ESPN is reportedly out as an option to take the Pac-12’s Tier I media rights.

CBS Sports’ Dennis Dodd reported Wednesday night that ESPN executives told Big 12 officials during the Fiesta Summit spring meetings this week that the network will air three conferences in the future. ESPN has Power Five agreements with the SEC, ACC, and the Big 12.

The Pac-12’s current deal with ESPN and FOX expires on July 1, 2024. When it does, USC and UCLA will move to the Big Ten. That defection last summer prompted the Pac-12 to open the early exclusive negotiating window to try and broker a new deal. Those negotiations continue on.

Various university leaders throughout the Pac-12 have publicly expressed confidence in the deal that is coming, but the finish line has continued to move further and further down the road. Numerous reporters, citing unnamed sources, have suggested the league is in trouble to land a favorable deal with a linear partner for its Tier I package.

From Dodd’s report on Wednesday:

“[This is the] first time publicly [ESPN] said, ‘We’re not doing anything with the Pac-12,'” a Big 12 administrator aware of the exchange told CBS Sports under the condition of anonymity.

While ESPN will not be contending for top-tier Pac-12 games, it may be interested in a smaller package secondary rights for games specifically in the late-night window. Sources close to the talks emphasized that they are taking a never-say-never approach when it comes to potential partners as negotiations continue.

If ESPN is not interested in the Pac-12’s Tier I games — the most-desirable, likely highest-rated contests — there doesn’t appear to be an obvious brand-name suitor for the league. Other major linear platforms, including Fox, appear not to be interested in primary Pac-12 rights that would provide the bulk of income in a new media deal.

It’s worth noting that the Big 12 has a vested interest in seeing the Pac-12 fail. League commissioner Brett Yormark has been very open about his desire to continue growing the league. Arizona, Arizona State, Colorado, and Utah have long been schools the Big 12 has reportedly coveted.

The Pac-12 has been linked to Amazon and Apple throughout the negotiating process, but either streamer as a primary media rights partner could make the math difficult for commissioner Georgia Kliavkoff.

On its new deal, the Big 12 will distribute an average of just under $32 million in annual base revenue to each school. For the Pac-12 to stave off further defections, many have speculated a media deal somewhere in the neighborhood of $300 million — $30 million per school — would be needed.

If ESPN isn’t interested in paying the bulk of that — and FOX is indeed out, as has long been assumed — the Pac-12 could find itself in deep water.