Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby alleged in a cease-and-desist letter that ESPN reached out to at least one of the conference’s member institutions to try to convince it to leave the league.
The letter was leaked to media outlets Wednesday in the wake of Texas and Oklahoma formally applying for membership in the Southeastern Conference a day earlier.
Bowlsby alleged that the sports media giant “has taken certain actions that are intended to not only harm the Big 12 Conference but to result in financial benefits for ESPN.”
Bowlsby wrote, in part, to Burke Magnus, ESPN’s president of programming and original content, “The Big 12 Conference demands that ESPN immediately cease and desist all actions that may harm the Conference and its members and that it not communicate with the Big 12 Conference’s existing Members or any other NCAA Conference regarding the Big 12 Conference’s Members, possible conference realignment, or potential financial incentives or outcomes related to possible conference realignment.”
Only eight universities would remain in the Big 12 if and when Texas and Oklahoma are granted membership in the SEC. The Big 12 may not have long-term standing as a power conference as a result, and ESPN and other media partners in turn may be incentivized to restructure their future partnerships with the Big 12 and other conferences.
Bowlsby told CBS Sports that ESPN actively tried to “pursue” three to five members of the Big 12 to join the American Athletic Conference, long seen as the sixth-best college football conference behind the power five leagues. The AAC had no comment on the allegation, the Dallas Morning News reported Wednesday.