BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (CBSDFW.COM/AP) — The Southeastern Conference has voted unanimously to invite the University of Texas at Austin and University of Oklahoma to join the conference, effective July 1, 2025.

The vote came after both universities announced earlier this week they would not renew their media contracts with the Big 12 in 2025.

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“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,” said SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey. “I greatly appreciate the collective efforts of our Presidents and Chancellors in considering and acting upon each school’s membership interest.”

Now the process goes back to the schools. Texas and Oklahoma both have board of regents meetings schedule for Friday with conference affiliation on the agenda. Whether the boards will move to accept the invitations at those meetings is unknown, but it is almost certain they will at some point.

Then the question becomes: Can Texas and Oklahoma find a way to join their new conference sooner than 2025? It has the makings of being a messy divorce with the Big 12 that could include ESPN.

Earlier Thursday, ESPN responded to Big 12 Commissioner Bob Bowlsby’s accusations of attempting to destabilize his beleaguered conference by saying it has done nothing wrong.

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“The accusations you made are entirely without merit,” ESPN executive Burke Magnus, president of programming and content, said in a letter to Bowlsby that was released by the network.

“To be clear, ESPN has engaged in no wrongful conduct and, thus, there is nothing to ‘cease and desist,’” Magnus wrote, adding: “We trust this will put this matter to rest.”

Bowlsby sent a cease-and-desist letter to Magnus a day earlier, alleging ESPN was incentivizing at least one other conference to raid the league in an effort to hasten the departure of Texas and Oklahoma to the Southeastern Conference.

Bowlsby told AP on Wednesday he had “absolute certainty” ESPN was acting inappropriately behind the scenes and that he suspected ESPN was involved in Texas and Oklahoma’s months-long planning to exit the conference.

“It’s intentional deception,” Bowlsby said of Texas and Oklahoma’s actions.

ESPN holds a rights agreement with the Big 12, sharing the conference’s football games with Fox, through the 2024-25 school year.

An early exit could cost Texas and Oklahoma a buyout worth tens of millions of dollars — if the Big 12′s other eight schools keep the conference going.

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(© Copyright 2021 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

CBSDFW.com Staff