Big 12 commish alleges ESPN conspired with league to raid conference
|Wednesday, July 28, 2021, 7:18 PM-|
Things are getting pretty wild in the conference realignment realm.
The Big 12 is set to lose franchise members in Texas and Oklahoma to the SEC, and now, Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby is saying ESPN is trying to put them out of business for good.
Bowlsby told CBS Sports that ESPN engaged the American Athletic Conference to "pursue" 3-5 Big 12 members with the promise of "future television proceeds."
ESPN said the claim was without merit in a statement Wednesday.
The alleged move essentially gutting the Big 12 would help a couple parties: one, Texas, Oklahoma and the SEC with nobody to pay the massive Grant of Rights penalty to leave before 2025 (up to $80 million), and two, ESPN not having a Big 12 to pay out its remaining contract with them for.
"I am absolutely certain ESPN employees have discussed and provided incentives for at least one conference to raid 3-5 members from the Big 12," Bowlsby said. "In doing so, they are prepared to reward them with future television proceeds. If the conference goes away as an entity, Oklahoma and Texas could be relieved from their exit obligations. Those obligations at this time would include the payment of $70M to $80M -- two years full revenue -- per school and leaving their media rights with the Big 12.
"We're just not going to sit still and let somebody who is supposed to be our partner collaborate and disrupt our business. I know with certainty they are doing it relative to one conference. I suspect they have done the same thing in moving Texas and Oklahoma to the SEC."
The Big 12 sent a cease and desist order to ESPN, which said in part: "The Big 12 Conference demands that ESPN immediately cease and desist 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 NCAA conference regarding the Big 12 conference's members, possible conference realignment or potential financial incentive or outcomes related to possible conference realignment."
Bowlsby: "It’s not unrelated to OU-Texas, because if the conference ceases to exist, they have the best chance to join the SEC more quickly and they have the best chance to get out of their obligations for the grant of rights and the exit fees."— Max Olson (@max_olson) July 28, 2021
Bowlsby: "I’m not prepared to share the evidence, but I can tell you it’s irrefutable."— Max Olson (@max_olson) July 28, 2021
The Big 12 is digging in its heels.— Ross Dellenger (@RossDellenger) July 28, 2021
Source within the conference: "It is imperative that the eight of us do not crack and we stay together for the four years and hold OU, Texas and ESPN to the contracts even if it is uncomfortable."