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AAC's Mike Aresco Denies Collusion to Add Big 12 Teams amid Oklahoma, Texas Exits

Adam WellsAugust 4, 2021

AP Photo/Stew Milne, File

American Athletic Conference commissioner Mike Aresco has denied any collusion in trying to add Big 12 teams in the wake of Texas and Oklahoma announcing their intentions to leave for the SEC. 

Speaking to reporters during a virtual event on Wednesday, Aresco said the AAC "has never strategically aligned or plotted with ESPN to influence conference structures."

Aresco's comment come in the wake of Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby accusing ESPN of encouraging other conferences to poach programs in order to expedite Texas and Oklahoma's move to the SEC. 

"I have absolute certainty that they (ESPN) have been involved in manipulating other conferences to go after our members," Bowlsby told The Associated Press (h/t ESPN) last week. 

Speaking to Dennis Dodd and David Cobb of CBS Sports, Bowlsby accused ESPN of encouraging the AAC to pursue three to five of the remaining Big 12 programs with the promise of giving the conference "future television proceeds."

The Big 12 also sent a cease-and-desist letter to ESPN, signed by Bowlsby, alleging that the network "has taken certain actions that are intended to not only harm the Big 12 Conference but to result in financial benefits for ESPN.”

Max Olson @max_olson

Here is the cease &amp; desist letter the Big 12 sent to ESPN.<br><br>Bob Bowlsby alleges ESPN is actively working with and encouraging other conferences to attempt to poach Big 12 members. <a href="https://t.co/fb224elCtd">pic.twitter.com/fb224elCtd</a>

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ESPN sent a letter back to the Big 12, saying the accusations were made "entirely without merit."

Texas and Oklahoma accepted formal invitations from the SEC on July 30. The move will take effect on July 1, 2025, after the Big 12 media rights agreements for both programs expire. 

The impending loss of Texas and Oklahoma has left the Big 12's future very much up in the air.

Bowlsby told Texas lawmakers at a hearing on Monday that the conference's future television contracts could see a 50 percent decrease without the two powerhouse programs. 

The AAC, which was established in July 2013 in the wake of the Big East dissolving, currently has 11 full-time members.    

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