Following Wednesday’s announcement by Big 12 Commissioner Brett Yormark that the conference would be seeking to open media rights negotiations with FOX and ESPN 18 months ahead of schedule, there are reports that those discussions have heated up talk of Oklahoma and Texas exiting for the SEC ahead of the expected 2025 date currently in place.
Dennis Dodd at CBS Sports was the first to report on the existence of those talks, as the two schools face payment of $80 million in exit fees to the Big 12, unless that number is negotiated lower.
It’s believed that ESPN is open to helping foot the bill for the two schools to leave early, in part, to rid itself of one of the financial black hole that is the Longhorn Network. As Awful Announcing’s Ben Koo explained:
Additionally, ESPN has mapped out an unwinding or soft landing of the Longhorn Network, an audacious and somewhat-successful venture that continues to age badly over time as the cable bundle splinters. With Texas joining the SEC and ESPN controlling the SEC Network, the network will become unnecessary and redundant and at some point will just fold into the larger SEC Network operation.
It has also been a carriage failure, with most major cable systems avoiding the network, but it’s the costs that have ESPN considering options. Chip Brown of Horns247 reported last year that ESPN still was on the hook for approximately $160 million on the 20-year $300 million contract with UT.