I just wanted to give a non-UT perspective on the Longhorn Network (LHN) and why so many are up in arms about recent developments because I don’t feel like it’s accurately being reported by some. In the interest of full disclosure, I graduated from Texas A&M in 2003 and Rice in 2007 and I’m an embarrassingly avid college sports enthusiast.
First and foremost, the majority of people educated on the subject are not outright against the LHN. I’m openly jealous that UT had the leadership in place, foresight, and resources to get ESPN to commit $700m over 20 years solely to their University’s athletic department. It was completely within UT’s rights to set up their own network. None of us have any issue with the idea that UT can show one non-conference football game along with home volleyball, tennis, swimming, etc. along with coaches and assistant coaches’ shows, etc. I wish A&M would do that, as I would like to see that stuff. So there is no issue with the idea of the LHN or the basic programming.
The thing that set off not just Aggies, but Sooners, Tigers and many in the national media (except for ESPN of course) was the arrogant interview by the LHN’s VP of programming that revealed UT’s plans to 1) target specific recruits and put their high school games on TV – a blatant NCAA violation and 2) use ESPN’s deep pockets to buy a conference game for the LHN (as well as future non-football Big XII games) – essentially eliminating the negotiating power of 3rd tier rights and diminishing 1st and 2nd tier negotiating rights for the Big XII-2 as an ENTIRE CONFERENCE. This blatant disregard for the conference and all the other members as well as the NCAA is what set off all these different parts.
If you wonder how showing high school games on the LHN could be an NCAA violation, you just have to look at the spirit of the law. The NCAA regulates EVERYTHING in recruiting - Who/When/How/Where coaches can communicate with recruits. Shoot, just a couple years ago, the NCAA put a limit on the number of pages media guides can be and required them to be completely black and white other than the cover! All in the interest of keeping the costs down so that schools of all size couldn’t get an unfair recruiting advantage by having fancier media guides. The NCAA regulates recruiting that granularly in the interest of keeping the recruiting playing field level. Ridiculous? Yes, but it’s the spirit with which the NCAA has ruled on this subject. I’ve also had several lawyers send me multiple NCAA bylaws that are blatantly being violated by showing High School games, but I won’t even get in to that. I would personally love for more high school games to be on TV, but that needs to come from FSSW or ESPN4 or something like that. It absolutely cannot come from or be associated with a specific University.
Aggies, Sooners, Tigers, national media members, etc. aren’t raising all this hell about the LHN because we are jealous, we are raising hell because some of the programming initiatives will set a precedent that could destroy college athletics and put way too much value and power in one entity. It’s not just whiny Aggies being a nat, it’s leaders from schools all over the country that are upset about this, and rightfully so.
I’m not against the LHN’s existence, I just think they can’t provide any further programming than the basics. Now, this may require ESPN to rethink the value of their $700m commitment, but no one is clamoring to kill the network completely. That’s just my 2 cents.