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 and Fox.
On Tuesday, Texas and Oklahoma submitted a request to the SEC to join that league in 2025. 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.
Information from The Associated Press is included in this report.
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