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The Big 12 says ESPN has tried to convince some of its schools to leave and wants it to stop

SHARE The Big 12 says ESPN has tried to convince some of its schools to leave and wants it to stop
Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby

In this Monday, July 18, 2016 file photo, Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby addresses attendees during Big 12 media day in Dallas.

Tony Gutierrez, Associated Press

The shakeup of the Big 12 Conference has apparently reached a new level of messiness, and ESPN is at the center of it.

Yahoo’s Pete Thamel first reported Wednesday, and numerous national outlets quickly followed suit, that Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby sent a letter to ESPN telling it to cease and desist communicating with conference schools about leaving it.

In the letter, which was addressed to ESPN executive Burke Magnus, Bowlsby writes that “I am aware that ESPN has also been actively engaged in discussions with at least one other conference regarding that conference inducing additional Members of the Big 12 Conference (beside Texas and Oklahoma, who have both started the process of leaving for the SEC) to leave the Big 12 Conference.”

Bowlsby said conference schools have contractually agreed to television deals with the conference, and “The actions noted above are an apparent attempt to interfere with and to induce our Members to breach these contractual obligations to the Conference and to encourage further conference realignment for the financial benefit of ESPN.”

Bowlsby said that is in direct breach of the Big 12’s contract with ESPN.

“The Big 12 Conference demands that ESPN immediately cease and desist all actions that may harm the Conference and its members and that it not communicate with the Big 12 Conference’s existing Members or any other NCAA Conference regarding the Big 12 Conference’s Members, possible conference realignment, or potential financial incentives or outcomes related to possible conference realignment,” Bowlsby wrote.

Bowlsby concluded that the Big 12 will enforce “all of its rights” in the contract with the network and asked that ESPN assure the conference in writing by Thursday that it will cease the alleged actions.

ESPN responded to the letter by saying, “The claims in the letter have no merit.”

Stadium’s Brett McMurphy reported, “If Big 12 implodes, ESPN not responsible for final 4 years of deal, worth $1.06 billion.”

After initial reports came out last week that Texas and Oklahoma would be breaking away from the Big 12, the two schools officially announced on Monday that they will be doing so after the league’s media rights deal expires in 2025.