Big 12 News

Pete Thamel on Big 12 Private Equity: ‘Private Equity is Coming Fast to College Sports’

Jul 12, 2023; Arlington, TX, USA; Big 12 Commissioner Brett Yormark speaks to the press during Big 12 football media day at AT&T Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

After reports broke on Thursday that the Big 12 Conference is exploring private equity as a way to keep up with the Big Ten and SEC, many had questions about what that means for the league’s future.

ESPN’s Pete Thamel joined the Pat McAfee show to discuss the Big 12’s exploration of private equity investments and highlighted the fact that private equity is quickly moving into college athletics.


“Private equity is coming, and it’s coming fast to college sports,” Thamel said. “One reason is because college sports are generally viewed in the sports industry as an underachieving revenue source, they don’t feel like college rights are being maximized in general. The general private equity notion was that if you consolidate everything, you can make more money off of it, which makes a lot of sense.”

In a groundbreaking report from CBS Sports’ Dennis Dodd, Dodd says that a “possible cash infusion of $800 million to $1 billion” is on the table, coming from a Luxembourg-based firm called CVC Capital Partners. In exchange for this cash infusion, the firm would own a 15% to 20% stake in the league.

“Private equity has probably been circling for the past eighteen months all around, and I would say that the Big 12 has probably explored it the deepest. I think everybody has explored it and talked about it. They’ve had these spring meetings, and private equity people have come in and chatted. I really feel like for the Big 12, if they feel like they need to find revenue and do it, they are certainly taking a long look at private equity.”

To finish out the conversation, McAfee chimed in on the situation, saying, “Only giving up 20% to make a billion quickly feels like a good move, especially with where we all assume college football is headed. I feel like that’s an intelligent decision by the conference.”

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