What is Big 12's 'grant of rights'? Term explained as Texas and Oklahoma inquire about joining SEC

Joshua Rogers July 22, 2021
Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images

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A massive conference realignment could be on the horizon for college football as Texas and Oklahoma have reportedly contacted the SEC about joining them. The move could create the country’s first superconference, although any move would require a 75 per cent majority vote of the conference’s current schools. Nevertheless, it is huge news, with Big 12’s grant of rights one of the key terms to understand.

What’s happened?

College football is once again at the centre of potential conference realignment as Texas and Oklahoma reach out to the SEC regarding a potential conference move.

The move would mean the two Big 12 powerhouses would leave their home conference and join the SEC – essentially creating a 16-team super-conference.

The report first emerged via the Houston Chronicle, which cited a “high-ranking college official with knowledge of the situation”. 

The Longhorns and Sooners have been member institutions of the Big 12 since its formation in 1996. It was formed when Southwest Conference schools Texas, Texas A&M, Baylor and Texas Tech were added to the Big 8.

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What is Big 12’s grant of rights?

According to sources, Texas planned to notify the Big 12 within the next week that it isn’t interested in extending the league’s media grant of rights.

The Big 12’s grant of rights agreement expires in 2025, meaning there are four years left on its 13-year agreement.

“Grant of rights” means every team in a conference agrees to be bound by certain rules, and the “rights” they grant to the league are media rights.

If you want to read them in more detail, you can do so here.

These rights are there to prevent a school ditching the league before the deal ends, making them an important part of the Big 12’s stability.

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How does this change things? Big 12’s TV contracts and more

Should a school wish to leave, under the grant of rights the Big 12 gets to keep the TV money a member school generates even after it leaves, through to the end of the agreement.

If Texas and Oklahoma were to leave Big 12 before the conclusion of the agreement, it could therefore cost them a significant amount of money. Missouri and Texas A&M both paid $12.4 million to leave for the SEC, but that was more than a decade ago.

Plus the Big 12 now has a $2.6 billion rights deal with Fox and ESPN until 2025, which complicates things further as both parties would be reluctant to renegotiate a deal without two of its biggest assets.

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Furthermore, Texas’s own television station, the Longhorn Network, has a contract that runs with ESPN through 2031.

However, as the years remaining on the current deal slowly expire, the amount of money lost potentially decreases.

The allure of more money is usually a key factor in a school wishing to leave a conference. Although a move away from Big 12 could cost Texas and Oklahoma in the short term, the financial gains in the long term could make the penalty a lot more manageable.

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SEC’s TV deals and why it’s so attractive

Texas and Oklahoma wouldn’t shake things up so radically unless another seriously attractive proposition presented itself.

The SEC certainly represents that. According to a report by Front Office Sports, the SEC earned $728.9 million in 2020 – roughly $300 million more than the Big 12’s reported earnings ($409.2 million).

The SEC also has a long-standing deal with CBS and ESPN. Beginning in 2024, ESPN (and ABC), become the exclusive home of the league’s top games.

That ten-year contract is worth $3 billion, according to the New York Times.

The SEC is hugely popular and lucrative, and it’s not hard to see why certain institutions would want to be part of that.

Joshua is a senior sports writer with over four years' experience in online writing. He graduated with a BA in Ancient History from The University of Manchester before receiving an MA in Sports Journalism from The University of Central Lancashire. He became a trending writer for a leading social publisher and later spent time covering the 2018 World Cup for The Mirror Online. He then moved to a social marketing agency where he acted as website editor. His specialties on The Focus include F1, tennis, NBA, NFL and combat sports.