One of the final pieces to the puzzle in the rebuilding of the Big 12 Conference is in place – a landmark television deal.
"The stability of the Big 12 Conference is cemented," Big 12 Commissioner Bob Bowlsby said in a news release on Friday. "We are positioned with one of the best media rights arrangements in collegiate sports, providing the Conference and its members unprecedented revenue growth, and sports programming over two networks."
Friday morning the conference office announced a new 13-year television deal worth approximately 2.6 billion dollars with ESPN and the FOX Sports Media Group.
The original deal with ESPN was set to expire in the 2015-2016 season, but now the new deal runs through the 2024-2025 season giving the Big 12 some much-needed stability.
"This is an exciting day for the Big 12 Conference. Our future has never been better," Texas Tech Athletic Director Kirby Hocutt said in a news release on Friday. "The national exposure as well as the stability that this new agreement provides is unprecedented for our member schools."
The only school out of the 10 member institutions to not have approved the grant of rights is Tech according to Bowlsby during a teleconference call on Friday.
Tech has to go through an official approval process with the board of regents approving the grant of rights.
Bowlsby referred to the approval of the grant of rights as a formality and expects Tech's board of regents to approve it in the next week.
A call by this reporter was made to the Board of Regents Office at Tech requesting a statement, but was never responded to.
With the new deal comes unprecedented national television coverage of Big 12 Football, as every home conference game starting this season will be carried on a combination of ESPN, FOX or an institutional platform.
The first game to be carried in prime time by FOX Sports will be on September 22, but Executive Vice President for Business Affairs of Fox Sports Media Group Karen Brodkin said they have not decided what game will be featured that night and the process is "fluid".
Also the number of guaranteed full national football telecasts, on a combination of ABC, FOX, ESPN and FX, will be increased to a minimum of 25 per season.
"The Big 12 combines institutions known for excellence with passionate fan bases and rich traditions," ESPN president John Skipper said in a news release on Friday. "This agreement gives us long-term stability, more games and more flexibility for when and how fans can see their favorite teams."
The football coverage does not end there, every season through 2015 ABC/ESPN will carry 19 games, then increases that to 23 per season starting in 2016 with 13-15 of those games getting full national exposure.
In the deal FOX is also guaranteed 38 games, with six per season on FOX broadcast and six on a national cable outlet.
"We're very pleased to continue our long-running relationship with the Big 12, clearly one of the most successful and esteemed collegiate athletic conferences in America," Randy Freer, Co-President & COO, FOX Sports Media Group said in a news release on Friday. "This expanded partnership gives FSMG several Big 12 football games to showcase as part of our first-ever over-the air schedule on FOX, while also providing a substantial number of games for our other platforms. It's a win-win for everyone concerned."
Also there will be a minimum of four Thursday games, including Labor Day weekend and Thanksgiving, carried each season and also maximum of four games slated for an 8:15 p.m. kickoff.
With the late kickoff time, no program will do that more than twice in a season, host only once and not have 8:15 p.m. starts on back-to-back weekends either.
Not only is football in the deal, but also Big 12 basketball.
ESPN is reportedly going to carry 100-105 games per season, with 43 of those on ESPN and ESPN2, or sublicense those to ABC, CBS or FOX, including 30 intra-conference games.
"It also solidifies and specifically details the games that will be retained by the member institutions," ESPN Senior Vice President for College Sports Programming Burke Magnus said during the Big 12 Teleconference on Friday. "We've drawn the lines brighter, we've expanded our inventory and we've expanded the ability to distribute on various platforms. College basketball, like football, really, really important to our company and having the Big 12 be a key part of that both on a national level and through regional syndication of Big 12 Network and their position on Big Monday for that matter, also solidified for the next 13 years.
"Really important to us, and really happy this is continuing."
There will also be up to 40 games carried on ESPNU and up to six games on ESPN3.com.
Also 31 women's basketball games will be aired each season on ESPN, ESPN2, ESPNU or FOX Sports Media Group platforms.
With that kind of exposure for basketball, Bowlsby is excited about the immediate impact of the new deal on basketball.
"It affords us greater national broadcast opportunities and then solidifies the third-tier opportunities that can be activated on a local basis," he said. "We expect that this gives us unprecedented exposure and structurally a lot of stability going forward."