SEC move on horizon, Texas and Oklahoma coaches focus on ’21

Aug 5, 2021, 4:30 AM | Updated: 4:37 pm

Steve Sarkisian has yet to make his debut in the Big 12, but the new Texas coach was asked to ponder life in the Southeastern Conference. So was Oklahoma’s Lincoln Riley, who — like Sarkisian — would much prefer to look ahead to this season.

Texas and Oklahoma will move to the SEC no later than July 2025. For now, the Longhorns begin practice Friday, and Sarkisian has more imminent concerns, among them choosing a starting quarterback and making sure his talented running back, Bijan Robinson, receives enough work.

Not that Sarkisian won’t face SEC-related issues. Players, coaches, fans and administrators of the eight other Big 12 schools face uncertainty with the eventual loss of Texas and Oklahoma. People are angry. Some no doubt will let the Longhorns hear about it during games.

“You’ve got to recognize the elephant in the room,” Sarkisian told reporters in Austin, Texas. “We can’t be naive to that. But we also can’t put so much emphasis into it that we don’t focus on ourselves and do what’s necessary for us to have success. Whether it’s loud crowd noise, yelling at us on the bench, a ‘horns down’ signal, all those things are really irrelevant to our ability to execute and succeed at a really high level.”

In Norman, Oklahoma, Riley knew the questions about the SEC would come and he patiently answered them before saying he wants to focus on leading his team to a seventh straight Big 12 title.

“Right now, we’re a member of the Big 12 and I think we’ve represented the conference well in these previous years and we intend to do so throughout the duration of our agreement,” Riley said. “That starts with this year for us. That’s going to be our focus. Any excitement or personal feelings I have are really overshadowed by that.”

Riley said he was somewhat aware that a potential Oklahoma move to the SEC was in the works, but didn’t know details before last week.

“I think it’s going to be a positive thing for this university, a positive thing for our athletic department, our athletes, our coaches, everybody,” he said.

Oklahoma running back Eric Gray, who spent the last two seasons playing for Tennessee, said the Sooners certainly will be able to compete in the SEC.

“Being in the SEC before, OU definitely fits that bill,” Gray said. “This is a great school, a great program, a great team, so it definitely fits in that league. This team is a SEC team. The program is one of the greatest programs ever built. The SEC is just a league. There is a great chance for (Oklahoma) to join that league and be a powerhouse in that league.”

Riley said while he had sentimental feelings about the Big 12 — he also spent time coaching at Texas Tech — he won’t be concerned about that as he prepares the Sooners for this season. He’s also not concerned about how the Sooners will be received on the road around the Big 12.

“I can’t speak to other schools and their fan bases,” he said. “Road games are always fun and always hostile. … We will try to be great members of this league as long as we’re a part of it. This year will be no different.”

A big topic in Oklahoma has been whether the Bedlam series with Oklahoma State will continue after the Sooners leave for the SEC. Oklahoma State’s new president, Kayse Shrum, has had harsh words concerning Oklahoma, and earlier this week, Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy said he’d defer to campus leaders on that decision.

“I have to make enough decisions on game day where everybody doubts what I do,” Gundy said. “I’m a traditionalist. So you can take that for what it’s worth.”

Oklahoma President Joe Harroz and athletic director Joe Castiglione have said they want to see the series continue “in every sport” and Riley echoed that sentiment.

Sarkisian is familiar with the SEC, of course, having been offensive coordinator when Alabama won the national championship last season.

“Definitely big people, talented people, good coaches,” Sarkisian said. “That’s something, when we get to that point, we’ll worry about.”

His men’s basketball counterpart, new Texas coach Chris Beard, said much the same this week. The coaching staffs at Oklahoma and Texas can’t think about the SEC — yet.

“I really haven’t spent a minute thinking about it,” Beard said. “We talked about it one time with our team. And it was really an example I made with our team about how we’re going to live where our feet are, and we’re going to control what we can control.”

As for the football itself, Texas quarterback Sam Ehlinger, a starter for 43 of his 46 games over four seasons, is now in the NFL. His replacement will be either junior Casey Thompson or redshirt freshman Hudson Card, who has yet to take a snap for the Longhorns.

Thompson appeared in three games last season, eliciting raves for his second-half performance after replacing an injured Ehlinger in a win over Colorado in the Alamo Bowl.

Sarkisian said 15 spring practices were not enough for him to make a decision.

“At some point I’m gonna have to do what I think is best for the team,” Sarkisian said. “But I do believe we’re going to need both these guys this fall.”

Robinson, a freshman last season, also had a big game against Colorado: 10 carries for 183 yards and a touchdown; two receptions for 37 yards and two touchdowns. He averaged only 11 touches per game last season but the workload is likely to increase.

“There’s going to be games when he touches the ball upwards to 30,” Sarkisian said. “And there’s gonna games when maybe it’s closer to 13 to 15. Every game takes on a life of its own. We can put a ballpark in that 18 to 22 range. That puts us in a good position, I think, as a team, as an offense.”

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


Indiana Pacers guard Andrew Nembhard, second from right, celebrates with teammates after making a b...
Associated Press

Rookie Nembhard hits 3 at buzzer, Pacers stun Lakers 116-115

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Rookie Andrew Nembhard hit a 3-pointer at the buzzer, and the Indiana Pacers rallied from a 17-point deficit in the fourth quarter for a stunning 116-115 victory over the Los Angeles Lakers on Monday night. Tyrese Haliburton scored 24 points and hit a tying layup with 39 seconds left for the […]
24 hours ago
Edmonton Oilers' Leon Draisaitl (29), Darnell Nurse (25), Connor McDavid (97), Devin Shore (14) and...
Associated Press

Bouchard, Draisaitl help Oilers beat Panthers 4-3 in OT

EDMONTON, Alberta (AP) — Evan Bouchard scored the tying goal with 5 seconds remaining in the third period and Leon Draisaitl got the winner 22 seconds into overtime as the Edmonton Oilers beat the Florida Panthers 4-3 on Monday night. Bouchard took a desperate shot from the slot late in regulation and beat Panthers goalie […]
24 hours ago
FILE - Chicago White Sox's Jose Abreu hits an RBI-double during the eighth inning of a baseball gam...
Associated Press

Free agent slugger José Abreu signs 3-year deal with Astros

HOUSTON (AP) — José Abreu and the World Series champion Astros agreed to a three-year contract Monday, adding another powerful bat to Houston’s lineup. Abreu, the 2020 AL MVP, spent his first nine major league seasons with the Chicago White Sox. The first baseman became a free agent after batting .304 with 15 home runs, […]
24 hours ago
Associated Press

Blackshear’s 16 help Nevada take down Sam Houston 78-60

RENO, Nev. (AP) — Kenan Blackshear scored 16 points as Nevada beat Sam Houston 78-60 on Monday. Blackshear shot 4 of 10 from the field and 7 for 11 from the line for the Wolf Pack (7-1). Jarod Lucas shot 4 for 7 (2 for 3 from 3-point range) and 6 of 6 from the […]
24 hours ago
Associated Press

Stevenson scores 23 as Cal Poly downs Pacific (CA) 62-58

STOCKTON, Calif. (AP) — Brantly Stevenson helped lead Cal Poly past Pacific (CA) on Monday with 23 points off of the bench in a 62-58 win. Stevenson also had eight rebounds for the Mustangs (3-3). Nick Fleming shot 4 for 9, including 2 for 5 from beyond the arc to add 12 points. Trevon Taylor […]
24 hours ago
Associated Press

Booker scores 44, Suns top Kings 122-117 for 5th straight

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — Devin Booker had 44 points, eight rebounds and six steals, and the Phoenix Suns extended their winning streak to five with a 122-117 victory over the Sacramento Kings on Monday night. “That’s kind of what I get paid to do,” Booker said. “I was worried about getting everyone else involved. Late […]
24 hours ago
SEC move on horizon, Texas and Oklahoma coaches focus on ’21