Well now, this is something.
Adding insult to injury, the other conference supposedly is… the AAC.
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”.
Ooh, check out the big brain on Bob! He be mad, peeps.
In response, ESPN yawned.
While Bowlsby was on a roll, he cast a little shade in the direction of his departing members.
… He identified clear enemies in ESPN and the departing schools. Bowlsby only sent that letter with presidential support, which means this will end up bonding the eight schools remaining in the Big 12. And part of that is due to the distrust of Texas and Oklahoma.
“We still don’t have the information we need from them and they’re largely unresponsive,” Bowlsby told Yahoo Sports about OU and Texas. “How many years do they plan to play. When are they planning on transitioning? We can’t get any answers out of them.”
He knows damned well the conference, having already received notice from the two about their departure plans (properly within the bounds of Big 12 rules), isn’t entitled to those answers. And there’s where we enter the realm of negotiating ploys. As you might expect, there are wheels within wheels with this.
“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.
Is ESPN operating behind the scenes to grease the skids for Oklahoma and Texas? You’d have to be an idiot to expect otherwise. Is Mickey doing so in a way to create legal liability for itself? Well, I’d bet their lawyers are smarter than Bob’s, so whatever they’ve been doing, it’s been carefully crafted.
The money factor cuts both ways here. Yes, if the conference dissolves, that ends the obligation to pay exit fees. But Bob’s got a problem, too.
The difference between what the Big 12 is being paid now – more than $35 million in TV – and what it’ll be paid without OU and Texas is an estimated $20 million. Dropping a stinkbomb on the doorstep in Bristol, Connecticut, is a negotiation ploy to assure you will no longer be negotiating. But Bowlsby is too smart to have done this without some type of TV partner fallback.
That strikes me as wishful thinking. If the broadcast rights drop in value significantly for ESPN, they’re not going to be more valuable for another TV partner.
What is more likely is that Bowlsby is trying to force ESPN to leave the existing contract structure in place after Oklahoma and Texas leave. If you think about it, there’s probably an exit strategy that saves all sides a little — the schools are allowed a departure earlier than 2025 and ESPN doesn’t penalize the Big 12 when that happens. It’s not a perfect solution for the conference, but their fate was sealed the moment the schools announced they were hitting the road. At least it gives Bowlsby time to see what he can salvage before a mid-major conference picks over the bones.
Keep your friends close and your TV partners even closer, in other words.
UPDATE: Drop dead, Bob.
14 responses to ““We’re just not going to sit still and let somebody… disrupt our business.””
The only thing of interest here is Bowlsby’s signature. 🤔
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I was thinking the same thing! I couldn’t get past it.
The relationship between that signature and the actual letters in his name is tenuous, at best.
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His dumbass signature spells Rutttttluy.
wtf is up with that anyway?
I was reminded of a similarly idiotic series of peaks and valleys, posing as a “signature,” seen recently from a rather prominent person in government…
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I look forward to the up coming Bob Bowlsby version of him in the Hitler bunker video.
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All OU and Texas need is a majority of the schools to find a landing spot and want out of the Big 12. OU and Texas re just going to sit there and wait.
The Big 12 should probably be careful about calling the AAC a mid-major. The AAC is a much better conference than they are once Texas and Oklahoma leave the room. LOL
Should the small 10 survive and add new members, please get the math right and have the total members equal your conference name….that is all
This is pretty 3D chess level stuff for lawyers of all sides. I know the article said it had the buy-in from the other 8 presidents, but the remaining Big12 via Bowlsby’s letter is in another predicament if any of those schools have already started fending for themselves in violation of their own bylaws. I think the entity’s (Big12) case will collapse if discovery shows that everybody (not just texas and ou) started usurping the bylaws once the texas and ou thing came down.
He better hope his presidents who signed off on the letter have all been forthcoming about presumably not negotiating for their individual salvation. And if they haven’t, as the article alluded, that letter totally locked them out from doing so. Makes you also wonder how much of this ire is fueled by Bowlsby’s own self-interest in a high paying gig. In the for-profit arena, if every or most equity holder wants to cut bait and dissolve the company, the appointed CEO has to move along with the deal.
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Ya gotta love it when the “cease and desist” is issued, the issue has already been “ceased and desisted”, everyone other than big brain bob has moved on…
There is no remaining value in the b12 other than Kansas basketball, maybe OSU football Bowslby should be on the horn with T. Boone Pickens & Co right now & go ahead and start the M&A process…