UPDATE (5:25 PM)
Bob Bowlsby has directly accused ESPN of tampering in a comment to the Associated Press. This is a wild turn of events.
Big 12 Commissioner Bob Bowlsby to AP: “I have absolute certainty they (ESPN) have been involved in manipulating other conferences to go after our members.”— Ralph D. Russo (@ralphDrussoAP) July 28, 2021
The Big 12 has sent a cease-and-desist letter to ESPN, as first reported by @PeteThamel
Bowlsby told AP Texas and Oklahoma have been working on this for months while taking part in Big 12 strategy meetings where proprietary information was being shared.— Ralph D. Russo (@ralphDrussoAP) July 28, 2021
"This whole thing has been a complete articulation of deception," Bowlsby said.
Bowlsby told AP that ESPN is incentivizing other conferences to destabilize the Big 12 so Oklahoma and Texas can get out of paying a buyout to the conference.— Ralph D. Russo (@ralphDrussoAP) July 28, 2021
Story to come.
UPDATE (5:15 PM)
Sports Illustrated has obtained the full “cease and desist” letter from the Big 12 to ESPN. It appears that ESPN - beyond the possible tampering with Texas and Oklahoma - has also been attempting to work with another conference to convince at least one additional school to leave the Big 12. The school is unknown, but my guess would be West Virginia to the ACC.
.@SINow has obtained the cease and desist letter that the Big 12 sent to ESPN.— Ross Dellenger (@RossDellenger) July 28, 2021
In it, commissioner Bob Bowlsby says that ESPN has reached out to at least one of the eight remaining Big 12 members in an attempt to convince the school to leave in wake of the Texas and OU exit. pic.twitter.com/j50gEBPWBY
Well, the Big 12 is starting to put up a fight, rather than just watch the conference fade away. The Big 12 sent a “cease and desist” letter to ESPN on Wednesday afternoon, first reported by Pete Thamel.
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." More soon on @YahooSports https://t.co/HHRW1ZXTPm— Pete Thamel (@PeteThamel) July 28, 2021
This is an attempt to keep ESPN from any further conversations with Texas and Oklahoma about their potential entrance into the SEC - something that folks are accusing ESPN of having done to this point.
This doesn’t prevent ESPN from reporting on the Big 12 and its members, but it does preface any legal action that the Big 12 might take should ESPN work with Texas and Oklahoma to exit the conference.
Of course, this isn’t limited to Texas and Oklahoma. The cease and desist letter would also keep ESPN from potentially working with West Virginia to get them into the ACC, or with any other Big 12 school from moving to a new conference.
ESPN finds itself in a precarious position, simply because buyout money from the Longhorn Network could be used to pay Texas’ exit fees to the Big 12. ESPN stands to make that money back quickly, after a renegotiated SEC TV contract.
In the long-term will this change the fate of the conference? Most likely no, but it’s a signal the the Big 12 is going to try and do some damage on the way down.