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Big 12: No grant of rights deal yet

The Big 12 disputed a report Sunday that conference schools had formally agreed to a 13-year grant of media rights. Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby was quoted by the Charleston (W.Va.) Gazette-Mail as saying that the anticipated deal “has been extended to 13 years and it has been signed.”

Bowlsby was en route Sunday to Morgantown, W.Va. for a Big 12 celebration. However, a league spokesman said, “The grant of rights has not been executed. What [Bowlsby] told the reporter is, it will be executed upon completion of current television negotiations.”

In a brief online Q & A, the newspaper quoted Bowlsby on the grant of rights. The current grant of rights agreement is for six years. The prospect of an extension is thought to have been key to luring Bowlsby to the league from Stanford.

While such news has been expected for months, the finalization of the deal would be nonetheless monumental. It would virtually guarantee the once-fractious league solidarity over the term of the agreement. Big 12 consultant Chuck Neinas stressed Sunday that the deal is not quite done yet and would only be finalized after a 13-year, $2.6 billion media rights [TV] extension with Fox and ESPN.

“What people don't understand is, it's a process,” said Neinas who guided the league as an interim commissioner from September through June 15. “Some people [presidents] have to take it to their board [of directors] for approval. So that we're clear, I think they drafted a new 13-year grant but it's not necessary to sign it until the TV contract is done. The TV deal is still a work in progress.”

The three parties continue to haggle over what are termed minor issues in the TV deal not related to legal or monetary points. Multiple sources said the major hang-ups continue to be the split of games between Fox and ESPN.

“There's a willingness to extend our television rights, because [the parties] have brought forth an agreement that requires both [networks] to share some selection rights,” one source said. “It's working through how that gets transferred to paper.”

When the grant of rights/TV deal are finalized, that means at least 10 Big 12 teams would be solid through 2026. For a team to leave the conference during that time it would have to surrender its media rights to the conference. Think of Texas leaving behind its lucrative TV value if it left for the Pac-12. With the grant of rights in place, that's almost certain not to happen.

“What Bob may be referring to is that the conference is at least agreed to a longer-term grant of rights if they can come to an agreement to a new television deal,” one Big 12 AD said. “In essence the CEOs have given that word to the commissioner, but [the deal] has not been consummated.”

“Bowlsby coming aboard with a new breath of fresh air will move it along,” Neinas said.

Neinas agreed to stay on with the conference as a consultant through this month. The two have worked together as Big 12 reps during the last few months while the college football playoff has been assembled.

Big Ten and Pac-12 schools turned over their media rights to their conferences. The results have been spectacular. The Big Ten was able to launch a lucrative network five years ago. The Pac-12 has expanded its own network debuts this fall. SEC schools are trying to monetize their third-tier rights into their own conference network. A grant of rights is considered key to Big 12's membership which has been in flux for the past two years. Since June 2010, four teams left (Nebraska, Colorado, Missouri, Texas A&M) and were replaced by West Virginia and TCU. Those two schools officially joined the league on Sunday.

CBSSports.com reported in March the Big 12 was close to that $2.6 billion deal that would include a grant of rights. In May, CBSSports.com reported that presidents had verbally agreed to the TV deal.

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