AUSTIN (KXAN) — The University of Texas at Austin took the first step in severing ties with the Big 12 Conference on Monday, telling the league they don’t intend to extend their grant-of-rights agreements with the league when they expire in 2025.
The move allows UT to start official talks with a new conference, presumably the Southeastern Conference, about joining. The University of Oklahoma also wants to make the move with UT.
Here’s the statement from UT:
The University of Texas at Austin and The University of Oklahoma notified the Big 12 Athletic Conference today that they will not be renewing their grants of media rights following expiration in 2025. Providing notice to the Big 12 at this point is important in advance of the expiration of the conference’s current media rights agreement. The universities intend to honor their existing grant of rights agreements. However, both universities will continue to monitor the rapidly evolving collegiate athletics landscape as they consider how best to position their athletics programs for the future.University of Texas at Austin
Once talks have started, then the SEC can extend a formal invitation to the league and the schools can accept. Then, the question shifts from if the schools will join the league to when they will join.
In a statement on Monday, Big 12 Conference Commissioner Bob Bowlsby said:
“Although our eight members are disappointed with the decisions of these two institutions, we recognize that intercollegiate athletics is experiencing rapid change and will most likely look much different in 2025 than it does currently. The Big 12 Conference will continue to support our member institutions’ efforts to graduate student-athletes, and compete for Big 12 and NCAA championships. Like many others, we will use the next four years to fully assess what the landscape will look like in 2025 and beyond. The remaining eight institutions will work together in a collaborative manner to thoughtfully and strategically position the Big 12 Conference for continued success, both athletically and academically, long into the future.”Big 12 Commissioner Bob Bowlsby
When could Texas and OU join the SEC?
That’s when the lawyers get involved, likely negotiating a buyout from the grant-of-rights deals that would allow Texas and Oklahoma to join the league before 2025. Reportedly, the buyout could cost at least $70 million per school.
According to reports, any school intending to leave the Big 12 has to give an 18-month notice, which would put the timeline at 2023. Again, that’s when lawyers may help expedite the process.
What is grant-of-rights and why is it valuable?
The grant-of-rights refers to the Big 12’s ownership of each schools’ tier 1 and tier 2 television rights, or, put simply, the most popular games for both football and men’s basketball.
With the agreement in place, if a school leaves the league before the deal is done, the conference, not the school, would still own and make money from the school’s tier 1 and tier 2 games.
Now, which games are considered tier 1 and tier 2? For the Big 12, those are the home games that ABC, FOX, ESPN, ESPN2, ESPNU and FS1 broadcast. For Texas, games on the Longhorn Network are tier 3, while Oklahoma’s are shown on ESPN+, ESPN3 or on pay-per-view. The school produces tier 3 games on its own, and it gets to keep all the revenue from those broadcasts.
The intended implications of the Big 12’s grant-of-rights agreement
The 13-year grant-of-rights agreement, which was made in 2012 and runs through June 30, 2025, was intended to help bring stability to the league after Colorado, Nebraska, Texas A&M and Missouri all left the league over the course of two years. For the past nine years, it had done just that.
The league brought in TCU and West Virginia and its revenue distributions were the third-largest in the country, behind only the Big 10 and the SEC. Earlier this year, ESPN and FOX both declined to start preliminary talks about extending their broadcast agreements with the conference, which also end in 2025, according to multiple reports.
Part of the stipulation of the Big 12’s grant-of-rights deal in 2011 allowed Texas to form the Longhorn Network, which it formed in partnership with ESPN, with the network paying UT $300 million over the course of 20 years.
The LHN deal expires in 2031, and had long been seen as a hurdle preventing Texas from joining another conference, since the SEC, Pac 12, Big 10 and SEC all have their own, conference-wide networks. But the general assumption now is that LHN would be folded into the SEC Network, which also is also owned by ESPN.