresh in Day’s mind, so when asked how it could affect his institution, he wasn’t sure what the actual effect, if any, would be.
“At the end of the day, schools are still schools, and the resources they offer are still resources,” Day said. “We should be in contention for the national title every year, so that won’t change. So, how would the addition of two additional teams in a league impact the other conferences? I’m not sure.”
For a club like Ohio State, the effect should be modest. Under Day, Ohio State’s offense has been dynamic, and the Buckeyes have made the playoffs in consecutive seasons. That won’t change now that Texas and Oklahoma have joined the SEC, according to Day. That shouldn’t alter if the coaching staff was already able to get those prospects up to Ohio.
The Big 12’s other teams
The other Big 12 schools, with the exception of Texas and Oklahoma, have not recruited at a high level in recent years. The Big 12 has acquired 162 ESPN 300 prospects in the last five recruiting classes, the fewest among the Power 5.
113 of the 162 top-300 recruits in the league have come from Texas and Oklahoma. Removing those two institutions from the Big 12 creates a huge hole in the recruiting picture, as well as a dent in future recruitment for the rest of the league.
Prospects want to play at a high level, and what will elite-level recruits think of the remaining schools in the league if the conference’s two largest programs are gone?
If the Major 12 doesn’t acquire any big names, or worse, loses more teams to other conferences, it will be difficult for the rest of the teams to recruit since there won’t be a strong incentive for top-tier players to play in the league.
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