Big 12 opens ‘discussions’ with ESPN and Fox: What this means for the future of Pac-12 in the reorganization game

It’s been 33 days since PAC 12 commissioner George Klyavkov accused the Big 12 of trying to “destabilize” his conference.

These efforts appear to be continuing.

The latest move is intended to mitigate the Pac-12’s primary advantage over its rival-turned-contender in the reorganization game: the timing of formal negotiations over media rights.

Pac-12’s current contract with ESPN and Fox expires in the summer of 2024, while the Big 12 deal with the same partners expires in the summer of 2025.

As a result, the Pac-12 is currently engaged in formal negotiations on a new media agreement. Kliavkoff is able to speak in serious numbers with interested networks, and most importantly, put up constant offers in front of existing and potential members.

Since her deal expires after a year, Big 12 is unable to start formal negotiations.

On Wednesday, Yormark produced its best countermovement available, announcing that Big 12 “will enter into discussions with (ESPN and Fox) to explore a rapid extension of their existing agreements.”

At the very least, it creates informal engagement with partners.

At best, it can lead to serious deals being struck.

The reaction of the 12 largest countries on social media was swift and predictable:

The Pac-12 feature is gone!

Pac 12 is doomed to fail!

We hate Texas!

Several iterations of this game have been made over the past eight weeks.

Let’s count the rumors, reports, and propaganda messages originating from the 12 largest countries – not necessarily from the 12 largest offices themselves – that have shaped the public narrative.

Each component exhibits varying degrees of accuracy.

First: Four Corners Schools will meet with Big 12 to discuss membership opportunities.

bloomer.

After that: The Big 12 called off merger talks with Pac-12.

misleading.

Next: ESPN will not offer a contract for Pac-12.

dead error.

Now: The Big 12 enters discussions with ESPN and Fox.

Precise… very precise.

Here is the full statement from the Big 12 office:

The Big 12 Conference has announced that it will enter discussions with its multimedia partners to explore a rapid extension of its existing agreements.

“It is an exciting time for college athletics, and given the changing landscape, we welcome the opportunity to reach out to our partners to determine if an early extension is in the interest of all parties,” said Big 12 Commissioner Brett Yormark. “The Big 12 has had a great relationship with the multimedia rights holders, and I look forward to these conversations.”

Note that Big 12 never says when the discussion will begin or how long this phase will last. He also never uses the most important word – negotiation – and leaves the most important piece unmentioned:

The discussions matter only if both partners, Fox and ESPN, are serious about striking a deal now and willing to put firm numbers on the table.

The statement has been carefully worded to avoid false claims but is vague enough to create an information void that can quickly be filled with assumptions and rumors – assumptions and rumors that attempt to further destabilize the Pac-12.

How serious is ESPN negotiating with the Big 12?

The network provided the following statement to the hotline:

“We regularly engage in conversation about the future with all of our partners, but to be clear, we have not opened the contract negotiation window with Big 12 at this time.”

Could the window open next week or next month? Probably. But until that happens, the Pac-12 retains a strategic advantage.

However, smoke is important.

All the rumors, reports, messages and circling from the 12 largest countries have a purpose – to cause uneasiness and uncertainty on the Pac-12 campus. To make sports managers and chiefs nervous to undermine confidence.

When it comes to aggressive messaging, Big 12 commissioner Brett Yormark turns the knob to 11. He’s a long-lost member of Spinal Tap.

This is a smart approach, especially when his conference faces multiple drawbacks:

The Pac-12 has better football brands, better media markets, more valuable broadcasting property (7:30pm Pacific kickoff) and an edge in the timing of contract negotiations.

Yormark, assigned this summer, is constantly testing the Pac-12 alignment. He did so with the infamous comment “Open for Business” in July and again here, with contract talks announced.

Up to this point, the Pac-12 has remained intact. Until a media contract is signed, public speculation about solidarity will continue.

Of course, there is a better way through negotiations for both conferences – one we covered earlier.

Pac-12 and Big 12 must gather their strength.


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