ESPN's Texas Longhorn Network - Good For College Sports?

Yesterday the fearless leader in sports, ESPN, announced that they'd struck a deal with the University of Texas to create a new network that will pay Texas and their licensing partner IMG College $300M over the next 20 years to broadcast Longhorn sports and other University of Texas-related content. 

Your first reaction as a Husker fan might be outrage and then a nod to signify that this is the reason Nebraska left the Big 12 in the first place - because Texas refused to share with anyone else and is only interested in looking out for themselves. 

That reaction should disappear if you realize that Nebraska did nearly the same thing as Texas - left to join a conference in which they'll be making more than they were previously largely due to a successful college sports television network. The fact that Nebraska will be equally sharing in Big Ten Network revenue with the rest of the Big Ten members might make you feel better about the arrangement, but the end game is still the same - increased revenue for collegiate sports content. 

There is the problem of a conflict of interest - if ESPN unearths unsavory information about NCAA violations occurring at Texas, will they be willing to release it, knowing full well it may damage an asset that they now hold? It's a worthy discussion until you realize that ESPN doesn't break stories as much as they pre-arrange them (ala LeBron James "The Decision" garbage) - a concept that should lead you to re-evaluate how much you value them for news content much like you've most likely re-evaluated CNN, Fox News and MSNBC within the past couple of years. 

Matt Hinton, aka Dr Saturday asks

The only question then - besides what, exactly, is going to air on the network between retrospectives on the 1975 Bluebonnet Bowl, all-night Cat Osterman marathons and reruns of "Friday Night Lights" and "Austin Stories" - is, what other school(s) has the cachet to follow suit?

With regards to the first part of the question, the new network will feature at least one football game each season (probably the one against the Little Sisters of the Poor), the spring football game, a minimum of eight basketball games, along with several other sports. They'll also include some academic and cultural shows, probably filling out the hours between one and six am in the morning. (Hey, true sports nerds would stay up and watch "The Quantum Physics of Contact Football" or "The Interpretive Dance of Ricky Williams", right? I know I would.)

With regards to the "lesser sports" - I am more apt to watch a Husker baseball, volleyball, soccer, or women's basketball game than anything else currently on television. What made the Big Ten Network such a rousing success is that they recognized that people like me exist - that we're not going to be watching the NBA (or one of the other 23 variations of 'Dysfunction Families du Jour") just because it might be the only sport available - that college sports, regardless of how minuscule the market appears, has some value, perhaps more value than most are willing to admit. 

With regards to the second part of Hinton's question, the answer is - what other school won't be looking at creating their own network? Not everyone (anyone?) will make as much as Texas, but that shouldn't stop them from looking into the possibilities, certainly there are other networks beyond ESPN that will be willing to pay a few millions to broadcast sports that college fans want to follow. If you were wondering about Oklahoma or Texas A&M's reaction to this news, wonder no further than that they're likely already looking into building their own arrangements. 

As a college sports fan I have to believe that this is a good direction for collegiate athletics. It not only increases revenue opportunities for universities that are struggling with costs, but it increases the exposure of lesser-valued sports that otherwise wouldn't been seen. 

That can't be a bad thing, can it? 

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