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ESPN slams Big 12 Commissioner Bob Bowlsby, says accusations are ‘entirely without merit’

ESPN fired back at Big 12 Commissioner Bob Bowlsby on Thursday with its own strongly worded statement saying “the accusations you have made are entirely without merit.”

Bowlsby sent the Big 12’s primary television partner a cease-and-desist letter on Wednesday and hammered the network in various interviews with national reporters. 

Big 12 Commissioner Bob Bowlsby speaks to reporters during Big 12 media days on July 14, 2021.

Bowlsby said the network was working behind the scenes to encourage some Big 12 teams to leave the league, thereby allowing Texas and Oklahoma to leave for the SEC without paying a penalty.

SEC presidents are scheduled to meet Thursday afternoon, ostensibly to approve formal invitations for the Longhorns and Sooners to join the league. If Texas and OU left currently, both schools would owe the remaining eight teams approximately $80 million each in television money. 

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“The accusations you have made are entirely without merit,” ESPN president Burke Magnus wrote in a letter to Bowlsby. “Apart from a single vague allegation that ESPN has been ‘actively engaged in discussions with at least one other’ unnamed conference, which ESPN disputes, your letter consists entirely of unsubstantiated speculation and legal conclusions.

“To be clear, ESPN has engaged in no wrongful conduct and, thus, there is nothing to ‘cease and desist.’” 

The letter concludes by saying, “We trust this will put the matter to rest. ESPN reserves all rights and remedies in connection with this matter.”

Bowlsby could not be reached immediately for comment. 

Contact Brian Davis by phone or text at 512-445-3957. Email bdavis@statesman.com or @BDavisAAS.