The Big 12 is reportedly taking aim at ESPN in the wake of the departures of conference heavyweights Texas and Oklahoma for the SEC.
On Wednesday, the Big 12 sent a cease-and-desist letter to the Worldwide Leader, according to CBS Sports, laying out claims that its broadcast partner took "certain actions" to encourage the defections for its own "financial benefits."
Separately, Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby told CBS Sports that ESPN was "actively engaged" in encouraging the American Athletic Conference to poach between "3-5" Big 12 schools in a bid to further destabilize the Big 12.
ESPN's aim, Bowlsby claims, is to create a chaotic situation of mass defection in hopes of "absolving themselves" of what he called the network's and the schools' "contractual obligation" to the Big 12 through 2024-25.
Bowlsby told the outlet:
"I am absolutely certain ESPN employees have discussed and provided incentives for at least one conference to raid 3-5 members from the Big 12. In doing so, they are prepared to reward them with future television proceeds. If the conference goes away as an entity, Oklahoma and Texas could be relieved from their exit obligations. Those obligations at this time would include the payment of $70M to $80M -- two years full revenue -- per school and leaving their media rights with the Big 12.
"We're just not going to sit still and let somebody who is supposed to be our partner collaborate and disrupt our business. I know with certainty they are doing it relative to one conference. I suspect they have done the same thing in moving Texas and Oklahoma to the SEC."
ESPN said the allegations had "no merit."