There is life after Texas and Oklahoma after all – and a nice TV extension, too.
Fifteen months after the Big 12’s obituary was written with the defection of the Longhorns and Sooners to the SEC, the once-embattled conference is looking at a new deal with ESPN and Fox.
And stability, too.
Citing sources, Sports Business Journal was the first to report Sunday that the Big 12 has a new six-year media rights deal worth $2.28 billion that will run through 2030-31. The current Big 12 deal expires on June 30, 2025, when Texas and OU are scheduled to leave.
A person familiar with the agreement confirmed the extension and its details to the Morning News. The person characterized the deal as a vote of confidence by two major sports media players in the future of the Big 12. The recent parity in the Big 12 was enough to convince ESPN and Fox that the conference had value besides blue bloods Texas and Oklahoma.
The agreement also represents a major victory for new Commissioner Brett Yormark, who is just completing three months on the job. He made the decision to approach ESPN and Fox long before the February 2024 negotiation window on the current deal.
Even with the pending addition of BYU, Central Florida, Cincinnati and Houston, the TV revenue will rise from $220 million annually to $380 million or about $31.7 million per school.
The number represents a major reversal of fortune for the conference.
In August 2021, former commissioner Bob Bowlsby told Texas lawmakers than the Big 12 faced a potential 50% hit to its next TV contract with the departure of the Longhorns and Sooners. As recently as Big 12 basketball media days earlier this month, Yormark made news when he guaranteed an increase in the next TV contract.
“I know the media has stated that with the loss of Texas and Oklahoma, our number would go backwards,” Yormark said. “Let me say it very clearly: We’re not going backwards, and we’re not staying flat. We’re going up.
“The question is how far up?”
The answer came Sunday as part of the deal negotiated by Yormark, a former Brooklyn Nets executive as well as consultants Endeavor and IMG Media.
“No one should be shocked by this,” Texas athletic director Chris Del Conte told the Austin American-Statesman. “It’s a good deal for Big 12 schools.”
The Big 12 board of directors still has to approve the full deal, which is expected by early December. That is expected to be formality.
While the Big 12 will be nowhere near the conference revenue of the Big Ten or SEC going forward, it is well-positioned with the ACC and the Pac-12, the other Power Five conferences.
Under the extension, member schools will be subject to a grant of media rights through 2031. There is also a pro rata clause which would expand the contract should the Big 12 add members, leaving expansion on the table as an option.
Yormark has been open about possibly expanding the conference’s footprint. The Pac-12 – especially Arizona, Colorado, Arizona State and Utah — has been mentioned as a likely target with USC and UCLA bound for the Big Ten in 2024.
With the Big 12 now having posted a concrete number, the pressure will be on the Pac-12 to match that on a per school basis. There’s also the Big Ten factor. Should the Big Ten factor make another expansion play with Washington and Oregon, the remaining Pac-12 schools could bail to the safe haven of the Big 12.
But the extension, the Big 12 may not need to expand for further viability.
Meanwhile, the Pac-12 is looking for partners on its TV deal, which expires in 2024.
Under the agreement, ESPN will get its pick of the top four football games each season and 12 of the top 20. It will televise the football and men’s basketball championship games. But Fox will become a bigger player for Big 12 men’s basketball, a valuable commodity expected to be even more competitive with Houston joining the league.