Texas, Oklahoma facing reduced financial hit for early Big 12 exit, per report: How TV networks play a role

Texas and Oklahoma won’t have to forfeit as much money as was first anticipated for leaving the Big 12 a year early, according to a report by USA Today on Friday. Here’s what you need to know:

  • The Big 12 said Oklahoma and Texas were slated to forfeit a combined $100 million in revenue distribution when it was announced in February the schools were leaving the conference and joining the SEC in 2024.
  • The USA Today report indicates the Big 12 opted for a more amicable and less financially beneficial split than the league bylaws specified, with the conference telling the outlet that “more than $80 million of that is based on money the schools will not get in 2024-25, the year after the move.”
  • “The rest is attributed to cuts in full revenue shares for 2023-24 that Texas, Oklahoma and the rest of the Big 12’s continuing members will be taking to finance payments promised to four schools that joined the conference this summer,” according to the report.

What else the report says

According to USA Today, “While the Big 12’s bylaws called for a withholding of two years’ worth of their shares of conference revenue, Oklahoma and Texas have had no money withheld by the conference and they won’t in 2023-24.”

Shares for Oklahoma, Texas and the eight other schools in the conference will be reduced by around $7 million per school compared to what they got in 2022-23 to fund payments of $18 million each for this year to new members BYU, Central Florida, Cincinnati and Houston, per the report.

Oklahoma and Texas will not get money from the SEC’s primary revenue sharing pool in 2024-25, but they “stand to collect millions through football- and men’s-basketball-specific distributions that already existed under the SEC’s bylaws,” per the report, which adds the schools could receive “additional money through other specially negotiated terms” and “they will get what their agreements describe as ‘transition’ payments being funded by ESPN.”

Additionally, the Big 12 paid Colorado a $2.5 million “signing bonus” in July around the time the school agreed to join the conference in 2024, per a document obtained by USA Today from Colorado under an open-records request.

What stands out?

This report offers further evidence of something many college football fans have been increasingly aware of and irritated by: the influence of television networks on conference realignment. Texas and Oklahoma will both receive “transition” payments from ESPN to bridge an expedited move from the Big 12 to the SEC.

There’s likely some angst or head-scratching in Big 12 country over Brett Yormark and the league office electing not to be more stringent over the exit withholdings of the two departing members, especially considering all of the returning members are accepting reduced payouts to fund the four newcomers in 2023 (BYU, Cincinnati, Houston, UCF). But it doesn’t require much of a leap to understand why a clean, amicable split with Texas and Oklahoma — soon joining a conference where ESPN has invested heavily in the TV rights — will also benefit the Big 12. ESPN has a notable stake in the Big 12’s TV rights as well, and at least on some level facilitated the league poaching Colorado, Utah, Arizona and Arizona State from the Pac-12 via a pro rata clause in the media rights contract. The Big 12 could have reasonably pushed for bigger concessions from Texas and Oklahoma, but in the end, the conference was able to stabilize, expand and move forward, which was the most important and immediate goal.

The TV networks have long been the not-so-invisible hand directing realignment. So it’s little surprise that ESPN’s fingerprints are all over these details. — Williams

What they’re saying

“After Texas and Oklahoma made the decision to change conferences, those schools, along with the Big 12 and SEC, chose to accelerate the process and transition a year earlier,” ESPN said in a statement to USA Today. “At that time, the media partners were brought in to reach a resolution that would satisfy all parties for the 2024-25 season.”

Yormark told USA Today he “couldn’t be more pleased” and “all parties reached an equitable and amicable decision to part ways,” per the report.

“This was a business decision,” Yormark told the outlet. “Historically the withdrawal from a conference has resulted in a negotiated settlement, and we believe we landed in a good place. Our future is as bright as it’s ever been.”

Required reading

(Photo: Scott Wachter / USA Today)

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