Big 12 TV deal solidifies long-term stability

So much for the Big 12 being on life support anymore. What's been talked about for months has finally come to fruition, as the Big 12 Conference has come to terms on a massive 13-year, $2.6 billion media deal with FOX Sports and ESPN ensuring stability.

"I think what it does is it gives us a very public and very business-oriented substantiation of the commitment that our 10 institutions have to one another privately," said Big 12 Commissioner Bob Bowlsby. "And I think many were concerned that we were gonna come off the rails again at some point in time, and I think this demonstrates that that's not gonna happen, that we're gonna be partners for a long, long time."

Until 2025 at least.

There will be a minimum of 25 national football telecasts per season.

FOX will get a minimum of six games annually.

ESPN family of networks gets Cable Access to Big 12 Football.

The two organizations will start sharing rotating game picks in 2016.

"We look at it on a season-long basis and the selection order obviously is a negotiated element of this," Bowlsby said. "And it'll very from week to week. Essentially we have an early selection process and then we have a series of six-day and 12-day picks. And there are some occasions where Fox will have the first choice, some occasions where ESPN will have the first choice. It will vary from week to week."

That's something the two national sports entities are excited about.

"It's a parity situation," said FOX's Executive Vice President for Business Affairs Karen Brodkin. "We've developed a very good relationship with ESPN and we work together well in trying to help each other, our picks and to make sure the best conference games are getting the best platforms. So, it goes to complete parity. The specifics in the next couple years--you know, I don't think we necessarily need to go into the specifics, but because we now are on the broadcast network, it was important for us to be able to improve our game selections in the next couple years, which we've done.

"And it was important for ESPN to be able to be able to put games on cable in the next couple years. So, it makes since for everybody and it was, as I said, a win-win. And the conference is the biggest winner because now they have a bigger national platform for their games."

Said ESPN Senior Vice President for College Sports Programming Burke Magnus: "Everybody played a role in getting this through, what is really a visionary new agreement between the three parties. And like Bob said, I have no doubt this will benefit all involved. We're really excited about the new structure and, for ESPN specifically, doing a long-term deal for these extremely valuable college sports rights that will go well into the next decade."

The deal not only extends to football but also to other major sports, like men's and women's basketball.

ESPN will televise 100-105 men's basketball games a season, while FOX Sports will carry at least 40 non-football events, and the two will provide a minimum of 31 women's hoops contests.

Championship games are set for broadcast on FOX Sports platforms.

All of this highlights a deal that Bowlsby said classifies this Friday as a "monumental day" for the Big 12 Conference.

"We are very pleased with the outcome of this negotiation," Bowlsby said. "This partnership with two tremendous leaders in the world of sports broadcasting is a partnership that's going to give strength to all three organizations and we are very excited about going forward for the coming decade with our friends from FOX and ESPN. This will provide to the Big 12 Conference unprecedented national exposure. The breadth and depth of the participation by both our partners is gonna be truly extraordinary.

"We are excited about the future of the conference and excited about the extent to which we we will be able to promote our universities and promote the terrific student athletes that populate our campuses and participate in our teams. And so thank you to all involved. We are very grateful."

He said this will make the Big 12 "the envy of some leagues around issues of distributable revenue and overall league structure."

"I expect that our distributable revenue will be every bit consistent with the highest in the country," Bowlsby said. "And I think that it's important that I as the commissioner and our staff are constantly looking for ways to fortify our conference so that 1) none of our members ever think about leaving and going any place else and 2) so that we might be envied and attractive to others."

No rush to re-add conference title game

Speaking of expansion, whether or not Florida State or Clemson or Louisville or any other school is added to the Big 12, there is no hurry to re-install the conference championship game, Bowlsby said during his teleconference.

Currently, the conference has just 10 members, below the requirement for a conference title game, but even expansion wouldn't cement bringing it back.

"I don't know even if we got to 12 if we would necessarily implement a conference championship game," Bowlsby said.


Well, it's the same reasons Oklahoma head coach Bob Stoops and Texas head coach Mack Brown have suggested before.

It's an extra and perhaps unnecessary hurdle for a team that is essentially already in the national championship game or, for the future, the national title playoff.

"We really like our path to the national championship playoffs that comes with playing a full round robin in our league schedule," Bowlsby said. "I think it brings real value to the regular season, and I think we've all seen instances where a team lost in the conference championship game and eliminated their opportunity to go on and participate for the national championship. So, I think we like the position we're in right now, but the discussion is moot simply because we don't have enough members to currently have a postseason play out."

As far as that potential expansion, he didn't suggest it's necessarily a given one way or the other.

That is to say, he acknowledged the possibility this time around, though still citing the need for calmness around the country with respect to it.

"We have no active agenda for expansion of the conference at this point in time," Bowlsby said. "That doesn't mean that we are oblivious to what might be other opportunities going forward, but I really believe that a period of calm would be advantageous for us and for college athletics in general. And we'll continue to talk about expansion. I'm sure.

"But I think that your initial point was a good one, and that is we have a lot going for us and we ought to be slowed to share that unless somebody brings extraordinary cache."

Florida State or Clemson or--wait for it--Notre Dame could definitely bring that cache.

And so the waiting game continues.

First primetime game set for Sept. 22

As part of this new deal, the initial FOX Big 12 feature game is set for two weeks from this Saturday, though the official matchup is yet to be released.

"I can tell you that our first Big 12 football game on the broadcast network will be September 22 and it will be in primetime," Brodkin said. "Just can't yet announce what game it will be since that pick is working on a 12-day selection. But that will be the first Big 12 game on FOX Sports."

There are basically four options.

Oklahoma hosts Kansas State, while Virginia plays at TCU and Maryland faces West Virginia in Morgantown, and Kansas travels to Northern Illinois.

One of those four will be the selection, with Oklahoma's Big 12 Conference opener the most likely selection of the four.

FOX continuing discussions with several individual member institutions

Most notably, the Sooner Sports Network and FOX Sports have been in discussions for the last few months.

It appears now that the final kinks are being worked out, as Brodkin said a deal could be officially announced in the "coming days and weeks."

"Hopefully one of those will include Sooner Sports, among others," Brodkin said. "One of the important elements of this deal is the ability for the schools and for their media partners and in certain cases, that will be FOX, to broadly distribute the programming that the schools have to offer, including their football games and other programming.

"So, we look forward to working with the schools and solidifying those deals and to the broadest possible expansion of all Big 12 athletics, including women's basketball and other Olympic sports and coaches' programming and the like."

For now, though, the most imminent news is the Big 12‘s contract finalization with FOX Sports and ESPN, which ensures long-term stability and exposure.

Follow me at or

Sooners Illustrated Top Stories