According to a report from Pete Thamel of Yahoo Sports, the legal maneuvering in conference realignment got off to a start on Wednesday with the Big 12 sending a cease-and-desist letter to ESPN.
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
Sports Illustrated obtained the letter:
.@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
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.
The relocation of Texas and Oklahoma to the SEC moved quickly this week — on Monday, the two schools informed the Big 12 of their intent to withdraw from the conference in 2025, requested an invitation to the SEC on Tuesday, and now await a vote by the SEC presidents on that invitation, which is expected to happen on Thursday.
The Big 12 has correctly identified ESPN as a key architect of conference realignment, determining the winners and losers and providing the monetary incentive for schools like Texas and Oklahoma to make the move to the SEC, as well as engaging in contact with at least one other current member, according to the letter.
Now ESPN’s lawyers will have to determine whether the Big 12 has legal standing to try to enforce the embargo on communications with important topics like how the Longhorn Network will fold into the SEC Network looming for Texas and whether ESPN will renegotiate the contract it just signed with the SEC.
Meanwhile, lawyers at Texas and Oklahoma are no doubt trying to determine how the schools can leave the Big 12 before 2025 and how much it’s going to cost.
Billable hours, as always, remain undefeated.
[7/28 6:00 p.m. Central update]:
Some strong claims made by Bowlsby here that could end up getting litigated in court:
Bowlsby on OU and Texas: "They acted the part of happy members. Had we been aware of some grievances, we would have attempted to address it. I’m sure they’ll try to get out of the exit fee and the Grant of Rights."— Ross Dellenger (@RossDellenger) July 28, 2021
Big 12: ESPN conspired with American to take “3-5” teams to AAC. Story up soon.— Dennis Dodd (@dennisdoddcbs) July 28, 2021
ESPN statement to the American-Statesman on the Big 12's cease-and-desist letter: "The claims in the letter have no merit.”— Brian Davis (@BDavisAAS) July 28, 2021