The impending defection of Texas and Oklahoma from the Big 12 hasn’t hampered its media objectives, as the conference has re-upped its rights deal with Disney and Fox through the 2030-31 season.
Sources familiar with the terms of the extension confirmed that the six-year agreement will generate $2.28 billion for the Big 12, which still has two years left on its legacy deal with ESPN/ABC and Fox. In hammering out the renewal well ahead of schedule, Commissioner Brett Yormark and his team not only managed to guarantee long-term security for the conference
, but locked in what amounts to nearly a 75% annual increase in rights fees.
Yormark assumed the helm of the Big 12 on August 1, whereupon he began mapping out the conference’s future. At the end of September, the Big 12 tapped Endeavor agencies IMG Media and WME Sports to serve as advisors on its realignment, media and content strategy. The Endeavor brands will also help steer the Big 12 on emerging matters such as sports wagering and NFTs.
Under the terms of the extension, ESPN will assume what amounts to the Big 12’s “A” package, a sliding scale that gives Bristol the top four football picks each season, plus six of the top eight, and so on through 12 of the top 20 considerations. ABC will continue to air the Big 12 Championship Game; last year’s Baylor-Oklahoma State showdown averaged 8.02 million viewers in the noon ET slot, making it the season’s eighth most-watched college football game.
For its part, Fox has signed off on a package of 26 football games per season. The Big 12 extension was first reported by Sports Business Journal.
Iowa State AD Jamie Pollard on Sunday reacted to news of the extension with a tweet in which he claimed that the total annual payout to each Big 12 team will jump to some $50 million per school, up from $41 million in 2022. Pollard’s reckoning factors in the additional boost in cash that will come with the impending expansion of the College Football Playoff.
As part of the conference’s restructuring, BYU, UCF, Cincinnati, and Houston will join the Big 12 next summer, which necessitates a temporary nine-conference-game format until Texas and Oklahoma depart for the SEC on July 1, 2025. While the Big 12’s payout undoubtedly would have been much larger if the Longhorns and Sooners had seen fit to stay put, the extension is a huge win for the conference, which got its house in order ahead of the Pac-12.
More to the point, Yormark’s mission-critical approach to the crucial media-rights issue has proved the doomsayers wrong. In an August 2021 hearing with Texas lawmakers, former Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby said the conference could see the value of its TV deal slashed in half once Oklahoma and Texas made their exit. Bowlsby said the conference distributed about $28 million in TV money per school in the pre-pandemic era (2019), noting that the Longhorns and Sooners accounted for $14 million of that overall media haul.
Yormark began negotiating with the incumbents almost immediately after he began his tenure. His hiring was announced on June 29; two weeks later, Yormark told reporters at Big 12 Media Day that he would pursue a rights deal from out of the gate.
“The Big 12 is open for business,” Yormark said. “We will leave no stone unturned to drive value for the conference.”