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Big 12 Begins Early Extension Talks with ESPN, Fox

Sports

Fan holds a Big 12 sign | Image by Getty Images

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The Big 12 Conference will begin negotiating a media rights deal with ESPN and Fox, despite two years remaining on their current contract after this year.

The conference said in a press release that “it will be entering into discussions with its multi-media partners to explore an accelerated extension of its current agreements.”


“It is an exciting time for college athletics and given the changing landscape we welcome the opportunity to engage with our partners to determine if an early extension is in the best interest of all parties,” said Big 12 Commissioner Brett Yormark. “The Big 12 has enjoyed a fantastic relationship with its multi-media rights holders, and I look forward to having these conversations.”

The Big 12′s current deal with ESPN and Fox goes through the 2024-25 academic year. That is when Oklahoma and Texas, the conference’s only football national champions, are scheduled to leave to join the expanding Southeastern Conference (SEC).

Football independent BYU and American Athletic Conference schools Cincinnati, Houston, and Central Florida will join the Big 12 next summer which currently has 10 teams.

The Big 12 beginning media rights negotiations early reflects the growing competition with the Pac-12 conference, which began early media negotiations last month. The Pac-12′s current media rights deal with Fox and ESPN expires in 2024.

The PAC-12’s decision to accelerate its media rights negotiations came after UCLA and Southern California (USC) announced they would leave for the Big Ten in 2024.

With both conferences taking significant member losses, the Big 12 and Pac-12 have been looking for advantages over each other to hopefully retain current schools and attract new members.

Before the Big 12 began talks with ESPN and Fox, the Pac-12 potentially had the upper hand because its current media rights deal expired earlier than the Big 12’s. This meant that the Pac-12 could provide more tangible numbers to its member schools and any potential additions regarding media reach and profitability.

With the Big 12 having three years remaining on its deal, the conference could give only projected numbers, presenting an increased risk for any school considering joining the league. If the Big 12’s talks with ESPN and Fox turn into negotiations, it would likely be for a short-term extension to give the conference clarity after the current deal expires following the 2024-25 academic year.

Meanwhile, Yorkmark, officially introduced as the Big 12 commissioner on June 29, just a day before USC and UCLA were announced to be headed to the Big Ten, made clear that he plans to be aggressive in strengthening the conference in whatever way possible.

Yormark said at Big 12 media days in July that the conference was “open for business.”

Yormark later expanded on his comments, telling the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal: “It means that this conference is no longer going to be stagnant. We’re going to be very proactive. We’re going to explore and identify any and all opportunities that create value in every respect. Is expansion a part of ‘open for business’? A hundred percent. But it’s only a small piece.”

Pac-12 commissioner George Kliavkoff did not take Yormark’s comments warmly because they implied that the Big 12 might try to lure teams away from his conference while it was reeling from the departures of USC and UCLA.

At Pac-12 media days in late July, Kliavkoff fired back: “With respect to the Big 12 being open for business, I appreciate that. We haven’t decided if we’re going shopping there or not yet.”

The Big 12 and Pac-12’s accelerated negotiations come just weeks after the Big Ten struck a seven-year agreement with CBS, Fox, and NBC worth more than $7 billion-plus incentives. The deal, which begins in 2023, notably left ESPN out.

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