John Klein: Longhorn Network much ado about nothing
BY JOHN KLEIN Senior Sports Columnist
Sunday, July 24, 2011
7/24/11 at 5:27 AM
Go to John Klein's Blog Original Print Headline: Longhorn Network no game-changer
The Longhorn Network will kick off on Aug. 26 by televising a Texas women's volleyball game against Pepperdine.
That pretty much tells you what you need to know about the Longhorn Network.
The Longhorn Network has put on hold its plans to televise any high school games and a Big 12 Conference game, soothing two of the biggest questions surrounding the network for the moment.
Big 12 rivals, especially Oklahoma and Texas A&M, have been worrying and arguing about the new network devoted entirely to Texas athletics.
It's not worth the effort to debate the overall issue.
If you want to Texas to stay in the Big 12, essentially keeping the league from falling apart, then allowing the Longhorns to have their own network is the price of business.
Despite constant complaints and concerns, the bottom line is that the Longhorn Network is not going to have near the impact that rival Big 12 schools envision.
Yes, it is additional television exposure and money.
Those things don't matter for Texas. The Longhorns already have all of the television exposure they could ever want and more money than they can spend.
ESPN signed a $300 million deal over 20 years for the Longhorn Network.
But, to be totally honest, the kind of impact the network will have won't impact the things that are really important.
The fact that the Texas-Pepperdine women's volleyball match will be on television isn't likely to have any kind of impact on the rest of the Big 12.
The Big 12 primary and secondary television contracts will keep all of the attractive Texas events as part of the Big 12 television package.
Yes, other Big 12 schools need to pay attention and make sure Texas does not get any unfair advantages out of this new network.
However, it would appear any advantages to having its own network won't be a huge difference-maker in the Big 12's power struggle.
Texas already has more stroke and more money than anyone. The network isn't going to change any of that.
The biggest difference is that Texas will be getting an additional $15 million per year from the network.
Yes, that's an advantage.
But, if one thinks about it, another $15 million isn't going to change anything significant.
In 2009, Texas generated $93 million in football revenue. That was $21 million more than any other school in the nation (Alabama was second).
In 2009, Texas football made a profit of $68 million, $30 million more than any other Big 12 school (Oklahoma was second).
So, what's another $15 million here or there.
Secondly, the exposure of a Longhorn Network for Texas athletics will not be significant in major events.
The Longhorns have struck a deal to get one football game on the Longhorn Network. It had hoped to get a second, a league game; that is now being studied.
The Longhorn Network will get the Rice-Texas football game on Sept. 3.
Plus, the network was hoping to land one conference game on television. That might get messy if that game involves a team like Texas Tech or Oklahoma State, as was speculated. Other conference teams are balking at helping the Longhorn Network be a success.
For the most part, the events on the Longhorn Network are the type only a dyed-in-orange Longhorn fan could love - women's volleyball, swimming, gymnastics and tennis.
These will not be high-profile and certainly no cause for concern among Big 12 rivals.
Some have raised the issue of the Longhorn Network televising high school games that might involve possible Texas athletic recruits. Now, that is a legitimate issue, and the league and the NCAA should address it. Texas A&M was among those that actively sought a clarification of whether the new network could show games involving prospective recruits.
However, for the most part, the network issue is not nearly as important as some have made it.
Oklahoma has felt obligated to announce it was forming a Sooner network of some sort. That's fine, but OU is likely to find out that the interest in any type of network, over a variety of platforms, may have a limited audience. The same goes for Texas A&M or any other school in the Big 12.
It might make sense for Texas, and the Longhorns would love for it to be another advantage, but it just doesn't appear to be such a huge bonus for Texas.
Some at Texas A&M have kick-started the rumor that the Aggies, upset over the television deals for Texas, might still be interested in the Southeastern Conference.
SEC officials have left the door open to expansion. Whether that involves A&M and possibly OU, as was rumored last year, will be the subject of speculation if the Longhorn Network becomes a deal-breaker in the Big 12.
Obviously, because of the markets involved, the Longhorn Network will impact Texas A&M, Texas Tech and Baylor more than any other schools in the Big 12.
Schools across the country are exploring the network idea.
Notre Dame has a deal with NBC to televise its home games and neutral-site games through 2014. The Irish said they are exploring the formation of a network, but since Notre Dame's base of support is so spread out across the country, trying to make a deal will be more complicated than the Longhorn Network.
Maybe the Longhorn Network will be a huge boost to Texas athletics. Perhaps it will contribute to the demise of the Big 12 Conference.
Until we learn more and see it in action, the Longhorn Network doesn't appear to be a game-changer for Texas or the Big 12.