Big 12 Halts Longhorn Network's Plans To Air High School, Conference Games
Big 12 Commissioner Dan Beebe on Thursday confirmed that "until further notice, no high school football games will be broadcast on ESPN's Longhorn Network," and only one non-conference Univ. of Texas football game "will be available for telecast," according to Suzanne Halliburton of the AUSTIN AMERICAN-STATESMAN. More discussion on Longhorn Network's programming "is expected in early August, when the conference's athletic directors meet about the network." ESPN in a statement said, "We recognize more discussion needs to take place to properly address the questions raised by the conference. This is uncharted territory for all involved so it's logical for everyone to proceed carefully." The scheduled appearance of high school games on the channel had created some controversy in recent days, and Texas A&M has asked the NCAA "to interpret its own rules as to whether high school athletes who appear in games shown on the Longhorn Network would be eligible to play for UT." Texas A&M AD Bill Byrne said, "I have continued to communicate our concerns to the conference office and my fellow athletic directors. We are pleased that the (Big 12) commissioner has started to address these concerns, but many questions remain." Texas A&M President R. Bowen Loftin: "High school games are very problematic. NCAA rules are extremely directed at recruiting functions. If we have an unequal playing field for various schools, that we think is a problem. That creates uncertainty" (AUSTIN AMERICAN-STATESMAN, 7/22). In K.C., Blair Kerkhoff notes there was speculation that A&M "might seek conference affiliation elsewhere, perhaps the Southeastern Conference, if Texas’ network showed high school games." Beebe's statement Thursday "suggested that the conference explore such opportunities together when the league’s new $1.3 billion deal with Fox Sports kicks in next year." Beebe: "Members are committed to working together to address issues in a manner that benefits all members. Elements of our new television agreement, which takes effect in 2012, need clarification" (K.C. STAR, 7/22).
BIG PROBLEMS? In Houston, Brent Zwerneman reports Longhorn Network "has threatened to do what the departures of Nebraska and Colorado could not -- bust up the Big 12." Loftin Thursday "used the term 'uncertainty' time and again in describing the state of the league, thanks to the start" of the Longhorn Network next month. Loftin: "The (recent) announcement by ESPN that the Longhorn Network might carry a conference (football) game in addition to a non-conference game was troubling, and then following right after that was ESPN's announcement regarding high school games being televised as well. Both of those, we believe, provide a great deal of uncertainty right now for us and the conference" (HOUSTON CHRONICLE, 7/22). SI.com's Andy Staples wrote under the header, "Texas' Longhorn Network Sparking Another Big 12 Missile Crisis." The Longhorn Network has fueled an "internal squabble among league members," because it is a "bigger deal than the members realized when they agreed to remain together." Beebe "is smart, and so is" UT men's AD DeLoss Dodds. Staples: "Cooler heads should prevail here and keep the conference from exploding. But the fact that it only took 13 months after the Big 12 Missile Crisis for another major fissure to reveal itself suggests the league's members aren't exactly Superglued together -- particularly at the top" (SI.com, 7/21). ORANGEBLOODS.com's Chip Brown wrote, "Any time you are in unchartered waters, it's bound to get choppy. This week was certainly choppy. UT's Big 12 brethren are already on heightened awareness about LHN because it's only giving Texas $15 million more per year in TV revenue than any other school" (ORANGEBLOODS.com, 7/21).