Shane Beamer has approached realignment rumors in stages.
On Monday, Beamer wrote off the potential additions of Texas and Oklahoma to the Southeastern Conference as hypotheticals during a Gamecock Club event in Columbia. On Thursday, though, the first-year head coach and former Oklahoma assistant addressed the inevitable expansion with the Longhorns and Sooners at length.
“It’s already the greatest, toughest conference in America,” Beamer said of the SEC. “And those two teams attempting to join this league, it would only get tougher.”
Word of Texas’ and Oklahoma’s intentions to bolt the Big 12 for the SEC initially broke last week during SEC Media Days via a report from the Houston Chronicle.
Eight days later, SEC presidents voted to extend invitations to both schools on Thursday, which the conference confirmed in a news release. Texas and Oklahoma’s boards of regents will then vote Friday to accept the bids — which should happen barring anything unforeseen.
“Today’s unanimous vote is both a testament to the SEC’s longstanding spirit of unity and mutual cooperation, as well as a recognition of the outstanding legacies of academic and athletic excellence established by the Universities of Oklahoma and Texas,” SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey said in the release. “I greatly appreciate the collective efforts of our Presidents and Chancellors in considering and acting upon each school’s membership interest.”
Beamer told reporters Thursday there are major advantages to Oklahoma and Texas joining the league. For one, it gives coaches a recruiting pitch on the strength of SEC football that only stands to increase.
“We tell recruits all the time, ‘You want to play against the best across the country? Other than the NFL, it’s the SEC,’ “ Beamer said. “And that shows itself every single year in the NFL Draft. That it shows itself with the passion of the fans and talent that you see on the field each and every Saturday.”
“When you’ve got two premier programs across college football in Texas and Oklahoma doing everything they can to try and join the SEC,” Beamer continued, “that’s like the ultimate mic drop with recruits in the office.”
There are, of course, layers to the move on South Carolina’s end. For a team that has won more than seven games just once since 2014 and only six total the past two seasons, Texas and Oklahoma stand to make life increasingly difficult for a Gamecocks team that has treaded water in the lower and middle levels of the SEC of late.
To Beamer, the additions of Texas and Oklahoma are a welcome one. It’s a chance for South Carolina to play against some of the country’s premier programs and an opportunity to prove the Gamecocks belong in the upper echelons of the sport as they did — albeit briefly — between 2011 and 2013.
“We don’t have to go play Texas and Oklahoma,” Beamer said. “... We get to go play Oklahoma. We get to go play Texas. I mean, if you come play in the SEC, you’re going to play against the best. If you don’t want to play against the best, then you need to go play somewhere else. That’s just the way it always has been and the way it always will be in this league.”