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Bowlsby, Big 12 blast ESPN, threaten legal action with cease-and-desist letter

Big 12 Conference Commissioner Bob Bowlsby has threatened ESPN with legal action in a formal letter Bowlsby sent ESPN president Burke Magnus Wednesday.

As it teeters on the brink of crumbling into the college athletics ether, the Big 12 Conference fired a direct, massive written salvo Wednesday at the self-proclaimed “Worldwide Leader” ESPN.

According to a letter obtained by FootballScoop media partner Sports Illustrated and that publication's national college football reporter, Ross Dellenger, Bob Bowlsby – embattled leader of the conference – uncorked the two-page letter to ESPN President Burke Magnus Wednesday and demanded response from Magnus within 24 hours.

The letter from Bowlsby accused ESPN, which just two years ago signed an expansive new broadcast-rights agreement with Bowlsby and the Big 12, of having taken actions directly targeted at generating financial gains for ESPN while being harmful to the Big 12 brand and its standing.

Earlier this week, Big 12 cornerstone members University of Oklahoma and University of Texas both formally submitted notices that they intended to terminate their relationships with the Big 12 by 2024-25 and filed for formal admission into the SEC, a move that the SEC has scheduled a Thursday meeting to address.

“Setting aside ESPN's potential involvement in the recent announcement by the University of Texas and University of Oklahoma that they intend to leave the Big 12 Conference in 2025 (as to which we reserve as legal rights), I am aware that ESPN also has been actively engaged in discussions with at least one other conference regarding that conference inducing additional Members of the Big 12 Conference to leave the Big 12 Conference.”

Following some legal boilerplate, Bowlsby then issued a legal command to Burke & ESPN.

“The Big 12 Conference demands that ESPN immediately cease and desist all actions that may harm the Conference and its members, and that it not communicate with the Big 12 Conference's existing Members or any other NCAA Conference regarding the Big 12 Conference's members, possible conference realignment, or potential financial incentives or outcomes related to possible conference realignment.

“The Big 12 Conference reserves and will enforce all of its rights under the Grant of Rights Agreement and the Telecast Agreement to the full extent of the law and will not allows its business to be interfered with by its business partners or others. Please provide the Big 12 Conference with your written assurances that all such actions will immediately cease and desist by noon central time on July 29, 2021 (Thursday).”

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