Report: ESPN Won’t Carry Games for Major College Conference as Part of New Media Rights Deal

by Dustin Schutte

For the first time in 40 years, one of the biggest conferences in college athletics won’t be working with ESPN. According to Sports Business Journal, the Big Ten will not work with the sports network as it pursues a new media rights deal.

John Ourand reported on Monday night that, “barring a last-minute change of direction,” ESPN will not have access to Big Ten football or basketball games. FOX will continue to be a prominent partner with the conference and CBS and NBC are expected to jump into the mix, as well.

Earlier this year, reports surfaced that the Big Ten could land a new media rights deal worth more than $1 billion per year. Per the report from SBJ, ESPN’s bid falls short of what the conference expects.

“Conversations with several sources describe ESPN on the outside looking in with a bid that is not big enough to secure a deal,” Ourand wrote.

A deal could be in place as early as this week. ESPN first struck a deal with the Big Ten in 1982. It sounds very possible that a partnership that has spanned across four decades could be coming to an end.

End of ESPN, Big Ten Partnership Part of New World

It’s a brand-new world in college athletics. The potential break between ESPN and the Big Ten is just the latest sign that things are changing quickly.

Earlier this summer, USC and UCLA confirmed their decision to move from the Pac-12 to the Big Ten. The two California institutions plan to join their new league in 2024, giving the conference 16 teams.

The move came just one year after Texas and Oklahoma announced their departure from the Big 12 to the SEC. That league will also have 16 teams.

While so much has changed in college athletics, one thing remains consistent. The Big Ten and SEC continue to battle each other for supremacy in the market. Though the SEC dominates on the gridiron, the Big Ten typically comes out victorious in revenue.

If the Big Ten hits a billion-dollar media rights deal, it might remain at the top of that mountain.