SBD/January 27, 2011/Media

Magnus Says High School Sports On UT Network Will Not Break NCAA Rules

Magnus hoping for decision on high
school programming in 3-4 months
ESPN Senior VP/College Sports Programming Burke Magnus yesterday said that he "wants to see 'significant' coverage of high school athletics on the new University of Texas network 'to reflect what's culturally important' in the state," according to Jerry Briggs of the SAN ANTONIO EXPRESS-NEWS. However, Magnus insisted that the coverage plan "won't jeopardize UT's principles of abiding by NCAA rules." Magnus: "We would never put the school in any circumstance by which they would compromise themselves relative to the NCAA, by anything that shows up on the network." Briggs notes Magnus' comments were in response to "questions raised Tuesday night" by Texas A&M AD Bill Byrne, who "questioned whether the NCAA should allow the network, in a business relationship with UT, to air events involving college prospects as part of its 24-hour programming." Magnus "hinted that the plan was under review within the UT athletics department," and said that he "wants to settle the issue of the high school sports programming on the UT network within 'three to four' months." UT Senior Associate AD for Communications Nick Voinis said that the school "has been looking at the issue of airing high school sports events for about a year." Meanwhile, Magnus said he hoped to "create a streaming product where we could aggregate high school games from all around the state ... and just try to create a clearinghouse for high school content" (SAN ANTONIO EXPRESS-NEWS, 1/27).

UNCHARTED TERRITORY: In Dallas, Chuck Carlton notes Byrne was the "first official to publicly question whether the new Texas TV network agreement with ESPN might run afoul of NCAA recruiting rules," and he "probably won't be the last." A school network "remains largely uncharted territory ... for Texas, for the Big 12, for ESPN and for the NCAA." BYU has its own cable channel, but programming "consists mainly of an academic or church nature." One "early challenge will be defining the Texas network." Schools "can't talk about prospective recruits until they sign national letters of intent," and "any publicity of oral commitments by colleges is strictly forbidden." However, cable networks including ESPNU, FSN and CBS College Sports "routinely mention recruiting news and information." Carlton writes of highly recruited Aledo High School RB Johnathan Gray, "What happens if the Longhorn network features Aledo and Gray in a game telecast? More than one telecast? In a half-hour feature? What happens if the people interviewing him aren't wearing ESPN logos, but Texas-centric network logos?" Carlton: "It's a good bet the NCAA by-laws will undergo significant fine-tuning by the time the network debuts, sending ripples throughout the membership" (DALLAS MORNING NEWS, 1/27).
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