SBD/September 23, 2011/Colleges

David Boren: Big 12 Presidents Agree To Grant TV Rights To Conference

Univ. of Oklahoma President David Boren on Thursday said that the Big 12's presidents “pledged to grant their television rights to the conference for six years,” according to David Ubben of ESPN.com. The Big 12 “splits revenue from its Fox Sports contract evenly, but only half of the money from its top-tier deal with ABC/ESPN goes into equal shares.” The rest is “weighted toward the programs that play on the network more frequently.” Boren in a conference call said that “all nine remaining schools -- except for Texas A&M -- ‘agreed’ to give a six-year grant of their first- and second-tier television rights to the Big 12.” That means that “all revenue from the top television games -- shown currently on networks owned by ABC/ESPN and Fox -- would continue to go to the Big 12 even if a school bolts to another league.” The six-year term “runs past the next negotiating period for the top-tier contract, currently with ABC/ESPN, in a bid to keep the nine schools together for the next contract.” Boren said, "We felt that we needed a lot more than an expression of solidarity” (ESPN.com, 9/22). Boren said, “These are very strong handcuffs. The grant of rights really does bind the conference together, and it shows that we fully intend to stay together” (DALLAS MORNING NEWS, 9/23). But in N.Y., Peter Thamel cites a Big 12 official who called the announcement “an agreement in principle.” Others said that it “seemed premature.” Some Big 12 colleges “must get the approval of their boards before they can move forward with their grant of rights.” Missouri Chancellor and Big 12 BOD Chair Brady Deaton said that “there was no agreement on a grant of rights.” Thamel writes it was “clear that Missouri had not signed its rights over yet and the door is left ajar for it to go to” the SEC (N.Y. TIMES, 9/23). In St. Louis, Vahe Gregorian writes, “Conceivably, Boren and Deaton meant the same thing and just expressed it differently. More likely, there was a fundamental misunderstanding of what was achieved in a conference call that culminated just before the two leaders met reporters” (ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH, 9/23). The AP’s Jim Vertuno noted issues surrounding the Texas' Longhorn Network were “not addressed Thursday” during the conference call. UT had “already proposed equal revenue sharing but also said it won't make changes to its controversial 20-year, $300 million contract with ESPN for the Longhorn Network.” Boren said that any changes to LHN “would have to be considered by a special panel to be appointed by” Deaton, and that panel “would likely be chosen by Friday” (AP, 9/22).

ESPN TO BLAME? USA TODAY’s Michael Hiestand writes under the header, “Colleges Can Say No To ESPN’s Money.” Hiestand: “Texas had a choice about starting the new direct deposits from Disney. With all the realignment, schools willing to trade in rivals for ones with bigger TV markets ... don’t have guns to their heads. Just open checkbooks.” USA TODAY's Michael McCarthy writes ESPN’s “specious claim” that LHN is “not the driving force behind the chaotic conference realignments sweeping college football is like the New York Yankees saying they’re not responsible for high baseball salaries.” The laws of TV sports and motion “are the same here: For every action, there’s an equal and opposite reaction.” (USA TODAY, 9/23). In L.A., Tom Hoffarth asks if ESPN “should keep pretending its actions don’t contribute to creating consequences like these” (L.A. DAILY NEWS, 9/23). But in Miami, Joseph Goodman writes ESPN “helped save college football as we know it this week.” College football was “saved from superconferences -- for now -- because Texas refused to equally share revenues from its new $300 million, ESPN Longhorn Network with Pac-12 schools.” Goodman: “How is that ironic? Because Texas’ deal with ESPN was one of the first dominos to fall in a chain reaction that nearly ruined college football in one maddening month” (MIAMI HERALD, 9/23).
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