With the college football landscape changing drastically in recent weeks with Oklahoma and Texas leaving the Big 12 for the SEC, one U.S. Senator has requested that the DOJ investigate the matter.
U.S. senator Roger Marshall, a Kansas Republican, has drafted a letter to U.S. attorney general Merrick Garland asking for the Department of Justice to launch an investigation into ESPN to see what role the TV network played in the Sooners and Longhorns making the move to the SEC.
Marshall’s letter stated, “I write today to ask that the DOJ investigate ESPN’s role in the potential destruction of the Big 12 Conference and if any anti-competitive or illegal behavior occurred relating to manipulating the conference change or ESPN’s contractual television rights.”
This comes on the heels of one of the many allegations from Big 12 Commissioner Bob Bowlsby which alleged collusion between ESPN and other conferences regarding the potential destruction of the Big 12. This included Bowlsby sending a cease and desist letter to ESPN.
ESPN would go on to call the claim unsubstantiated speculation. The network’s letter stated firmly, “To be clear, ESPN has engaged in no wrongful conduct and, thus, there is nothing to ‘cease and desist.’”
In addition to that letter, Bowlsby told Dennis Dodd of CBS Sports that “I’m absolutely certain [ESPN was] involved in it with the [American Athletic Conference] trying to poach our members.” Bowlsby also told CBS Sports that ESPN’s actions are, “tortious interference”.
On Thursday, AAC commissioner Mike Aresco denied that the conference had any conversations with the Big 12 about poaching members.
Clearly, Big 12 leadership feels strongly that ESPN, which is the biggest partner of college football, was involved in facilitating conference realignment, and may have had other plans as well as it relates to the Big 12’s future.
As for Senator Marshall, he Marshall has ties to both schools. He is a graduate of the KU medical school and also obtained a biology degree from K-State with a minor in nuclear physics.
Here’s the full copy of Marshall’s letter to the DOJ.