On Thursday, ESPN responded to a cease-and-desist letter sent from the Big 12 Conference and a media barnstorming tour by commissioner Bob Bowlsby that leveled serious accusations of tortious interference against the Worldwide Leader.
ESPN responds to Bob Bowlsby, claiming accusations “are entirely without merit” pic.twitter.com/W7Itz1U1S8— Brett McMurphy (@Brett_McMurphy) July 29, 2021
The letter from the Big 12 accused ESPN of “certain actions that are intended to not only harm the Big 12 Conference but to result in financial benefits for ESPN.” Bowlsby went on the allege that the network “actively engaged in discussions with at least one other conference regarding that conference inducing additional members of the Big 12 to leave the Big 12 Conference.”
After the letter became public, Bowlsby gave multiple interviews to multiple media outlets in an attempt to make his case.
“What pushed me over the top was a couple of days ago when it became known to me that ESPN had been working with one or more other conferences and even providing incentives for them to destabilize the Big 12 and approach our members about moving away and providing inducements for the conference to do that,” Bowlsby told Yahoo Sports in a phone interview. “That’s tortious interference with our business. It’s not right.”
ESPN allegedly engaged with the AAC in an attempt to poach several or all of the remaining Big 12 members in an effort to dissolve the conference and keep Texas and Oklahoma from paying the hefty buyouts written into conference bylaws. If the Big 12 no longer exists, the two schools would be able to move to the SEC before their grants of television rights expire in 2025.
“The accusations you made are entirely without merit,” ESPN responded.
The question now is whether Bowlsby and the conference want to undertake an extraordinarily expensive legal fight against the most powerful television partner in the industry — ESPN arguably holds more power than the NCAA does itself.
Meanwhile, Bowlsby told Yahoo Sports that Texas and Oklahoma largely haven’t responded to requests for information from the conference.