The Big 12 Conference and ESPN are squaring up for a messy battle that could end up in the courts.
Big 12 chairman Bob Bowlsby fired off a cease-and-desist letter to ESPN, alleging that the network intended to “harm” the conference by pushing other schools besides Texas and Oklahoma to leave.
Bowlsby claims ESPN is “inducing” other programs to leave the Big 12 for the network’s own financial benefit, telling Yahoo, “I wouldn’t state this if I didn’t know it was absolutely true.”
An ESPN spokesman denied the allegations: “The claims in the letter have no merit.”
- If the Big 12 implodes, ESPN would not be responsible for the final four years of its deal, worth $1.06 billion, per Stadium.
- Sports attorney Dan Lust tweeted that the Big 12 could be pursuing a “scorched earth” approach as a preamble to a breach of contract suit against ESPN.
Bowlsby accused ESPN of “tortious interference” with the Big 12’s business, perhaps the greatest indication that an intensive legal dispute lies ahead.