OU football move to SEC might need to happen sooner rather than … – Oklahoman.com

NORMAN — The news came 137 days apart in 2021. OU to the Southeastern Conference. Brent Venables replacing Lincoln Riley
Star Wars strategy caught the last train for the coast. The Sooners would ride rock’em sock’em football to the SEC. 
Talk about culture shock. A fundamental change in power, a fundamental change in setting, all at the same time. Think moving across the country for a mid-life career change. 
The smart money said the Sooners would be OK with glacial entry into the SEC. Contracted to stay in the Big 12 until summer 2025, why not save the $80 million buyout money and give Venables time to build the robotic boxers required to play the SEC’s he-man football? 
Then came 6-7. A Sooner program that had produced a record of 78-14 over seven years suddenly collapsed to the wrong side of .500. Texas Christian undressed the Sooners. Texas added an historic Cotton Bowl thrashing. Then OU, the master of narrow victories under Riley, became the master of close defeats under Venables
The truth was laid bare. The Sooners’ talent pantry was thin. Venables’ learning curve as a head coach was long.  
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Lose to West Virginia and Texas Tech, and the fallback theory is clear: good thing the Sooners weren’t already in the SEC. 
But the opposite is true. If you’re going to go 6-7, why do it in the Big 12? Do it in the SEC. Get rocked and socked. Take your lumps and get the adjustment period out of the way. 
A Big 12 source told me the holdup on the release of the 2023 schedule has nothing to do with the schedule itself, but continued OU and Texas negotiations over leaving the conference early. 
The television networks are involved. Seems natural to assume ESPN wants the Sooners and Longhorns there as early as possible, while Fox wants the Sooners and Longhorns to stay in the Big 12 as long as possible. 
But OU’s desire clearly has switched. The take-your-time strategy is out the window. For one thing, the Sooners don’t want to be in a league with Cincinnati and Central Florida, even for a year or two. And now for another, if you’re going to be on the dark side of .500, do it losing to Louisiana State and Tennessee, not West Virginia and Texas Tech. 
The Big 12 source said most of the haggling is centered around leaving in summer 2024, but there’s a smidgen of a chance the move could be immediate. By this summer. 
Of course, the good folks at SEC headquarters in Birmingham, Alabama, will have something to say about that. The SEC released its 2023 schedule months ago, and a redo would be quite inconvenient for 14 universities minding their own business. 
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But either way, OU seems ready to leave and quick. 
Understandable. The 2022 season was embarrassing and humbling for the House of Lords. 
“I think it tested us, tested me personally,” quarterback Dillon Gabriel said of the season after a 35-32 Cheez-It Bowl loss to Florida State 3½ weeks ago. “Just in life, the journey, all the work you put in with a bunch of guys with the right mindset and great attitude. Your work doesn’t necessarily come to fruition in that sense.” 
The Big 12/Big Eight/Big Seven is a conference that OU largely has dominated over 70 years. Then the Sooners washed their hands of the league with a we’re-better-than-you attitude and soon enough were handed just their sixth losing season since 1942. For reference, mighty Alabama has had 10 losing seasons since 1942. Georgia has had 14. 
“It is an easy time now for people to judge us based on being 6-7, and that’s fine,” Venables said. “That is what goes with the territory. This is a performance-based profession, and people on the outside are going to judge us on that. 
“Winning is incredibly important, and those are the standards and expectations that are here at Oklahoma.” 
In other words, the Sooners have to take their licking. But might as well do it in the SEC. 
If there’s going to be an adjustment phase from Star Wars to rock’em sock’em — and there always was going to be an adjustment from Star Wars to rock’em sock’em — then make the adjustment all at once. Both style and setting. 
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The Sooners in Orlando talked of how important the Kansas game was this season. Kansas. I know the Jayhawks were a feel-good story in 2022, but if you need affirmation in hard-earned victories, better to do it against Ole Miss and Florida than Kansas. 
“We have new coaches and a whole new thing trying to get built here,” said OU safety Billy Bowman. “It’s going to rain before it shines. This year it rained. It’s not what we wanted and not what we expected. But it’s only going up from here.  
“There’s going to be excitement in the future. We can mourn on it now. We can be disgusted by it, discouraged by it right now. But when we get back to the drawing board, it will be time to improve.” 
Dumping a non-swimmer in the deep end of the pool doesn’t pass the safety test. But the 2022 Sooners were drowning in the shallow end. Might as well get in the deep end quick. 
The two-birds theory. Learn how to tackle while you’re also learning how to get the jump on Auburn and Texas A&M. 
“Scarred up from a challenging season,” Venables said in Orlando, “but I know the type of men, the type of people that we have in that locker room. For me, that’s what I hang my hat on in regards to we are going to be fine, all right?” 
Seems like that scar tissue would be better served away from the Big 12. If you’re going to get roughed up, get roughed up in the SEC. 
Berry Tramel: Berry can be reached at 405-760-8080 or at btramel@oklahoman.com. He can be heard Monday through Friday from 4:40-5:20 p.m. on The Sports Animal radio network, including FM-98.1. Support his work and that of other Oklahoman journalists by purchasing a digital subscription today. 
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