| NEWS Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby: "ESPN conspired to damage the league by luring Texas and Oklahoma to the SEC~ cease and disist"


Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby alleges conference media rights partner ESPN conspired to damage the league by luring Texas and Oklahoma to the SEC as detailed in a cease and desist letter sent to the network on Wednesday. Bowlsby also tells CBS Sports that ESPN has actively engaged the American Athletic Conference (AAC) to pursue "3-5" Big 12 members join the league, suggesting it would be rewarded with "future television proceeds".

The letter alleges ESPN "has taken certain actions that are intended to not only harm the Big 12 Conference but to result in financial benefits for ESPN." The network currently shares Big 12 rights with Fox.

Bowlsby told CBS Sports that ESPN's actions are equal to "tortious interference".

"[There are] two documents that govern our members," Bowlsby told CBS Sports. "One is the bylaws, and the other is the grant of rights. The bylaws go for 99 years; the grant of rights go until 2024-25. ESPN has been behind these moves every step of the way."

He added: "I have every expectation that Oklahoma and Texas will do whatever they can to not meet their [contractual] obligations. That's what they've done so far. ... One of the ways the two schools and ESPN will seek to absolve themselves of the obligation is to destabilize the league and cause an implosion of the other eight members.

"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. 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."

With its flagship brands in Texas and Oklahoma departing the conference, the Big 12 is at a crossroads. The letter to ESPN is just the first sign that the conference is gearing up for a legal fight.

"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," the letter reads.

ESPN publicly responded: "The claims in the letter have no merit."

Both OU and Texas have indicated, though legally required, that they are willing to wait until their grant of rights with the Big 12 expires in 2025 to avoid paying hefty exit fees. However, the schools noted in a joint statement Monday that both "will continue to monitor the rapidly evolving collegiate athletics landscape as they consider how best to position their athletics programs for the future."
 

TerryP

Ivory Club
"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. 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.
By mentioning "3-5 members" that leads me to think he's talking about the AAC or PAC: both have been reported to having contact with other teams in the Big12. To me it doesn't seem he's immediately referring to TX and OU but to another conference and then he loops back to the conversation about those two joining the SEC.

Personally, if I'm in Bowlsby's shoes, I'm not taking this route with the company that'll control the majority of college football's TV exposure. If they couldn't get ESPN, Fox, or CBS to the table early what makes him think this will help?
 

It Takes Eleven

Quoth the Raven...
Scholarship Club
By mentioning "3-5 members" that leads me to think he's talking about the AAC or PAC: both have been reported to having contact with other teams in the Big12. To me it doesn't seem he's immediately referring to TX and OU but to another conference and then he loops back to the conversation about those two joining the SEC.

Personally, if I'm in Bowlsby's shoes, I'm not taking this route with the company that'll control the majority of college football's TV exposure. If they couldn't get ESPN, Fox, or CBS to the table early what makes him think this will help?

He's out of cards, and this is his last one.
 

SoCalPatrick

Sideline Club
E7aplZyX0AQM-S5
 

SoCalPatrick

Sideline Club
Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby tells @SINow that he has documented evidence that ESPN tried to encourage an unnamed conference to add Big 12 members in an effort to destabilize the league so Texas & OU could avoid exit fees. "It is tortious interference," he says

 

BamaFan334

Scholarship Club
Crimson Tide Club
I have to say I'm on the Commissioners side if this stuff is true. It's one thing for the SEC to start prying and working on expansion as they are an entity of college sports, but it's another thing for an outside resource (Disney) to start tumbling dominoes in efforts of creating monetary value for themselves and their shareholders. To me, that's like insider trading and fraud. It may even be blackmail/extortion to an extent.
 

SoCalPatrick

Sideline Club
ESPN bolstered its response to a Big 12 conference letter that accused the network of trying to "destabilize" the league, writing in a letter of its own that ESPN has "engaged in no wrongful conduct" and that "there is nothing to 'cease and desist.'"

The letter from Burke Magnus, ESPN president of programming and original content restated ESPN's position that the claims had no merit, and added: "Apart from a single vague allegation that ESPN has been 'actively engaged in discussions with at least one other' unnamed conference, which ESPN disputes, your letter consists entirely of unsubstantiated speculations and legal conclusions."

Texas and Oklahoma informed the Big 12 this week that 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 an

On Tuesday, Texas and Oklahoma submitted a request to the SEC to join that league in 2025. Thursday, the SEC voted to extend an invitation for membership. The schools' boards of regents meet Friday to formally accept the invitation.

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.

In addition to the SEC and American Athletic Conference rights, ESPN owns the rights to all ACC athletics and shares the rights to the Big Ten and Pac-12 with Fox.

Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby told The Associated Press 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 that he suspects ESPN was involved behind the scenes when Texas and Oklahoma were in discussions with the SEC but added that he has no proof of that. "This whole thing has been a complete articulation of deception," he said.

 

TerryP

Ivory Club
Bowlsby speaking to the Texas Senate today:


A few ways to take that "concession." Foot in mouth disease? He realized he didn't want a fight with ESPN with their media rights up in a couple of years?

Maybe the damage is done and ESPN really doesn't care either way: they have what they want.
 
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