Will NCAA Regulations Allow Texas To Air High School Football Games On Their Longhorn Network?

Texas just doesn't know when to stop.  Mack Brown is dead set on world domination!  First, they want to control the BigXII all by themselves.  Then, they want to construct their own TV network, The Longhorn Network!  The Longhorn Network is a Texas-only network, similar to the Big Ten Network, constructed in a massive deal with ESPN:

Last summer we learned that the University of Texas was ready to launch a cable channel dedicated exclusively to all things Longhorn, and by January it reached a 20-year, $300 million deal with ESPN to help develop, launch, and operate the Longhorn Network

Dominating their conference ain't enough, though!  Now, they want to dominate the high school market.  They want to show us the power of a fully functional Longhorn network by showing high school football games. However, other schools complained that this would be a recruiting advantage.  Big XII commissioner Don Beebe put those plans on hiatus:

Commissioner Dan Beebe announced a temporary compromise Wednesday. Telecasts of high school football games on the Longhorn Network are now on hold, pending decisions by the NCAA and the Big 12 about how to handle school and conference networks. The Big 12 also delayed the possibility of a conference game on the Longhorn Network, announced earlier this month as part of a side deal with Fox.

So, while we wait for the NCAA to investigate, everything grinds to a halt, right?  Wrong.  Texas has already signed high school teams to contracts:

Officials with Brenham's athletic department confirm they signed a contract with the Longhorn Network early last week, allowing them to broadcast the Cubs' game on September 1st at 7p.m.

Now, it is a little unclear to me, the timing of the situation here.  Did Texas sign this contract with the high school before or after Beebe offered this "compromise"?  Either way, contracts have been signed to air high school games, so this is not just pie in the sky thinking on Texas' part.  They want those delicious pies out of the sky immediately!  

But will NCAA regulations allow this?  Will Texas be allowed to destroy the BigXII due to its avaricious actions!  After the jump, let's take a closer look at the NCAA by-laws that relate to this sticky issue.  

The first NCAA bylaw to look at is 13.10.3.  Here is the NCAA publication manual (caution: pdf):

13.10.3 radio/Tv show. A member institution shall not permit a prospective student-athlete or a high school,

college preparatory school or two-year college coach to appear, be interviewed or otherwise be

involved (in person or via film, audio tape or videotape) on: 

(a) A radio or television program conducted by the institution’s coach; 

(b) A program in which the institution’s coach is participating; or 

(c) A program for which a member of the institution’s athletics staff has been instrumental in arranging for the 

appearance of the prospective student-athlete or coach or related program material.

 

13.10.3.1 Effect of Violation. Violations of Bylaw 13.10.3 shall be considered institutional violations per 

Constitution 2.8.1; however, such violations shall not affect the prospective student-athlete’s eligibility.

The key part to this appears to be (c).  A high school football player cannot appear on a program where a member of the institution's athletics staff has been instrumental in organizing that player's appearance.  Note that per 13.10.3.1, violations of 13.10.3 hurt Texas, but do not hurt the high school player.  Interesting.  Since there are dozens of potential recruits at a high school game, airing a single high school game (were it to violate 13.10.3) could potentially be a huge throng of institutional violations for Texas!

However, Texas sympathizers might argue that it is not a member of the institution's athletics staff doing the orchestrating here.  They might argue that it is ESPN really doing the work here and all Texas did was receive the $300 mil from ESPN in exchange for licensing rights.  

Firstly, I am not even certain if that is correct.  It would seem unlikely to me that members of the Texas athletics staff would not be in any way involved with this process.  Although they might not own full equity in the endeavor similar to the Pac-12 and the Pac-12 Network, they aren't just going to hand over complete and total control of their channel to ESPN.

Secondly, even if for some insane reason members of the Texas athletics staff have absolutely, positively no role to play in the high school games aspect here, it still might not matter.  Let's take a look at NCAA by law 6.4.2 and in specific (b) and (e): 

6.4.2 representatives of Athletics Interests. An institution's "responsibility" for the conduct of its intercollegiate athletics program shall include responsibility for the acts of individuals, a corporate entity (e.g., apparel or equipment manufacturer) or other organization when a member of the institution's executive or athletics administration or an athletics department staff member has knowledge or should have knowledge that such an individual, corporate entity or other organization: (Revised: 2/16/00)

(a) Has participated in or is a member of an agency or organization as described in Constitution 6.4.1;
(b) Has made financial contributions to the athletics department or to an athletics booster organization of that
institution;
(c) Has been requested by the athletics department staff to assist in the recruitment of prospective student athletes or is assisting in the recruitment of prospective student-athletes;
(d) Has assisted or is assisting in providing benefits to enrolled student-athletes; or
(e) Is otherwise involved in promoting the institution's athletics program.

So, this states that Texas has "responsibility" for the conduct of representatives of its athletics department in some situations.  (b) states that Texas would have responsibility for the actions of ESPN if ESPN "made financial contributions" to Texas athletics.  A quick control F of the NCAA by law PDF doesn't seem to show any further definition of the words "financial contributions."  So, I do not know if that is limited in some way to donations or if the money ESPN paid Texas for the Longhorn Network would quality there.  

(e) seems to be the kicker here.  It states that ESPN is essentially a representative of Texas athletics if it is "otherwise involved in promoting the institution's athletics program."  BINGO!  That seems dead red right there.  Or dead burnt orange, as it may be.  So, pursuant to 6.4.2(e) ESPN would represent Texas athletics' interests in putting these high school games together.  

Which would mean that every high school game aired by ESPN's Longhorn channel would, in my understanding, be a giant mess of NCAA violations for Texas.  Perhaps my understanding is inaccurate, but this seems like a reasonable interpretation of all the by laws reviewed here.

But am I missing something?  Is there a way that Texas could pull this off without violating NCAA by laws and destroying the BigXII 1 year into its 10 teams phase?  Tell us in the comments.  GO BEARS!

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