Big 12 looks to potential early extension of media rights

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IRVING, Texas – The changing Big 12 Conference plans to enter into discussions with ESPN and Fox about a potential early extension of its media rights deal that still has two more football seasons left after this one.

New Big 12 Commissioner Brett Yormark said Wednesday that given the changing landscape of college athletics, the league welcomes “the opportunity to engage with our partners to determine if an early extension is in the best interest of all parties.”

An early negotiation for the Big 12 could be significant, given that the Pac-12 board of directors a month ago authorized pushing up negotiations for its next media rights agreements after the decision by UCLA and Southern California to leave for the Big Ten. The Pac-12’s current deal expires in 2024.

The Big 12’s deal with ESPN and Fox goes through the 2024-25 academic year. That also is the latest that Oklahoma and Texas, the league’s only football national champions, will leave to join the expanding Southeastern Conference.

ESPN said in a statement that the network does “regularly engage in conversation around the future with all of our partners, but to be clear, we have not opened the contractual negotiation window with the Big 12 at this time.”

That window for exclusive and formal negotiations with ESPN and Fox is still about 18 months away, in early 2024, if there are no changes before then to the deal that began in September 2012 after the league went to its current 10-team configuration.

Football independent BYU, along with American Athletic Conference schools Cincinnati, Houston and UCF join the Big 12 next summer. BYU, Cincinnati and Houston were all ranked in the preseason AP college football poll, matching the number of current Big 12 members in the Top 25.

The Big 12’s announcement came two weeks after the Big Ten reached seven-year agreements with Fox, CBS and NBC to share the rights to the conference’s football and basketball games. That deal is worth about $7 billion.

“The Big 12 has enjoyed a fantastic relationship with its multi-media rights holders, and I look forward to having these conversations,” Yormark said.

The Big 12 in June said that it would distribute a record $426 million of revenue to its 10 schools for the 2021-22 school year, a nearly 25% increase over the previous year. That was also about 10% higher than the then-record $388 million for 2018-19 before the COVID-19 pandemic.

Conference officials said then that revenues were expected to increase again over the next two years. When the four new schools join the Big 12 next summer, the league will spread across eight states and three time zones.

Minnesota football players’ discrimination lawsuit dismissed

Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports
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MINNEAPOLIS — A federal judge has dismissed a lawsuit filed by nine former University of Minnesota football players who were accused of sexual assault in 2016 in a case that roiled the school’s football program.

The lawsuit against the school claimed that the players faced emotional distress and financial damage after being falsely accused of being sex offenders. The players, who were identified in the lawsuit as John Does, sought unspecified damages for willful and malicious discrimination.

A woman alleged up to a dozen football players raped her or watched and cheered at an off-campus party in 2016. None of the players were ever charged.

The university found that 10 football players committed sexual misconduct. Five of them were expelled or suspended for violating student conduct codes, and the others were cleared on appeal.

In their lawsuit, the players alleged that the woman initiated the sexual encounters with players and an underage recruit.

U.S. District Court Judge Donovan Frank dismissed the lawsuit last week, saying the former players did not prove any of their claims, including allegations of bias by university investigators or pressure from Athletic Director Mark Coyle and former President Eric Kaler, the Minneapolis Star-Tribune reported.

David Madgett, an attorney for the players, said Tuesday that they are considering an appeal but have to determine if it makes sense financially and in terms of letting the former players get on with their lives. He said it was disappointing that the outcome was determined by the judge’s version of events and not decided by a jury.

“It’s disappointing to see disputes decided in this way,” Madgett said. “That’s the way things are decided more and more these days. … It’s disappointing you don’t get your day in court.”

When the allegations became public in 2016, players threatened to boycott the team’s trip to the Holiday Bowl. But after a graphic report of the investigation was released, the players agreed to play in the game.

University of Minnesota spokesman Jake Ricker said the school appreciated the judge’s decision affirming the actions taken in the case. He said the university would continue its work focusing on sexual misconduct awareness, prevention and response.

Frank dismissed the lawsuit in 2019, but an appeals court reinstated part of it in 2021 and returned it to Frank.

The players, all of whom are Black, also initially claimed racial discrimination, but that claim was previously dismissed.

The only remaining claim alleged Title IX gender discrimination. The former players noted that they never faced criminal charges, but Frank’s ruling said that “is certainly not evidence of a judicial adjudication or that plaintiffs ‘were proven innocent.'”

The men also claimed that an investigator for the university’s Office of Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action used “manipulative tactics” with them in interviews and that their accuser helped draft the report. The players also alleged that “prior failed investigations motivated” the the school to punish them.

Frank said all the claims were unsupported by the evidence and “no reasonable jury could find that the University disciplined plaintiffs on the basis of sex.”

Michigan State player who swung helmet gets probation

Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports
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ANN ARBOR, Mich. — A Michigan State football player who swung his helmet at a Michigan player in a stadium tunnel expressed regret Tuesday and said he’s “just looking forward to wuppin’ some maize and blue” on the field.

Khary Crump, a defensive back, was sentenced to probation. He was one of seven Michigan State players charged in a skirmish that followed a loss at Michigan Stadium on Oct. 29.

Crump was the only Spartan facing a felony, but that charge was dismissed in an agreement to plead guilty to misdemeanors. His record will be scrubbed clean if he stays out of trouble while on probation.

“Unfortunately, an exchange of words (took place), I felt attacked and unfortunately I did what I did,” Crump said of the tunnel altercation involving Michigan’s Gemon Green. “I’m not proud of that. I’m looking forward to moving forward.”

Crump was suspended by coach Mel Tucker. In addition, the Big Ten has suspended him for eight games in 2023.

“I had difficulties trying to stomach my actions … on that fateful day, but it happened. I can’t take it back,” Crump told MLive.com after the court hearing. “Honestly, I’m just looking forward to wuppin’ some maize and blue in the future — on the football field, of course.”

At least four other players charged with misdemeanors Will Likely have their cases dismissed in exchange for community service and other conditions. The cases against two others are pending.