I asked a few folks from around FanTake and the web to give us their thoughts on the news of the Texas ESPN TV deal. This is from Ojnab Bob at Better Off Red. - S.R.
BEVO TV - Congratulations, UT, But You Might Have Gone Too Far
Now that we're finished with the Big 12 (at least in football, no offense to Doc Sadler’s improved squad), Nebraska fans can look back at current proceedings there with, hopefully, a neutral perspective. As most of you know by now, the University of Texas recently announced a 20-year, $300 million deal with ESPN on a soon-to-be-created Longhorn Sports Network. On the surface, a UT fan should be very happy with this arrangement, as it will create a nice revenue stream and, no doubt, result in a presence on basic cable for a large geographic segment of U.S. viewers.
It is my belief, however, that Texas overplayed its hand with this deal. The new aspects of this contract have fundamentally changed the balance of power - like a successful Risk player who has expanded to control half of the board but now finds all of the other players united against him, this deal could result in repercussions that may not be to UT’s ultimate advantage.
This Houston Press piece by Sean Pendergast makes some good insights about the contract (particularly #1 and #3), which I want to follow up on with two points:
I. ESPN’s Unprecedented Financial Involvement Further Weakens The Big 12
Mr. Pendergast makes the fine point that this (further) erodes ESPN’s journalistic credibility, but that credibility has been tenuous for a decade now. I want to make a related point – that this is the first time an individual school within a conference has signed a large-money deal, and that such an act is incredibly destabilizing.
Conference records are by definition zero-sum games, and ESPN now possesses huge financial incentives to favor the success of UT’s program over the rest of the Big 12 schools. Even if this is only marginally true in terms of scheduling, Herbstreit giving them 20 more seconds than before, etc., the very belief that this is so will work violence on what is left of the conference. The SEC contract works well for ESPN as long as any one or more of their teams excels; this has succeeded brilliantly for them, as Alabama, Florida, LSU and now Auburn rotate in and out of the front seat. With the Big 12, however, UT will always be favored over the other nine schools.
II. The Planned Broadcast of High School Games is a Really Big Deal
Apparently, no NCAA regulation prevents the Longhorn broadband channel from carrying the high school games of targeted recruits, or featuring them on a half-hour show as “Heroes of the Gridiron and Classroom”, etc. This is a real game-changer, and I bet Nick Saban is kicking himself for not having thought of it first. Coupled with the ESPN factor and the additional $15 million per year, if left unchecked this recruiting advantage will permanently alter the balance of power in UT's favor. Where once A&M thought that UT’s program could be surpassed with some improved coaching, funding and a little bit of luck, their long-term predicament now must be apparent to all but the most myopic Aggie.
For the rest of the story, head over to Better Off Red.