Skull Session: Big 12 Blames ESPN For Intentional Harm, Quinn Ewers is Already Marketable, and Playoff Expansion is on Hold

By Kevin Harrish on July 29, 2021 at 5:15 am
We're looking at a Buckeye helmet in today's skull session.

Welcome to Thursday. I knew you could do it.

Word of the Day: Panegyric.

 BLAME ESPN. The Big 12 is metaphorically bleeding out on a cold sidewalk right now after being shivved between the ribs by the SEC (and now, reportedly the AAC), but credit where credit is due – it ain't gonna die without a fight.

And that fight took a fascinating turn on Wednesday afternoon with Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby sending a cease and desist letter to ESPN alleging that the network is actively trying to harm the Big 12.

Specifically, he claims to be "absolutely certain" that ESPN has been actively engaging with the AAC to pursue the remaining teams in the conference in order to dissolve the Big 12, which is both an unprecedentedly wild claim and also totally believable.

The letter alleges ESPN "has taken certain actions that are intended to not only harm the Big 12 Conference but to result in financial benefits for ESPN." The network currently shares Big 12 rights with Fox.

Bowlsby told CBS Sports that ESPN's actions are equal to "tortious interference".

"[There are] two documents that govern our members," Bowlsby told CBS Sports. "One is the bylaws, and the other is the grant of rights. The bylaws go for 99 years; the grant of rights go until 2024-25. ESPN has been behind these moves every step of the way."

He added: "I have every expectation that Oklahoma and Texas will do whatever they can to not meet their [contractual] obligations. That's what they've done so far. ... One of the ways the two schools and ESPN will seek to absolve themselves of the obligation is to destabilize the league and cause an implosion of the other eight members.

"I am absolutely certain ESPN employees have discussed and provided incentives for at least one conference to raid 3-5 members from the Big 12. In doing so, they are prepared to reward them with future television proceeds. If the conference goes away as an entity, Oklahoma and Texas could be relieved from their exit obligations. Those obligations at this time would include the payment of $70M to $80M -- two years full revenue -- per school and leaving their media rights with the Big 12.

If you're looking for a motive for this murder, ESPN currently has exclusive broadcast rights with the ACC and will soon have exclusive rights with the SEC (and presumably the AAC). Meanwhile, it shares broadcast rights to the Big 12, Big Ten and Pac-12 with Fox. So, ESPN would absolutely have a vested interest in just ethering the Big 12 completely and filing all of those teams into the AAC and the Big 12.

And then there's the the exit money from Texas and Oklahoma (which ESPN could realistically be expected to foot the bill for if they're truly the ones pulling the strings behind the scenes). You can't charge the teams $80 million to leave your conference if it no longer exists!

This is far, far from a baseless conspiracy theory Bowlsby crafted up. It's just a matter of if he can actually do anything about it.

 PEOPLE LOVE THE MULLET. Quinn Ewers could very well go from preparing for his high school senior year to becoming one of the most marketable players in college football instantaneously.

Before we get into that, we have to figure out whether this even makes financial sense for Ewers, who is closing in on 83,000 Instagram followers and 23,000 Twitter followers. In short, it does.

“Right now, according to our numbers, if he were a Division I athlete, he would be the 25th-most-marketable player right now,” said Blake Lawrence, the CEO of Opendorse, a company that specializes in athlete marketing, endorsements and NIL rights. “That’s based off the size of his audience, the engagement of his audience. His post value, or what he’d get from one Instagram post, is about $25,000. Twitter is another $500 per post. If he could line up 10-15 sponsor deals, he could see his way to a half a million or a million dollars a year in just social media.”

I can't pretend to terribly stoked about this development, because it completely blows up Ohio State's entire quarterback succession plan for the next three or four years. At the same time, it's difficult to blame someone for wanting to uh... instantly increase their net worth by seven figures.

If Ewers decides this is best for him, I guess I'll just have to come to terms with the harsh and unfair reality that Ohio State has three five-star quarterbacks on the roster with the same level of college eligibility. Damn.

 PUMP THE BRAKES OF EXPANSION. The Big 12's slow and painful demise and the subsequent conference reorganization might have one major unintended consequence, putting the College Football Playoff expansion process on hold.

It has become clear, both to other college sports leaders and to anyone following the timeline of events closely, that SEC commissioner Greg Sankey was preparing to poach the Big 12’s crown jewel programs even as he worked alongside Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby in the four-person CFP working group that studied expansion options. It is also clear, now, that Bowlsby was unaware of what was in motion behind his back; he praised Sankey for supporting a 12-team model that would be “what’s best” for college football at large.

“It creates some concern about the way the 12-team proposal was constructed, with a limited number of folks in the room and imperfect information between the people who were in the room,” new Pac-12 commissioner George Kliavkoff told The Athletic. “The proper process is: Everybody who has a say should have a say, and everybody should be operating with the same information.”

The CFP’s 12-year contract runs through the 2025 season, but the surprise announcement of a 12-team proposal last month led many to assume the four-team format would be blown up sooner than that. Now, momentum to make the change to the format before the contract runs out may be grinding to a halt.


“More importantly, I’ve yet to get an answer — although I think in hindsight I understand the motivations — about why we were rushing to get this out in June,” Kliavkoff said, “with Alston (the Supreme Court case) and NIL on the table and with no immediate next step in (the timeline for) expansion. There was, at the time, no understanding of why you needed to announce it in June.

“We mis-set expectations among our fans about how quickly this can get done. I think that’s a shame.”

I hadn't really considered this, but it makes all the sense in the world that something requiring everyone to work harmoniously as a group might not work out too well once it's been revealed that one member of the group has been plotting to steal from and murder another member of the group for months.

Plus, if this entire system is based on five conferences getting automatic bids and one of those major conference's might not exist in five years, that's certainly worth reconsidering!

In the meantime, I guess Ohio State's just going to have to win a few more four-team playoffs. I can live with that.

 GET 'EM, REGGIE. The NCAA made it clear yesterday that it has no intentions of returning Reggie Bush's Heisman Trophy or reinstating Ohio State's wins from 2010.

But Reggie's still swinging.

The problem here is that reinstating these things would force the NCAA to admit that they were wrong, which...

 SONG OF THE DAY. "You're Gonna Go Far, Kid" by The Offspring.

 NOT STICKING TO SPORTS. A lawn mowing company now employs goats to graze on the grass... Protecting Hyperion, the world's tallest tree... The app that the tells you if your cat is happy... Why we need insects... 

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