College football realignment: ESPN chairman Jimmy Pitaro says Oklahoma, Texas will remain in the Big 12 until 2025

College football realignment: ESPN chairman Jimmy Pitaro says Oklahoma, Texas will remain in the Big 12 until 2025

The Big 12 will be the home of the Oklahoma Sooners and Texas Longhorns for a few more seasons, if a top ESPN executive is to be believed.

That has been widely reported since news broke last fall that the Sooners and Longhorns are the Big 12 for the SEC leaving, but speculation has remained that the programs could leave the Big 12 early.

In an interview with The Athletic’s Richard Deitsch, however — on Deitsch’s unaffiliated Sports Media Podcast — ESPN chairman Jimmy Pitaro reaffirmed that Texas and Oklahoma will indeed remain in the Big 12 until 2025.

ESPN acquired the SEC television package currently held by CBS in December of 2020, and the 10-year deal between the SEC and ESPN will go in effect in 2024.

While talking about that deal and ESPN’s plans for the SEC, Pitaro explained, among other things, that the network will be broadcasting one non-conference game for every SEC team, every year, starting with 14 total games in 2024 before bumping up to 16 total games in 2025 when Oklahoma and Texas join the conference.

“Once Texas and Oklahoma are in, we will have 16 out-of-conference games, one per team. Pitaro said. “Well, with Texas and Oklahoma it will be in 2025, so in 2024 it will be 14 (games).

“That was the deal we struck a year ago with the SEC.”

The Big 12 will expand to 14 teams next season when BYU, Cincinnati, Houston and UCF join in time to compete as conference members during the 2023-24 year.

Cincinnati, Houston and UCF all negotiated early exits from the American Athletic Conference, while BYU, as an independent, was always planning on joining the Big 12 in 2023.

On ESPN’s negotiations with the Pac-12 and Big Ten

Utah Utes quarterback Cam Rising (7) runs the ball during the Pac-12 championship game against the Oregon Ducks at Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas on Friday, Dec. 3, 2021.

Spencer Heaps, Deseret News

Pitaro also answered questions regarding ongoing ESPN negotiations with both the Pac-12 and Big Ten conferences regarding rights media.

Specific to the Big Ten, Pitaro noted, “We have a great relationship with the Big Ten. They are certainly an ascending conference right now and I’m not talking about just football. I have a very good relationship with Kevin (Warren), their commissioner.

“They have been a big part of ESPN for a long time now. It is no secret here… we are in discussions. Just like every other property, we enter these discussions understanding we can’t get everything and we are going to proceed with discipline and thoughtfulness.

“We are very much in it right now. But we love the Big Ten. I think everyone loves the Big Ten. They are in a very good position right now.”

As for the Pac-12, Pitaro added, “Is there less inventory (because of ESPN’s deal with the SEC)? Of course there is, but there is plenty of room and we are pursuing both conferences (the Big Ten and Pac-12).

“We are absolutely pursuing both. Each conference deal is handled on a case-by-case basis. When we did the SEC deal, no one at ESPN said we are walking away from the other conferences.”

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