In a time of stunning developments, Wednesday evening saw perhaps the most stunning yet when the Big 12 sent a cease-and-desist letter to ESPN. That was followed by commissioner Bob Bowlsby speaking to multiple reporters, accusing the network of aiding the American Athletic Conference in raiding the Big 12. Reports ranged from three potential targets to all eight remaining schools.
“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," Bowlsby wrote.
“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).”
The conference and the networks are partners, in that they both benefit from as many people as possible viewing Big 12 football games on ESPN's airwaves. Four years still remain on their contract, with the conference still owed hundreds of millions of dollars. Simply put, the Big 12 is dependent upon ESPN for survival, both in the near term -- in not blowing up the league, thus keeping the current contract intact -- and the future -- by signing a new deal once the current one expires, and hopefully close to the current value.
Needless to say, Bowlsby's move was one of risk and desperation, because the conference has no other choice.
As requested, ESPN did respond on Thursday, and they responded with a shrug. The network will not cease or desist, because in Bristol's view there's nothing to cease or desist.
One could have anticipated such a response Wednesday night. With Twitter still buzzing about the day's unprecedented events, Magnus opened his app and fired off this tweet, his first in a month.
Doesn't seem like a guy worried about legal action, does it?