Sooners, Steers officially join SEC on Monday

The University of Texas football team runs onto the field at the Cotton Bowl in Dallas for the start of their game against Oklahoma, Saturday, Oct. 7, 2006, in Dallas. (AP Photo/Ron Heflin)

This is a historic weekend for the SEC.

It’s the last one in which Texas and Oklahoma won’t be a member of the SEC. Both programs officially join the SEC on Monday.

The times, they are a changin.

The SEC Network is celebrating the addition of the two former Big 12 squads to the SEC with a special SEC Nation broadcast from Austin at 5 p.m. on Sunday. Laura Rutledge and Peter Burns, as well as SEC Network/ESPN talent Jimmy Dykes, Paul Finebaum, Marty Smith, Roman Harper, and Jordan Rogers, will chime in with their thoughts and opinions concerning the Sooners and the Longhorns joining the league.

On Monday July 1, the scene switches to Norman, Okla. “The Paul Finebaum Show,” which runs from 2-6 p.m. will originate from the Party Palace at Norman. Coverage continues with “SEC Now” at 6 p.m., originating from Oklahoma Memorial Stadium, featuring OU alum Dari Nowkhah and Lang along with Dusty Dvoracek, Haylie McCleney, and Daymeon Fishback.

The SEC Network is dedicating its re-run weekend programming on Saturday and Sunday to old Longhorns games on Saturday and to old Sooners games on Sunday.

So, the question in our neck of the Ozarks is what does this mean for the Arkansas Razorbacks?

As far as coverage of the Razorbacks games, not a lot for the moment. As things stand, all of Arkansas’ football games and probably all of their basketball games will be either televised or streamed similarly to how they have been for the last decade or so. CBS no longer has a contract with the SEC, but ESPN/ABC does.

ESPN’s TV time windows set up for football games are not as squished together as they are for basketball, so maybe fans won’t have to start as many games on a streaming platform and switch back to regular TV as much as has happened in the last few years for basketball. Programmers need to realize that there are very few college basketball games that can be completed in a two-hour TV window.

As for competition on the field, it’s only going to get tougher for the Razorbacks. Oklahoma and Texas are nationally competitive in most of not all sports. Their presence makes each one tougher.

Arkansas Razorbacks 2024 football schedule

Countdown to Kickoff: 61 Days

Aug. 29 – Arkansas-Pine Bluff at Little Rock
Sept. 7 – at Oklahoma State
Sept. 14 – Alabama-Birmingham
Sept. 21 – at Auburn
Sept. 28 – Texas A&M at Arlington
Oct. 5 – Tennessee
Oct. 12 – Open Date
Oct. 19 – LSU
Oct. 26 – at Mississippi State
Nov. 2 – Ole Miss
Nov. 9 – Open Date
Nov. 16 – Texas
Nov. 23 – Louisiana Tech
Nov. 30 – at Missouri

The Longhorns and Sooners both expect to field top-10 football programs on an annual basis, and very often they do. Both will have a weekly impact on the SEC.

As difficult as it has been for the Razorbacks to win a championship or having a winning season, it is even tougher going forward.

Now, as bad as the Razorbacks were roughed up a few years ago by the 10-game, all-SEC schedule because of Covid-19, Arkansas fans can’t complain too much about the football schedule the SEC handed down to them — for this season at least — last summer.

The Razorbacks do play Texas, which is expected to be a top-10 or better squad this season, on Nov. 16, but the game is in Razorback Stadium.

The Razorbacks don’t play Oklahoma this season. Nor do they play Alabama for the first time since Arkansas joined the SEC play in 1992 or Georgia. Both are preseason top-10 teams.

That doesn’t mean the Hogs’ schedule is easy this year by any stretch of the imagination, but it is not as difficult as it could be.

There are positives and negatives for Arkansas’ program with Texas and Oklahoma joining the SEC.

It could affect Arkansas’ recruiting in the Lone Star State, but I’m not sure exactly how much. The Hogs have recruited decently in Oklahoma at times, but similarly, the Sooners usually get whom they want from their state unless they are already stacked at a certain position.

Arkansas has rarely been in the hunt for the highest-caliber athlete from Texas, which are the ones the Longhorns, OU, and Texas A&M battle over the most.

So the Hogs will still be butting heads with TCU, Oklahoma State and scores of others for the next level of recruits from Texas. If the Razorbacks can get over having losing seasons every three or four years, the Hogs could become a more enticing destination for second-tier Texas recruits than Fort Worth or Stillwater by being a member of the SEC.

We all know this is a critical season for Razorback football. Anything less than a 6-6 regular season is likely going to bring change at the top of the Hog football program. Sam Pittman knows that better than I do.

Some short-sighted Razorback fans are wishing for that.

I’m hoping the Hogs can avoid that at all costs.

A change now would only make the program worse for the foreseeable future. Transitioning to a new coach isn’t always the answer to a problem.

Arkansas pulled off a miracle by replacing Eric Musselman with John Calipari in basketball. I’m not sure the program is capable of such a feat in football at this moment.