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Kansas senator asks US attorney general to investigate ESPN's role in Texas, OU's SEC defections

The SEC's westward expansion is now a topic of national law enforcement interest, at least according to a senator from a state with two Big 12 schools.

Earlier this week, Texas politicians took their turns kicking UT president Jay Hartzell where it hurts for taking the Longhorns from the Big 12 to the SEC.

“Three-and-7 against the Horned Frogs,” senator Lois Kolkhorst, a TCU alum, told Hartzell. “So … maybe your fan base would rather lose to Alabama than to TCU.”

That was all at the state level. Roger Marshall, a Republican Senator from Kansas, kicked it up a level on Wednesday.

Marshall, who holds degrees from K-State and KU and first moved to statewide office in January after three years representing the Sunflower State's first district, raised his hand Wednesday and asked the highest-ranking law enforcement officer in the United States to step in and put a stop to this.

"As you may know the University of Texas in Austin and the University of Oklahoma in Norman have announced they do not intent to renew their contract with the Big XII Conference," Marshall begins his letter to Attorney General Merrick Garland.

First of all, do we know Garland is aware Texas and OU are leaving the Big 12? It was big news in the sports world, to be sure, but it's also seems like the type of thing that might slip by, you know, the attorney general of the United States. 

Marhsall leans heavily on Bob Bowlsby's allegations that ESPN conspired against the Big 12 toward the conference's destruction, in order to save costs for the network. 

"While the terms of the contract are unknown to me, it's important to note the U.S. Supreme Court has decided that the exclusive right to televise all league games is a violation of anti-trust laws. While the Sports Broadcasting Act of 1961 was passed to overturn this decision for professional football, college football broadcast packages are not subject to the antitrust exemption of that law," Marshall writes. 

This law must be news to the ACC, who has been exclusive with ESPN for some time now. 

"The Atlantic Coast Conference and ESPN have agreed to a 12-year deal that would give the network exclusive rights to conference football and men's basketball games," the Associated Press reported in 2010. The two sides renewed that agreement in 2016, making ESPN the exclusive home of ACC content through 2036. 

"I write today to ask that the DOJ investigate ESPN's role in the potential destruction of the Big XII Conference and if any anti-competitive or illegal behavior occurred relating to manipulating the conference change or ESPN's contractual television rights," he concludes. 


We all knew anything was possible when it was first reported Texas and OU were on their way to the SEC two weeks ago today. We didn't know "US Attorney General forces Texas/OU back to the Big 12 and/or brings the long arm of the law down on ESPN" was included among that.