With much ballyhoo and backslapping, The University of Texas at Austin rolled out its Longhorn Network August 26, 2011. DeLoss Dodds, UT athletic director, looked like the cat who had swallowed the canary.
Now, vultures seem to be circling around the Big 12 (with ten members), and the last straw was this devil’s deal between UT and ESPN.
Oh, UT still thinks the Longhorn Network is a good thing. In email Thursday (September 1, 2011), the university is still applauding the move. “The 24-hour Longhorn Network is the first network of its kind, bringing unprecedented exposure to the University community.”
With just two days to go before the planned televised game against Rice, Saturday, September 3, 2011, the email admits there are too few ways to watch it. “Verizon FiOS TV is the largest service provider to add the network. Distribution deals with other TV providers are in negotiation.”
With the Big 12 in flux and possibly fading, investing in the Longhorn Network is becoming more and more of a risky deal for Time Warner and the rest of the cable or satellite providers serving Austin. Perhaps there will be a one-game arrangement while they continue negotiating. Time is running out.
The UT Exes sent out a rather urgent email earlier in the week asking members to contact their cable TV providers and beg them to buy into the Longhorn Network. ESPN, who promised to pay UT $11-million a year for 20 years, also emailed exes telling them to “demand” access to their Longhorn Network.
The Network instantly ignited criticism and action from UT’s rivals in the Big 12. Texas A&M is outa here by July, 2012 if another conference will having them. The Aggies didn’t like the TV cameras constantly trained on the Horns. Longhorn Network is the first sports network devoted to a single school.
Bill Byrne is the A&M Director of Athletics. “Byrne said Nebraska and Colorado's departure altered the landscape of the Big 12, as did the creation of the Longhorn Network, which, along with partner ESPN, tried to televise high school games,” according to the Bryan-College Station Eagle.
"We anticipate that ESPN will continue to push the envelope with the Longhorn Network, regardless of Texas A&M's conference affiliation," Byrne told the newspaper.
The Oklahoma Sooners could be the next to hitch their wagons and head west to the PAC 10 or elsewhere, leaving the Big 12 with too few teams to be viable. Big 12 Commissioner Dan Beebe claims that all remaining schools are committed to sticking with the conference. We’ll see.
So, while the Longhorn Network may be a good deal for The University of Texas, at least one longtime rival sees greener pastures. “A&M also could reap financial rewards by switching leagues. The Aggies received a $11.2 million payout from the Big 12 last year. SEC schools collected $18.3 million each. Former SEC commissioner Roy Kramer told The Eagle last week that he believed the addition of A&M would allow the conference to renegotiate its television contracts with CBS and ESPN, meaning possibly even more of a payout.”
Immediately after A&M’s announcement that they would leave the Big 12, their box office experienced a surge in season ticket sales. Meantime, many UT season ticket fans are trying to find buyers.
© Jim McNabb, 2011