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SEC commissioner Greg Sankey will attend Saturday’s Oklahoma-Texas Game played amidst the Texas State Fair in Dallas. Big 12 commissioner Brett Yormark will not.
This is notable because the Sooners and Longhorns are members of the Big 12 and this is a Big 12 Conference match-up with significant implications for the Big 12 championship.
At least for now.
Texas and Oklahoma will, of course, join the SEC next season as the league expands to 16-teams strong. Saturday, as such, is a chance for Sankey and his league to get an early sample of fried Oreos under the Big Tex statue and grabbing a little of the clout that the Red River Showdown brings, especially when both teams are 5-0.
It is also a continuation of a process that former SEC commissioner Mike Slive began nearly 15 years ago, when he looked at his league’s southern footprint and began staring longingly to the west — deep into the heart of Texas.
No state does football quite like Texas, and the SEC has long coveted its massive television markets, its growing population, its Fortune 500 companies and, of course, its endless stream of top recruits.
The goal was simple, even if the challenge was considerable: turn Texas, long the foundation of the Big 12 (and Southwest Conference before it), into SEC territory.
In 2012, the league established a foothold by adding Texas A&M. The league further set up ties to Texas-based bowl games, sent Alabama, Florida, LSU and others to regular season games in Houston and Arlington and began staging the annual A&M-Arkansas Game at JerryWorld.
Finally, two summers ago, Texas finally agreed to jump and brought Oklahoma with it.
The state of Texas’ 12 FBS programs will play next year in six different conferences. While the Big 12 will have the most — four programs — it is the SEC that has the two biggest and most popular in UT and A&M. And that’s not counting OU, which has a significant fan base, especially in North Texas.
And make no mistake, the league plans on leveraging all of this. There is a reason next year’s SEC Football Media Days is already scheduled for Dallas.
Nothing, however, makes a statement like owning the football game that anchors the State Fair. This, in many ways, is the crown jewel of Texas football. Expect lots of SEC flags in the future. Maybe a Taste of the SEC along the Midway. Who knows?
More than a decade ago the SEC set its expansion sights on owning Texas. Saturday, its commissioner will be in Dallas before jetting to College Station for the A&M-Alabama game later that afternoon.
Everything is bigger in Texas, including attempted college football takeovers.