At least that's what the Longhorns' ability to potentially sack on-air talent that doesn't suit the Bellmont narrative suggests.
This is the relevant passage in the IMG contract obtained by the Austin American Statesman:
...in the event that UT reasonably determines that any on-air talent does not reflect the quality and reputation desired by UT for the Network based on inappropriate statements made or actions taken by such talent and so notifies ESPN, ESPN will cause such talent to be promptly replaced (and will in any event no longer allow them on air following such notice).
Basically, Texas has a kill switch. I'm sure this will not influence an analyst's ability to speak about games truthfully in any way.
Not so, says ESPN spokesman Josh Krulewitz:
This is not common in ESPN agreements because this UT network is so unique/new for us ...The provision does not allow for random replacement of commentators or reaction to critical comments... it's more about potential situations where a commentator makes completely inappropriate comments or gets involved in inappropriate actions."
Sounds reasonable. Except that it's not common because disciplining ESPN personnel who do stupid things is implicit in any agreement and expressed in ESPNs own contracts with its talent under morals clauses. This provision isn't to cover announcers who are found naked in a Chuck-E-Cheese foam ball pit. It's to give us potential control over the message. I'm glad Krulewitz clarified that we can't randomly replace on-air talent by drawing lots and acting out scenes from The Deer Hunter though.
The contract further stipulated some unusual suggestions for analysts.
- From now on, Longhorn interceptions will be referred to as antipodal completions.
- Longhorn fumbles are to be called coerced sharing opportunities.
- Punts will be called field position mega-game changers!
- Losses will be called "opportunities for growth and self-reflection." A loss to Rice should be called "Double plus many opportunity for growth and self-reflection."
- All early entrants to the NBA Draft will be compared to Michael Dell dropping out of UT to start a computer shop.
The contract also, unusually in my opinion, suggested verbiage for any Mack Brown sideline shot. Some examples:
"If my son wasn't intensely interested in Broadway theater, I'd send him to play for that man right there."
"I don't like hyperbole but George Washington and Genghis Khan couldn't touch this man's natural leadership on their best day."
"Mack Brown is both a legendary football coach and, according to word on the street, a skilled, sensitive lover."
"Pardner, do Longhorns fans know how good they have it? Woooo Daddy! I'm telling you!"
During football and basketball season, much of the Longhorn Network's programming and potential appeal will be pre and post game analysis/highlights/player interviews/press conferences rather than actual game broadcasts. There's an opportunity for content and substance well beyond an organized stadium cheer.
Is it good for Texas to control our on-air product? Certainly. I'd like much of our programming to be an extended infomercial.
But does potentially shielding us from objective or even critical commentary serve our long terms interests best when things are rotten in Denmark?
I'd like your thoughts. Peter Bean also has a more educated and nuanced view than my own here.