UH releases its contract with the Big 12

The University of Houston signed an agreement to join the Big 12 on September 10, 2021. That same day, GoCoogs.com requested all contracts between the University and the Big 12, wanting to understand what UH agreed to and what the school’s financial obligations are to the conference.

The University did not object to our request but refused to share the Big 12 contract based on “third-party privacy and proprietary interests.” UH’s general counsel asked the Attorney General’s office to decide if the Big 12 could prevent the release of the documents. By law, the conference was given two weeks to state their objections. We wrote about that in late September.

Sure enough, the Big 12 responded on October 4 with a few issues which were redacted when sent to GoCoogs:

The Big 12’s response required the AG to rule on the matter within 45 business days of receiving all documentation. On December 16, the State sent a letter stating that UH could withhold limited information due to competitive harm to the Big 12 but must release most of the agreement.

UH sent GoCoogs the information today.

The contract, called an admission agreement by the Big 12, says all terms and conditions and “any oral or written information exchanged in connection with the preparation of this Agreement” are confidential. Despite the confidentiality, there is little in the way of breaking news – surely nothing that required four months of wrangling – except for a line or two that are redacted. There are, however, a few interesting tidbits:

– Houston will join on July 1, 2024, or an earlier date agreed upon by UH and the conference. The school will be bound to a “grant of rights” (for broadcast, bowl, and NCAA revenues) beginning that day.

– UH deposited $2,500,000 with the conference upon execution of the agreement. The conference put it in a money market account, and UH will recover its earnings upon entering the league.

– Beginning on July 1, 2025, Houston will participate fully in conference revenue distribution. This is where the contract is redacted:

The day that full revenue distribution begins for UH is the same as the current grant of rights (GOR) for the Big 12 ends.

This means UH (and likely Cincinnati, UCF, and BYU) will not receive a full distribution for at least the first year. In all likelihood, Houston will not receive any conference revenue until the current GOR ends even if UH enters the league next summer. Texas and Oklahoma are bound to the Big 12’s grant of rights (GOR) through 7/1/2025, and unless an early separation agreement is signed, they will be due their full shares.

Because the conference is negotiating with UT and OU, it appears the State agreed that sharing revenue distribution information before 7/1/2025 “would cause substantial competitive harm.” If the two schools leave early, the remaining Big 12 schools will share their exit fees (the remaining amount owed in the GOR). The four new schools will have no claim to that.

– The agreement insists that UH “made the initial contact with the Big 12 about becoming a Member of the Conference and that the Conference did not contact UH about becoming a member.” This clause is directly due to Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby sending ESPN a cease and desist letter, accusing the network and other conferences of meddling in Big 12 affairs. Bowlsby did not want the American Athletic Conference to have a similar claim about the Big 12.

– The admission agreement was just five pages but including the supplemental documentation – the conference’s bylaws, rules, grant of rights and amendments, and the conference members’ signature pages – the document was 95 pages.

– The copy of the 2019 grant of rights amendment shared with UH shows that eight schools executed the amendment while two did not, Texas and OU. OU signed a consent to the amendment, but UT did not.

It seems that the Big 12 had prior information about Texas and Oklahoma not wanting to tether themselves to the GOR completely. Both executed the previous Grant of Rights (2012).

The final page of the agreement was wiring instructions from UH to the Big 12’s bank account and included the league’s banking account number.

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