clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Texas And The New Big Twelve: Heading To An Early Divorce?

TwistNHook: I thought this might be an interesting question to consider. Recently, Texas got quite the deal from ESPN:

University of Texas president Bill Powers announced today that the university has reached a 20-year deal with ESPN to carry the forthcoming Longhorns sports television network. President Powers announced that the deal was signed for $300 million dollars, and includes a partnership with IMG College, the company which handles UT's marketing and licensing.

Burnt Orange Nation had a lengthy discussion of this deal and its relevance to the TexasX conference.

What are your guys' thoughts on this whole situation? One of the reasons why A+M stayed with the TexasX instead of going to the SEC was because of TexasX commissioner Bebee's promise of a $20 mil a year TV contract. If Texas has its own TV contract does that kill the TexasX TV contract?

And more generally, how does this make you feel about the failure of the Pac16? How does this make you feel regarding the Pac12 TV contract? One of the sticking points, apparently, was that Texas *still* wanted to have its own TV network and Larry Scott absolutely refused. Or something like that, it was all very murky and remains murky to this day.

Avinash: The original Pac-16 is dead. This deal ensures Texas will be on its way to independent status soon enough if the other schools in the conference get wary of the power of the Bevo. I doubt Scott would want the other Texas schools and the Oklahomas without Texas involved.

A&M will probably be gone very soon. So after all the silly posturing by the Texas Legislature about keeping the two schools together, it's very likely they'll be going their separate ways in a few years anyway.

However, the success of the Texas network could go a long way to ensuring the success of a similar (but fairer) Pac-12 network. Much of the success of the Longhorns TV platform will come from in-state subscribers (hard to imagine why anyone out-of-state would want this network); the Pac-12 will very much depend on the number of people in California who would be willing to subscribe to the channel. We shall see.

TwistNHook: Does this mean that Texas A+M passed up a lucrative opportunity to go to the SEC to stay with a Texas team that is about to bail on them?

Avinash: Texas won't bail on them. Texas A&M will bail down the line once they learn how disadvantageous a position this Texas Network places them in. Those Aggies to the SEC talks were serious.

TwistNHook: So, they could have missed out on years on lucrativity by not moving. Is lucrativity even a word??????

Here is a post from the official Aggie site on the blog of Bill Byrne, A+M's AD:

As our league transitions to a 10-team conference next season, I see one of two things happening with the third-tier rights. Discussions have taken place in recent months regarding a 9-team Big 12 Network which would operate similar to how the Big Ten Network operates today. The other option, which is less likely to occur, is each of the other nine schools would form their own individual networks and/or continue to syndicate their third tier games like they do today.

The discussion has been to allow each school to retain one football home game and four or five home men’s basketball games the school could put up on their own network, offer as part of a third-tier conference package, or offer as a pay-per-view game. We will be meeting as athletic directors soon to discuss our options.

A 9-team Big12 Network would not seem so good, methinks. Texas is the big jewel there. However, he has a previous post from the last summer when all this first surfaced with some other thoughts:

Statement One: Texas is going to have a cable channel like the Big Ten Network that will give them even more money and recruiting advantages. After all, it was reported in and many media outlets picked it up, so it must be true.

Here are the facts. The bottom line is NOTHING HAS CHANGED! They could have had their own network for the last 14 years of the Big 12 and so could we or any member of the conference. Our friends have been bringing their Longhorn Sports Network television mic flags around for years. Their stand alone network has still not happened yet.

ABC/ESPN and FOX continue to have rights to the league's vast inventory of home football, men's basketball, and women's basketball games. For specific's regarding the Big 12 TV Contracts, click here.

And, further:

Today, the financial numbers simply do not work in our favor to produce 168 hours of TV every week. If you think about it, a separate school network does not work unless it's public television, and they need all kinds of institutional and federal government funding. Last time I checked, the college athletic departments are not eligible.

What he is saying is that the Texas Network is only going to have 1 Texas football game and 8 Texas basketball games on it. Others still own the rights to the vast majority of the Texas games. So, it is going to be a lot of non-Texas football and basketball games on there, including non-revenue sports and other types of shows. The AD doesn't appear to be too concerned regarding that. He believes that the 9-team network channel could still work, because, really, only 1 Texas football game and 8 Texas basketball games are now off limits. Hmmmmm.

The fans are not as enthusiastic:

After ESPN's deal to run texas' third-tier rights television network was announced yesterday, Oklahoma wasted no time in announcing that they want to get their own television network up and running, too. Our illustrious leader, $Bill, seems to favor a plan to form a Big 12 Network with the other 8 schools in the conference rather than pursue A&M forming its own television network. $Bill's position on this seems to be purely reactive rather than pro-active, which really makes think his weakness as a leader for our athletic department is showing in glaring fashion. He seems content to take a wait-and-see, let's-do-what-everyone-else-

in-the-conference-decides-to-do attitude, while others are charging forward and doing what is best for their schools and athletic departments. You would think that with his fondness for the 12th Man Television Network, he'd be on the forefront here, trying to blaze a trail to make sure all of our games are on the Internet or on television, but he eschews the broader exposure Internet and television would give us for the short-term benefit of more ticket sales at home. Byrne's insistence that we don't need to be on television and his flat-out refusal to do what he can to broaden our exposure locally and nationwide is just one of the more glaring reasons we need new leadership in the athletic department, even in spite of our athletic success. Under Byrne, I think we will never be able to move to the forefront in athletics in all areas, simply because he lacks the vision to lead us.

So, the officials do not seem that upset by this, but the fans are. Not unexpected. I honestly believe that this TV deal, even if it doesn't outright devastate the TexasX league or anything like that will cause it to fall apart in the long run. Perhaps it'll be A+M fleeing to greener pastures like you said, Avi. Or perhaps it'll be Texas going independent.

Either way, it makes me feel somewhat better about the Pac16 dying an ugly death.

Avinash: Well, well, well.

In a column Monday morning, Kirk Bohls of the Austin American-Statesman writes that Texas’ deal with ESPN, announced last week, could create "a spike in Texas A&M’s interest in joining the SEC." During the mini-expansion apocalypse way back in June, there were many reports connecting the Aggies to the SEC, including one that had the school’s board of regents giving the thumbs-up for the move.

That talk came in the midst of Texas’ discussions with the Pac-10, but both schools ultimately opted for conference "solidarity" and remained in the Big 12.

The new UT network, however, has caused the talk to surface once again, with the Aggies apparently none too pleased with a development that stuffs even more money into their in-state rival’s already bloated coffers.

Yellow fever: My thoughts are basically that this was inevitable given Texas' brand power. I also think the Pac-12 probably should have done everything possible to make the Pac-16 happen, including letting them start their own network, because honestly, do we need to see every single Texas basketball game on any future Pac-12/16 network anyway? I say no, so if that really was the sticking point I don't think it made sense to hold the conference's ground there. So I'm guessing there was more than one issue that was a problem.

But that said, if BYU can start its own network, Texas starting one was really no surprise at all.

Well, I'm not sure that BYU is a fair comparison. While it may be said that football is close to religion in Texas, the Church of Latter Day Saints is an *actual* religion, with tax benefits and everything. Hooking BYU's athletic programming in with its array of religious content seems like a fairly obvious move in hindsight.

Given how everything played out, I'm actually rather glad the Pac-16 imploded. It may seem somewhat innocuous to let Texas make some additional cash on the side with an exclusive broadcast of the Longhorns beating up North Texas and some volleyball programming, but how long before USC starts to do the same? Once you begin moving away from the all-rights-in media model, you'll see the conference divide even further into haves and have-nots. How much does the rest of the conference capitulate to the whims of a school that clearly needs the Pac-16 less than the Pac-16 needs it? Does the conference office move from Walnut Creek to Dallas? How about the Pac-16 basketball tournament?

I don't blame Texas for getting what they can get, and being hyper-successful doing it; that's the hallmark of a good capitalist. I'm simply glad that the Pac-12 is not tied to them, and I think we'll start to see the Texas10 become even more dysfunctional down the road.

TwistNHook: The reason why the NFL is so much more successful than other leagues, partially, is its focus on socialism. In sports, socialism means equal money for all and equal opportunities. So, more teams are in it more often and more fanbases are energized. In baseball, the Pirates haven't had a winning season in like 20 years! Even sadsack teams like the Cardinals and the Bengals have made the playoffs (and Superbowl) this past decade in the NFL.

Sports socialism means great capitalism! So, perhaps yes it was great from a capitalist point of view for Texas, but from a TexasX or general CFB point of view it is bad capitalism. It means the TexasX is more likely to break up sooner than later in my view.

Ragnarok: So, what you're saying is, America's leading universities are not socialist enough?

TwistNHook: Yes. Even the Pac10 splits income poorly right now. That should change with the Pac12, however. WSU should have the same opportunities as USC to make the Pac12 as popular as possible

atomsareenough: I just can't see how the Big "12" remains viable as a conference, long term, if Texas has its own deal. Why wouldn't Oklahoma and A&M bolt for the SEC if that's an option? And I can't see why that wouldn't be an option. Why wouldn't the Big Ten decide they might as well take on the likes of Kansas, K-State, Iowa State, and Mizzou?

This kind of dealing also makes me a little less unhappy that the Pac-16 thing didn't pan out. It looks like Texas simply has very little desire to share its lucre with any other schools it is nominally "aligned" with, so maybe it would have been more trouble than it was worth to bend over backwards to please them.

Berkelium97: Like Avi said to start this post, this sounds like it could be the beginning of the end for the Big 12 and the beginning of Texas' slow movement towards independence.

With Nebraska in the Big Televen (withthose stupid division names), the only interesting team left in the conference right now is Oklahoma. If Texas has its own network, I agree that A+M and Oklahoma might was well leave the conference. What's the point in staying if Texas is going to keep its media revenue to itself? They might as well go to the SEC where they can earn more money. It's a shame teams like Baylor and Iowa State will be relegated to a conference with as much worth as the WAC or MWC. If the dominoes fall such that Texas, Oklahoma, and A+M leave, might the BCS withdraw the Big-12's automatic bid?

TwistNHook: Great stuff, great stuff. Any last thoughts?

Kodiak: Texas sucks. Eff Mack Brown. That is all.