Did Oklahoma and Texas Make a Grave Legal Error?
Following Oklahoma and Texas’ notification to the Big 12 on Monday that it will not renew their grant of media rights with the conference, Oklahoma State President Dr. Kayse Shrum issued a statement that included a potential enormous legal issue for OU and UT moving forward:
“This action was strategic, deliberate and results from months of planning with the SEC. These conversations, which developed over a long period, are a clear breach of the Big 12 Conference bylaws. . . .”
On Tuesday, Big 12 Commissioner, Bob Bowlsby issued a statement that softly echoed Dr. Shrum’s:
“The events of the recent days have verified that the two schools have been contemplating and planning for the transition for months and this formal application is the culmination of those processes.”
I’m not an attorney, but it is clear that Dr. Shrum believes OU and UT have breached the bylaws. These bylaws state:
“[A]ctions, in breach of the Withdrawing Member’s agreements in these Bylaws, cause additional damage to the Conference and therefore that the Buyout Amount shall be increased by, and shall also include, and the Withdrawing Member shall be obligated to pay to the Conference immediately upon the occurrence of any of the foregoing events, the amount of all actual loss, damage, costs, or expenses whatsoever (including but not limited to lost revenues, damage to reputation and public image, and damage to relationships with related parties) incurred by the Conference or any of its remaining Members directly or indirectly related to that challenge or opposition, whether economic or otherwise.”
In layman’s terms, OU and UT may be on the hook for damages to the conference, even if they remain in the Big 12 throughout the current media contract. Perhaps more importantly, a member of the conference can be “deemed to have Withdrawn” if it “make statements or takes actions that [. . .] evidence the intent of such Member to withdraw from the Conference either currently or in the future.”
In other words, the Big 12 may have the right to withdraw Oklahoma and Texas from the conference today, retain their media rights through the term of the grant of rights (June 2025), and attempt to collect damages to reputation, public image, relationships, etc. Bowlsby’s soft echo of Dr. Shrum may be an indication that things could get very ugly very soon.
On the other hand, this just may be posturing to prepare Oklahoma and Texas for the idea that they’re going to have to play ball with the Big 12 if they want to go play football with the SEC.
Regardless of what comes to pass, it seems that the Big 12’s bylaws have teeth designed to give the conference leverage in the event of another defection, and I believe Dr. Shrum and Bowlsby are showing those teeth.