Candid Coaches: Is Oklahoma and Texas leaving Big 12 for SEC good or bad for college basketball?

CBS Sports college basketball writers Gary Parrish and Matt Norlander surveyed more than 100 coaches for our annual Candid Coaches series. They polled everyone from head coaches at elite programs to assistants at some of the smallest Division I schools. In exchange for complete anonymity, the coaches provided unfiltered honesty about a number of topics. Over the next couple of weeks, we’ll be posting the results on 10 questions asked.

Oklahoma and Texas agreeing earlier this offseason to leave the Big 12 for the SEC was a move motivated by football and money. Basketball played basically no role in this round of realignment, as is almost always the case. It just doesn’t matter much when it comes to these things. But that doesn’t mean the move won’t impact basketball in a variety of ways at multiple levels. In fact, it already has. So, with that in mind, Matt Norlander and I asked more than 100 college basketball coaches the following question:

Is Oklahoma and Texas leaving the Big 12 for the SEC good or bad for college basketball?

Bad64%Good22%Doesn’t really matter14%

Quotes that stood out

“It’s horrendous for college basketball. The built-in rivalries that are going to be a distant memory are going to hurt. All this is done for football — but it kills our game and you realize how meaningless college basketball is when it comes in line with football. You’re losing every single time against football. Every time. It shows where you are in the pecking order. When the Big 12 was going to establish itself or get divided up — whenever that happened a few years back, when TCU went to the Big 12 — Kansas was going to be left out and have no place to go. That’s one of the biggest schools in the history of college basketball and no one cared because it was college football and their football team stinks. No one cared about bringing them into their league. That’s something that really scares me.”
“It’s not good. Both [the SEC and Big 12] were extremely competitive and had great balance. Now one is clearly better than the other.””To have two of [the Big 12’s] biggest brands leave to go to an already-loaded basketball conference, only takes away from the parity of our sport. It’s just weird, man. It’s like when the Big East schools left for the ACC, and you lost those geographical rivalries, those historical rivalries. It takes away from something that’s part of the fabric of college basketball.””[The move caused] the American [to] become Conference USA — which will really continue to widen the gap between high-major and mid-major leagues. There will be even less opportunities for leagues outside of the Power Five and Big East to get multiple bids.”
“It concerns me as a mid-major coach in that I believe we are headed to the Autonomy Five attempting to break off.”

The takeaway

You might’ve noticed I only included quotes from coaches who said Oklahoma and Texas joining the SEC is bad for college basketball. I did that for two reasons: 1) Many of the “good” votes came from SEC coaches. So they mostly meant “it’s good for us” as opposed to “it’s good for college basketball.” 2) Literally nobody Norlander and I communicated with made a compelling case that the moves are actually good for college basketball in general. Some non-SEC coaches agreed with the SEC coaches that the moves were good for the SEC. Others noted how the moves were good for Houston, UCF and Cincinnati because they created an opportunity for those schools to replace Oklahoma and Texas in the Big 12 and thus improve their place in the world of college athletics. But nobody really made a compelling case supporting the idea that Oklahoma and Texas leaving the Big 12 is actually good for college basketball in general.

And that’s because it’s a hard case to make.

Let’s start with the fact that the moment the Big 12 decided to replace Oklahoma and Texas with Cincinnati, Houston and UCF, the American lost two of its best four basketball programs — and perhaps three of its best six depending on how you want to power rank UCF relative to Tulsa, Temple and SMU. Just like that, college basketball went from having seven sure-bet multi-bid conferences to just six sure-bet multi-bid conferences. As multiple coaches pointed out, without Cincinnati, Houston and UCF, the AAC will likely start to resemble the old Conference USA that Memphis once overwhelmed under John Calipari.

Losing a good conference is not good for the sport.

So in addition to the loss of regional rivalries, historical matchups and all of the other things conference realignment usually sacrifices in the pursuit of money, these moves totally demolished a quality league. That’s the worst part. Sure, the SEC will be fun, I guess. But the sport is better with seven good leagues than it will be with only six good leagues. And, as lots of coaches pointed out, Oklahoma and Texas leaving the Big 12, which led to Cincinnati, Houston and UCF leaving the AAC, will only widen the gap between the haves and have-nots in college athletics and create a situation where nearly all of the at-large bids to the NCAA Tournament will annually go to programs in a Power 5 conference or the Big East.

Good luck to everybody else.

They’re going to need it.

Previously in Candid Coaches:


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