What Bob Bowlsby hath wrought.

Geez, what a mess.

The Big 12’s TV partners are pushing back on the conference’s plans to expand.

ESPN and Fox Sports believe that expansion with schools from outside the power five conferences will water down the Big 12 and make it less valuable, not more, sources said. But the Big 12 is financially motivated to add more teams. A clause in the conference’s media deals stipulate that if the Big 12 expands, it would receive pro rata increases in its rights fees.

The original deals pay $2.6 billion over 13 years, or about $20 million per school annually. Expansion by two schools, theoretically, would force ESPN and Fox combined to pay an additional $40 million per year in rights fees. Expansion by four teams could mean another $80 million per year.

Both networks, according to sources, are digging their heels in against paying those kinds of increases based on expansion with schools outside the power five.

In other words, the networks just aren’t that into your conference, Bob.  (Not that you’re commenting publicly about it.)  Especially when expansion boils down to nothing more than short-term greed.

The drive to expand is fueled by the opportunity to almost immediately generate more money for its schools. The conference’s TV deals run through 2024-25 and the Big 12 already trails the rest of the power five conferences in revenue, so expansion stands out as the only way for the Big 12 to increase revenue.

Any newcomers to the league wouldn’t be expected to receive a full share of TV revenue for multiple years, meaning more money for the 10 existing members…

… The conference already has announced plans to start a football championship game next year, which could mean another $25 million to $30 million in revenue. Absent a conference channel, the only other way for the Big 12 to significantly grow revenue in the near term is to add schools and activate that pro rata clause in its media contracts.

That kind of cash grab, sources say, is rubbing ESPN and Fox the wrong way because any new schools would not carry the profile of most power five schools, which is what the networks are paying for.

But think of all the cachet Cincinnati as a card-carrying member of the Big 12 would carry, guys.

The best part of this is that the networks previously displayed an unusual altruism towards the conference.

There’s also some history here. Executives at ESPN and Fox remember 2010 when they helped hold the conference together against the Pac-12’s raid by keeping rights fees at the 12-team level, even though the Big 12 was reduced to 10 teams — Nebraska left for the Big Ten, while Colorado departed for the Pac-12. That was under the previous Big 12 administration led by former Commissioner Dan Beebe.

Maybe Bob and his presidents see that as a sign of weakness.  In any event, pissing off the hands that write the checks may work in the short run — both ESPN and Fox are stuck with the language they negotiated — but one thing about all contracts is that they eventually expire.  And when that happens…

Another option would be to go along with the increases now and not support the Big 12 in 2025, when the grant of rights and the TV deals expire.

Should that turn out to be the case, it won’t just be the TV deals that expire.


Filed under Big 12 Football, ESPN Is The Devil, Fox Sports Numbs My Brain

15 responses to “What Bob Bowlsby hath wrought.

  1. Silver Britches

    Really looking forward to Texas and Oklahoma joining the SEC.


  2. When Texas decides it has had enough (or the WWL pulls the plug on the LHN), the Big XII will fold like a cheap suit. There’s nothing Bowlsby can do about that other than to do anything in his power to keep the Longhorns affiliated with the conference.


  3. AusDawg85

    Nothing says “tradition” like Cincy and BYU playing for the Big12 title.


  4. GATA

    al jazeera America will pick up that contract in 2025


    • Cojones

      Is that the news agency that was dropped from my TV programs? The one that told the truth more than any other news agency/natl TV news? I don’t think they could have all the shit cleaned off Baylor by that time so they will pass. Besides, you don’t think the Southern Baptists would have that heinous bunch reporting about them, would you? Also, word is filtering out that they dance over at their studio.


  5. MGW

    How bout we just sell them back Mizzou and A&M?

    Remaining schools keep same per school payout plus whatever we make from the sale?


  6. stoopnagle

    Could Nebraska block Texas from the B1G? Does it matter?


  7. Macallanlover

    I think they should expand and hold the networks to the deal. CFB deals will probably not be around by then anyway, and the networks were pretty near sided making a commitment like that with no say in the matter. Priority one, get a conference championship game, priority two, get to 12 or 14 teams to have two divisions. I would look at Cincy, Central Florida/USF, Houston, BYU, and Memphis. And let the networks suck it. TV, and rights to broadcasts won’t be any where near the same when the deal expires.


    • Mayor

      Agreed, sir. If the networks were dumb enough to do a deal like that it’s their own fault if this happens. Houston actually would be a decent fit but the others you mentioned……


  8. The other Doug

    I wonder if ESPN and Fox want the Big 12 to stay together. Maybe ESPN would like to see Texas in a different conference and the LHN off the air.