The Big 12 employs the legal firm Polsinelli Shugart for its legal counsel. That specifically includes Kevin Sweeney, who has been heavily involved with the league for decades, especially in the past tumultuous year.
Here's more on Sweeney, a Kansas City native.
Now, as it moves into a new future, Sweeney took some time with ESPN to talk about what the new television deal means for the league, how it has positioned itself, and what it means for the stability of the Big 12 moving forward.
In part one earlier today, Sweeney talked about the uniqueness of the Big 12's current position, as well as the new deal exceeding the expectations of those within the conference.
Note: Small portions of this interview were edited for length.
Why do you feel so confident that in 13 years, this deal will still be competitive in the marketplace?
The $90 million, of course, is an average with an increase over time, and history shows that, toward the end of these contracts, they usually aren’t. They usually are below the market. Our last deal was below the market by the end of it. As you know, it’s not at all unusual in this industry, though, for deals to get re-done and re-negotiated before it gets to their end. We’ve done that with ABC/ESPN. Of course, this one with Fox was only one year before the end, but it was an extension. The market dynamics are as such that if Fox and its television partner is sitting there, it’s getting close to the end and they know that it’s getting undervalued, they have two choices: They can either say we’re going to milk this thing and make as much money as we can the last couple of years, even if it negatively impacts our ability to keep these rights in the future, or what is more common in my experience, they can say, we like these rights, we like the programming, it’s the right time and it fills specific needs we have. They’ll take all of that in account and it’s not at all unusual for the parties to get together well before the end of the contract and say we’d like to extend this. The TV partner gets to make sure they keep those rights and [the Big 12 or another conference] can’t take them to the market, and even if [TV networks] have to give up some of the backend economic advantage they would be able to retain.
Withdrawal fees, league policies or the bylaws, have there been any changes to any of those since Nebraska and Colorado left?
No. The provisions that were in place last summer are still in place. Our job No. 1 was to get this contract in place. I think we will then be looking at a number of different aspects of the conference’s governance. It may be that none change, it may be that in light of the fact that the competition changed, the landscape changed, we re-evaluate and give attention to some of the other issues, but that would just be some of a number of issues that we will be evaluating.
I assume those conversations will start to get serious at the Big 12 spring meetings in June?
Yeah, and we’ve begun the process and will continue it then, but we may not conclude it then. You know how academic bureaucracies are and herding calves like 10 or 12 institutions or whatever it is, I wouldn’t anticipate that the process will come to fruition quickly, but it will be deliberate and thoughtful.
This is a unique contract, and I think our members see value in that uniqueness, and therefore, I think this is a significant factor that causes me to be more confident than, certainly, I was in the past about the future and stability of the Big 12 Conference. I think the member institutions understand that, and my perception is right now, even given that we have another bite at the apple with our primary rights in four years, we’ll be renegotiating those no later than four years from now, my perception is that none of our institutions could get this kind of economic deal from any other conferences. And we still have another shot at our negotiations. The Big Ten doesn’t, and if the Pac-10 does a whole package deal, they won’t.
We’ve got another bite at the apple here.
It seems like now, still, there’s not a lot of optimism from fans and others around the college football landscape about the future of this league. How important is it to change that, and what can you do to make that happen?
I think it’s important, but it’s going to take time. There are a lot of still kind of fresh wounds from last summer’s discussion. What’s being done is there’s a significant initiative within the conference to figure out, what is this conference? Why did we stay together?
The newly structured conference with 10 institutions, and I know it’s been discussed, but now that we’ll be playing each other every year in football and twice in basketball. I think that is important and again, differentiating, because other conferences are moving away from that. And we’ve been there. We’ve had the divisions, which were very divisive. We had a championship football game, which, I think, all in all, was more harmful to the conference than beneficial. And we now have a true champion coming out of both basketball and football.
I think it’s going to unify the interests of the schools.
Schools in the North watched the football games in the North. Texas A&M versus Texas Tech they really couldn’t care less about. Now, it will directly impact them, because that may be the team that is directly above or below them in the 10-team standings.
I think you’re going to, over time, see the barriers that were created by the two-division system break down and I think you’re going to see rivalries emerge between groups that weren’t previously in those divisions because they’re playing each other every year and they’re in those cities every other year and on those campuses. So all of that will have a, perhaps not immediate, but over time, will have a significant positive impact on the cohesiveness of the member institutions and their relationships with each other.