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Post What the rest of the SEC is getting in Oklahoma and Texas

Tuesday July 5, 2022

The 2022 College World Series wrapped up last month marking the end of the 2021-2022 college sports season. Ole Miss claimed the program’s first baseball national title, and the odds were in favor of an SEC squad hoisting the trophy. SEC teams claimed four of the eight slots in Omaha – even with top-seeded Tennessee knocked out in the Super Regionals. Two of the remaining four slots were earned by programs due to join the SEC in just a couple of years: Texas and Oklahoma. Their advancement to the CWS comes just a couple of weeks after Oklahoma and Texas met in Oklahoma City for the NCAA softball title. Football naturally dominates the conference expansion conversation, but short of adding Stanford you won’t find many prospective new conference members with the dominant flagship programs of Oklahoma or the overall success of Texas.

The Longhorn and Sooner brands extend well beyond the gridiron, and they will immediately become SEC contenders in several men’s and women’s sports. SEC programs used to competing for conference titles year in and year out might soon face fresh challenges to the current balance of power. Texas took home the Directors’ Cup in 2021 knocking off perennial winner Stanford in the all-sports competition, and they repeated in 2022. Oklahoma was 24th in the 2021 Directors’ Cup standings, and they make up for a lack of depth across the board with a handful of true powerhouse programs. It’s not enough that these bitter rivals face off annually for conference titles; in 2022 they met twice with a national title on the line.

This is what we might expect when we see these new SEC members on the schedules of our other sports:

Baseball: The Longhorns have a baseball tradition second to none even among SEC programs. Texas has six national titles, reached the national semifinals in 2021, and advanced to Omaha again in 2022. Oklahoma has a respectable program of their own. The Sooners have two national titles and 11 CWS appearances including a trip to the CWS finals in 2022. The SEC tournament soon could just about rival the action in Omaha. But will an even more demanding tournament in Hoover hurt the chances of SEC clubs in the national tournament? SEC softball uses a single-elimination format. Will the men soon do likewise?

Basketball (men’s): Georgia fans will appreciate Oklahoma’s legacy of great players including Mookie Blaylock and Trae Young, but their history goes far beyond that. The Sooners have played in five Final Fours, most recently in 2016. Texas hoops has always been the story of untapped potential. Rick Barnes, now at Tennessee, led the Longhorns to their only Final Four since the 1940s. Shaka Smart won the program’s first Big 12 tournament title in 2021, but it wasn’t enough to overcome an inconsistent couple of years. Texas replaced Smart with successful Texas Tech coach Chris Beard after the 2021 season, and he led the program to its first NCAA Tournament win since 2014. Beard will benefit from improved recruiting under Smart and should be able to stand out among a muddled SEC picture. Kansas’s domination of the Big 12 has kept both programs without a conference regular season title since the 2000s – will they fare better in the SEC?

Basketball (women’s): Oklahoma fielded an elite WBB program in the 2000s and reached three Final Fours. Though still a competitive program and usually an NCAA tournament participant, they’ve slid back over the past decade and are now going through a coaching transition. They won’t upset the order in the SEC right away, but history says they can be a successful program. Texas, like Georgia, was one of the early powers in women’s basketball. The legendary Jody Conradt kept the program at a high level through the turn of the century. Since then they’ve spent lavishly on high-profile coaches and lured Vic Schaefer from Mississippi State after his successful run in Starkville. Texas produced the #1 pick in the WNBA draft in 2021 and seems to be on the upswing with two straight Elite Eight appearances. Schaefer just can’t get away: in the SEC he’ll face his Baylor nemesis Kim Mulkey, now coaching at LSU, and Schaefer’s battles at Mississippi State with South Carolina’s Dawn Staley defined the last decade of SEC women’s basketball.

Golf: Texas has an extremely rich legacy in men’s golf. Legends like Tom Kite, Ben Crenshaw, and Justin Leonard came through Austin. The Longhorns added to that tradition with another national title in 2022. Oklahoma also has a strong history with 18 conference titles and a pair of national championships to their credit. Sooner head coach Ryan Hybl should be a familiar name: he played at Georgia in the early 2000s and was an assistant coach for the Bulldogs until taking over at Oklahoma. (He’s also the brother of former Georgia and Oklahoma quarterback Nate Hybl.) The Oklahoma women had a strong run from 2012-2014 with a pair of conference titles but haven’t been a factor since. The Texas women have had more success on the links with frequent trips to the NCAA championship and a Big 12 title in 2022.

Gymnastics (women’s): Oklahoma women’s gymnastics will be right at home in the SEC: they’ve been the sport’s elite team recently with five of the last eight national titles and two national runner-up finishes. They’ll join LSU and Florida as SEC conference and national title contenders and make it even more difficult for historical powers like Georgia and Alabama to climb back to the top. Surprisingly, Texas does not compete in gymnastics despite strong developmental programs in the state and great gymnasts like Simone Biles who hail from Texas. (Nor does Texas A&M have a gymnastics program!) Perhaps the expansion will encourage both Texas schools to invest in the sport.

Softball: Nothing like adding the best team in the nation! Oklahoma steamrolled their way to the 2021 and 2022 WCWS titles with the nation’s best offense. They’ve won six national titles and four since 2016. The team Oklahoma beat to win the 2022 national title? Texas, of course. Texas has had to play second fiddle to the Sooners in the Big 12, but they’re no slouch. The Longhorns have six WCWS appearances and advanced to the championship series in 2022. SEC softball has shifted the national balance of power in the sport over the past 20 years, and Alabama and Florida brought home national titles.

Swimming / diving: The Longhorns have another juggernaut in the pool. The Texas men have won an NCAA-leading 15 national titles and have five in the past eight years with the most recent in 2021. The Texas women have won ten straight Big 12 titles but haven’t brought home the national crown since 1991. Oklahoma does not field a swimming and diving program.

Tennis: The SEC welcomes another recent multiple national champion: the Texas women took the 2021 and 2022 national titles. The Longhorn men reached the Final Four in 2021 and the Round of 16 in 2022. Oklahoma hasn’t been as successful on the courts recently, but their men made three straight national title match appearances from 2014-2016. The Oklahoma women broke through in 2022 with their first national championship appearance but fell, of course, to Texas.

Track: The Longhorns have yet another national power in track and field. Both men’s and women’s programs finished second in the 2022 NCAA outdoor championships and swept the Big 12 titles. The Texas women’s program has had slightly more success with several national titles, but the men are frequently competitive on the national level. Oklahoma has an above-average Big 12 program but has never finished first or second nationally.

Volleyball: Texas volleyball brings even more multiple national titles to the SEC. Their last title was in 2012, but they have reached the national championship match three times since. They’re the dominant program in the Big 12 with five straight conference titles. Oklahoma has been a consistent NCAA tournament participant over the past decade. but the program has never advanced beyond the Round of 16.

Other sports: Oklahoma and Texas compete in a handful of sports that don’t have SEC championships. Both schools have varsity rowing teams. Oklahoma adds wrestling and men’s gymnastics. As impressive as the Sooner women’s gymnastics team is, Oklahoma has perhaps the nation’s top men’s gymnastics program. Neither the Big 12 nor the SEC competes in men’s gymnastics, so the Sooners compete in the MPSF frankenconference. They’ll likely continue to do so.

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