By CLIFF BRUNT
AP Sports Writer
OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Oklahoma and Texas — the two Women’s College World Series finalists — are set to join the Southeastern Conference in 2025 and likely will make the powerhouse conference even more formidable.
Oklahoma just won its fifth national title in the past nine World Series under coach Patty Gasso, but the current SEC has battled the Sooners every step of the way. Florida won national titles in 2014 and 2015 and was runner-up in 2011 and 2017. Alabama won the championship in 2012 and was runner-up in 2014. Auburn was runner-up in 2016. Tennessee was runner-up in 2013.
Florida was the only current SEC team to make the World Series field this year, but all 12 teams in the conference reached the NCAA tournament.
“We’re obviously in a very prideful league,” Florida coach Tim Walton said. “It’s a league of great coaches, great facilities, great athletic directors, great programs, great tradition-rich programs.”
There will be two top-notch programs more with Oklahoma and an emerging Texas program under coach Mike White. The Longhorns posted their best finish ever this season, and White believes it’s just the beginning. He said seniors such as Mary Iakopo, Janae Jefferson and Hailey Dolcini have left the program at a good launching point.
“That’s what all those seniors can say they did — they’ve left the jersey in a better place,” he said. “We’ve set all sorts of new records and standards for our program. We’re not the standard of Oklahoma. I get that. But this program is rising. That’s what we want.”
Texas hadn’t been to the World Series since 2013. Now, the Longhorns appear SEC ready.
“It was a really hard job building this thing from where we were,” White, who took over in 2019, said. “We were in a pretty tough place.”
Oklahoma has a bright future as well and should be in good position to make the move. NFCA first-team All-Americans Tiare Jennings and Jayda Coleman are sophomores and pitcher Jordy Bahl was the NFCA Freshman of the Year.
“One thing about Sooner softball, and I’ve seen it year in and year out is they just continue to get better,” Oklahoma slugger Jocelyn Alo said. “I don’t know what holds next year, but I know that they could be (in the running) for the best team too, and for years to come.”
The two programs will also bring a longstanding border rivalry to the SEC that can compete with any existing in the league. Oklahoma and Texas has been one-sided in recent years, but Oklahoma won 38 straight games to start this season before losing at Texas, and now they’ve met for a national title.
Now, Texas calls it a rivalry again.
“I think at this softball program, we hadn’t beat them in years, and finally getting that one win — okay — you can kind of start to call it that again and keep competing with them,” Dolcini said.
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