Wednesday, July 28, 2021

Big 12 accuses ESPN of trying to ‘destabilize’ conference

Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby addresses attendees during Big 12 media day, Monday, July 18, 2016, in Dallas. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)

Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby addresses attendees during Big 12 media day, Monday, July 18, 2016, in Dallas. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)


Big 12 Commissioner Bob Bowlsby accused ESPN of encouraging other conferences to pick apart the league so Texas and Oklahoma can move to the Southeastern Conference more quickly and without paying a massive buyout.

“I have absolute certainty that they (ESPN) have been involved in manipulating other conferences to go after our members,” Big 12 Commissioner Bowlsby told The Associated Press on Wednesday after sending a cease-and-desist letter to the network.

The letter addressed to ESPN executive Burke Magnus, President of Programming and Content, said the Big 12 had become aware the network had taken actions “to not only harm the Big 12 Conference but to result in financial benefits for ESPN.”

ESPN, which owns the SEC Network, signed a $3 billion deal with the Southeastern Conference last year that will give the network the broadcast rights to all SEC sports starting in 2024.

The network also has a rights deal with the Big 12, though it shares those rights with Fox. Those deals expire in 2025.

The Big 12 demanded the network stop “all actions that may harm the Conference and its members and that it not communicate with the Big 12 Conference’s existing Members or any other NCAA Conference regarding the Big 12 Conference’s Members, possible conference realignment or potential financial incentives or outcomes related to possible conference realignment.“

ESPN responded in a one-sentence statement: “The claims in the letter have no merit."

Texas and Oklahoma informed the Big 12 this week they would not be renewing an agreement that binds them to the league and its eight other members until 2025. The grant of media rights runs concurrently with the Big 12′s billion-dollar television contracts with ESPN and Fox.

On Tuesday, Texas and Oklahoma submitted a request to the SEC to join that league in 2025. To join the conference earlier than that could cost the schools tens of millions of dollars — unless the Big 12 were to fall apart because some of the other members left as well.

“ESPN is incentivizing other conferences to destabilize the Big 12,” Bowlsby added.

ESPN owns the rights to all Atlantic Coast Conference athletics and has an exclusive deal with the American Athletic Conference. The network also has current rights agreements with the Big Ten and Pac-12, though it shares those with Fox, too.

Bowlsby told AP that Texas and Oklahoma have been working on a move to the SEC for months, doing so while taking part in Big 12 strategy meetings where proprietary information was shared.

Bowlsby said he suspects ESPN was involved behind the scenes when Texas and Oklahoma were in discussions with the SEC, but he has no proof of that.

“This whole thing has been a complete articulation of deception,” he said.

SEC university presidents and chancellors are scheduled to meet tomorrow, but it is unclear if they will vote on extending invitations to conference to Oklahoma and Texas. SEC bylaws state 11 of the 14 members would need to vote in favor of inviting a new member, and it appears that won't be a problem.

Texas A&M; officials had voiced their displeasure last week with the possibility of rival Texas joining the SEC, but A&M;'s board of regents on Wednesday directed University President Katherine Banks to vote in favor of the Longhorns and Sooners coming aboard.


Suzi Marshall 1 year ago

I'll be more than happy with a UT for TAMU straight up trade with the SEC. No doubt the OU defection hurts for us long-time Big 8 fans. However, maybe if the SEC gave us MU in the trade....

Dirk Medema 1 year ago

Suzi - It doesn’t sound like they’re trading. Sounds like someone convinced A&M that it would be worthwhile ($$$$) to let the horns join the club.

Brian Skelly 1 year ago

Anyone doesn't think ESPN has been pulling strings and calling the shots here are high.

Of course, being able to prove that in a court of law is a different story.

ESPN has a lot to gain if the Big 12 just went away as opposed to them having to foot the bill for OU and UT join the SEC. I'd call that a material fact.

What a mess.

Jonathan Allison 1 year ago

Bowlsby may be right. I have no reason to believe that he's making it up, nor any reason to believe that it has any merit.

Either way, it's not a good look for the Big 12 to be publicly casting stones at ESPN. However I understand the urgency in the Big 12 office. Their job is to work for the best interest of the Big 12 Conference, and despite the seeming inevitability of the conference's demise, for the sake of the remaining members, they cannot just give up.

Karen Mansfield-Stewart 1 year ago

"I'm shocked," said no one.

The only hope for this conference to remain a "power 5" conference is to add UCF, Houston, Memphis & Cinci (and pray for no more defections).

These are all good schools with very good markets. Otherwise, it's toast. Once the league is back to 12 it can pontificate about what the right number is, be it 12, 16 or 20, and which schools in which states to target.

Regardless, the SEC is the new NCAA. It's running the show now.

Robert Brock 1 year ago

Bowlsby is cowardly. He needs to place blame for instability on the University of Texas - not the creepy Walt Disney Corporation.

Doug Roberts 1 year ago

Tell me you're trying to destabilize the conference without telling me you're trying to destabilize the conference:

"The claims in the letter have no merit".

David Friend 1 year ago

Who knew!!!!!! Fairly well known that ESPN and Fox stopped conference expansion a few years ago. ESPN and Fox are the ones paying the big money for broadcast rights so guess who controls College Football. Bowlsby is either Naive, or fell asleep at the wheel but it is both. The networks have no use for the big 12. We may have some time but we need to get out sooner than later if we want to be part of a power 2 or three conference.

Spencer Goff 1 year ago

Is this an article from ten years ago? If not, it should have been…

Randy Bombardier 1 year ago

These machinations have been going on for decades. Why is it that we finally have a chance to have a playoff of 8 teams which can easily accommodate p5 champs plus independents, maybe a non p5 champ like a Cincinnati or Boise St and then a second SEC or Big10 team. Why isn't fairness, removing doubt about who is really the best team what we are seeking? I think we all want that as fans. We who remember champions being strictly a matter of polls have long desired proof on the field. But no, instead we get a 12 team suggestion so that the SEC can get 3 or 4 teams in the playoff. What epic bs. That Sankey or snakey is one shameless pos.

Robert Moore 1 year ago

Let's face it. With the athletes sharing in product sales. Multi-million TV, Streaming and Radio contracts, College Sports is now part of Professional Sports. Education be damned. Talent gets paid, all others get screwed.
When the players get WOKE, fans will leave them.
ESPN and FOXSPORTS are mega corporations in sports and like any other Mega Corporations they will willingly violate anti-trust laws to achieve their goals. Professional Sports teams are protected from anti-trust laws, by default, ESPN and FOXSPORTS can pretty much do what they want, when they want. I don't watch professional sports now. I can just as easily cross Kansas off my list even though I am an Alum. I certainly will wipe Texas and Oklahoma off my list.

Layne Pierce 1 year ago

There is such a thing as a monopoly and ESPN is very close to it. And they are acting like a monopoly. This all goes back to the beginning of TV and college football. In the beginning there were games scheduled for the benefit of the fans who attended the games and the conference, and is TV paid, they were allowed to show up and broadcast them.

Then they got control of the schedule. Then they got control of the conferences, and now they have control of the entire game. Ideally 60 teams all in one big time conference, and the rest of the schools need not apply.

Mr. Bowlsby of course, needs to take some of the blame himself, for a) not payig attention to what was going on with Texas and OU, and b) not coming up with a real strategy expansion, etc, or total disintegration, but not this process of a piece here or there, and a bandaid here and a bandaid there.

Part of the real joy of college football at one time was the real meaning of conferences, and the real honest rivalries between them. As American corporate captialism goes, it is always easier to buy off or out your competition than it is to honest out compete them.

In a perfect world Iowa, and Arkansaw would be part of the Big 12???. They have so much more in common with us, and they don't have to be pushed around by Texas or Ohio St.

Missouri and Texas A&M should come back to B12/?? and become solid pillars, it's a go, and a way to remain relevant. There's a lot of relevance to go around in our conference.


Patrick Bryant 1 year ago

What about getting the 3 military schools for the Big 12. Who's going to intentionally destroy the conference with our academies in it? This way we will have fans all over the country with their alumni's. Round it out with Notre Dame - appeal to their tradition of playing the academies and bringing back that nostalgia + they will be in a league that they can win in FB.

Commenting has been disabled for this item.