Big 12 conference close to deal with TV partners
BY JOHN E. HOOVER World Sports Columnist
Tuesday, August 28, 2012
8/28/12 at 5:25 AM
NORMAN - Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby said Monday that the conference continues to work through some "complex" issues with television partners ABC/ESPN and Fox/Fox Sports, but said there was no reason for concern.
"We don't have anything that's insurmountable," Bowlsby said. "It could be completed by the end of day, it could be completed by the end of week."
Bowlsby is halfway through a tour of Big 12 campuses and, standing alongside OU president David Boren, held a 33-minute afternoon press conference at the University of Oklahoma Memorial Stadium Club.
Bowlsby reiterated that the league has no plans to expand but said the issue needs to remain "on our dashboard at all times." He also said he routinely has conversations with schools inquiring about joining the Big 12.
"I have had regular contacts from a number of institutions," he said, "some legitimate, some not legitimate."
Bowlsby officially took over the once-fractured Big 12 on June 1 after Chuck Neinas stabilized things by adding TCU and West Virginia, by arranging a six-year grant of media rights to dissuade others from leaving, and by lining up a Big 12-centric bowl game and a proposed $2.6 billion television package.
Bowlsby, Neinas and others expected the TV deal to be nailed down soon after he took office or soon after he returned from his U.S. Olympic Committee duties at the London Games.
But now, five days from kickoff, the deal remains unsigned. So does the grant of rights.
"Yes there are holdups," Bowlsby said. "We have ESPN, Fox and the conference as the three parties to this contract. We are also in the process of wordsmithing with 10 presidents, 10 general counsels and 10 athletic directors, all whom virtually have editorial veto power over the document.
"At times, I have to admit that we were a little bit of a dog chasing its tail."
Bowlsby said last week's release of 20 football games involving Big 12 teams - Fox Sports properties will televise 14, the other six will be carried on the Internet or other Tier 3 platforms, but ABC and ESPN had none - was not a power play intended to get a deal done with ABC/ESPN.
"It was actually ESPN that asked for it," he said.
Bowlsby said game and production logistics eventually forced the issue.
"It was just a matter of needing to get on down the path," Bowlsby said, "and instead of releasing them one at a time, we thought it would allow us all to get down the path together."
He also said he'd like to see the Big 12 take action to relieve the practice of allowing networks to select a game either 12 or six days away from kickoff. ABC has the right to choose three Big 12 games per year on a six-day window, a procedure that puts significant strain on fans trying to make travel plans as well as institutions and even communities.
"It's as simple as our television partners paying us a lot of money and wanting to make sure they're putting on in the best time slots the very best matchups," he said. "In the end, I think that's probably good for our fans, too, at least our viewing public if not our live gate public.
"Our commitment is we're gonna try to do it just as early as we possibly can. To the extent that we can make selections early in the summer, we will. But I think the reality is you're gonna have some games on the 12-day pick list, and we hope they don't go to the six-day pick list very often.
"We're gonna do everything we can to try to diminish both of those numbers, but I think it's impossible to eliminate them altogether."
Bowlsby also said the conference was "very close" on signing the grant of rights that was proposed last October (and was balked at by Missouri, which soon left for the Southeastern Conference).
"Things look very optimistic about the contract," Boren said. "I think all the presidents are optimistic about it happening very soon. And once those issues are clarified - there are no real stumbling blocks. It's just a matter of fine tuning some words. ... I think the grant of rights will fall into place almost automatically."
Original Print Headline: Big 12 close to deal on TV partnerships
John E. Hoover 918-581-8384