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The Big 12 Has Had It With ESPN

Are lawsuits about to fly?

Iowa State v Oklahoma State
KANSAS CITY, MISSOURI - MARCH 11: Bob Bowlsby, the Big 12 Commissioner, talks to the media as he announces that fans will not be allowed to attend the Big 12 Basketball Tournament due to the coronavirus staring on Thursday at Sprint Center on March 11, 2020 in Kansas City, Missouri. Fans will be allowed to attend today’s first round games.
Photo by Ed Zurga/Getty Images

On Thursday, the SEC made it official, inviting Texas and Oklahoma to join - in 2025, after the Big 12 media rights expire.

Steve Spurrier took a break from golf long enough to issue this classic Spurrier line: “I can understand Texas jumping over. They get to play Texas A&M again. They get to, they can’t win the Big 12 anyway. I think they’ve only won two in the last 30 years or so. So I can see Texas jumping over—more money, playing A&M, this, that and the other.”

The reactions from the Big 12 have been much sharper. Commissioner Bob Bowslby has accused ESPN of interfering unethically if not illegally and sent a cease-and-desist letter.

He said this Wednesday: “The involvement of ESPN and the other conferences in destabilizing the Big 12 is intended to allow Oklahoma and Texas to get out sooner than the grant of rights calls for...It’s in ESPN’s best interest, it’s in the schools’ best interest — and it’s in the worst interest of the Big 12 Conference. It’s a tortious interference in our business...“I have certainty they’ve been involved in manipulating other conferences to go after our members. They can’t incentivize to raid the Big 12, and they can’t manipulate re-alignment.”

He said “one or more” conferences was involved which is an intriguing comment too. Apparently he’s referring to the AAC.

The Worldwide Leader was not amused and fired back with this statement from ESPN prez Burke Magnus: “The accusations you have made are entirely without merit. 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 speculation and legal conclusions. To be clear, ESPN has engaged in no wrongful conduct and, thus, there is nothing to ‘cease and desist.’

“We trust this will put the matter to rest.”

These allegations came up during the last round of expansion too. It’d be fascinating if Bowlsby and the Big 12 filed suit. What would we learn in discovery? The mind boggles.