ESPN is already distancing itself from the Big Ten only a few months after the conference announced a media rights package that won’t include the Worldwide Leader in Sports. Its first target: historic non-conference basketball challenges.
On Monday, ESPN announced it has decided to kill the ACC/Big Ten Challenge after more than 20 years of play for the men and 15 for the women. Starting in 2023-24 — the year the Big Ten will leave ESPN — the network will commence an ACC/SEC matchup instead.
- The challenge will include 28 total games — and 30 when Oklahoma and Texas join the SEC in 2025.
- Conferences will split home games equally.
- ESPN, of course, will broadcast every matchup on one of its networks.
As a result, this year will be the last for the ACC/Big Ten slate, which ESPN marketed as a “first-of-its-kind event.” There was, however, an ACC/Big East Challenge before it.
The Big Ten’s new deal was the catalyst for the shuffle. In August, it announced the most lucrative conference-wide package in history: a mid-$7 billion deal with Fox, CBS, and NBC. ESPN will have no broadcast rights to Big Ten sports for the first time in 40 years.
The SEC/Big 12 men’s challenge will also end after this season. The Big 12 inked a less lucrative renewal with Fox and ESPN in October, but the conference appears to be a casualty of the Big Ten’s move.
“We thank both the Big Ten and Big 12 for their partnership in the final year of our existing events and look forward to finding more ways to creatively partner with both conferences in 2023-24 and beyond,” ESPN Vice President of Programming, Nick Dawson, said in a statement.
Perhaps the biggest winner is the ACC, which was previously considered the weakest of the Power 5 conferences because of a contract with ESPN that runs until 2036. The network, however, appears to be taking care of its own.