The helter-skelter realignment of conferences over the summer was driven by football. Or, more accurately, driven by the television revenue college football produces. Every school that changed allegiances was looking for a better financial deal.
Three programs, however, made headlines by remaining aloof from the process, more or less. Notre Dame opted to keep its football team unaffiliated and its other sports in the Big East. Brigham Young went independent in football and will move its hoops team to the West Coast Conference.
Texas, on the other hand, allegedly spurned offers from every other major conference to stay with the diminished Big 12. The soon-to-be-Pac 12 wanted to retain television rights from all members in order to form a league-wide network. That didn't sit well with the Longhorns, because they feel they're big enough not to have to share equally.
Turns out, the school had the right idea. The theoretical "Longhorn Network", dedicated to televising only UT sports, is nearing reality, according to a January 9 article in the Austin newspaper.
ESPN and the University of Texas are "very close" to concluding negotiations to pair the two entities and form an exclusive television channel dedicated entirely to Longhorn sports , an ESPN executive said Sunday.Texas is one of the few schools in the nation -- Stanford, LSU and North Carolina are others -- that experiences significant fan support for so-called non-revenue sports. The Longhorn baseball team competes annually for top honors at the College World Series, for instance. That, in addition to a wide-spread and extremely loyal fan base, makes the proposed Longhorn Network a much better deal for Texas than the school could have ever found in another conference. Keeping the Big 12's remaining nine dwarfs around and feeding them slivers of the revenue pie while still retaining the ability to mint cash of their own through unshared TV revenue is about as good a deal as UT could hope for. Two-thirds of each season's game schedules are automatically filled, and the Horns still have an easy in to BCS bowl games.
Burke Magnus, senior vice president for college sports programming, told the American-Statesman that once the deal is finalized, ESPN would show perhaps one or two Longhorn football games and up to "eight or 10" men's basketball games per season, even more than first acknowledged .(Texas AD DeLoss) Dodds has said Texas would like to launch the network in 2011.
-Kirk Bohls, Austin American-Statesman
Basketball-wise, Texas will gain more exposure, without having to defer to the likes of Kansas for Big Monday, etc. The whole thing is basically a win-win for everyone wearing burnt orange today. Texas is firmly in the driver's seat of college sports and especially the Big 12 right now, with an innovative approach to making money that puts them in the rarified realm of the two previously mentioned private, faith-based universities.
When future TV rights fees are negotiated, there still won't be too many programs that might hope to wield this kind of leverage, but it's an intriguing concept to keep an eye on. While everyone else huddles together seeking safety (and wealth) in numbers, a handful of programs will step away from the crowd to become captains of industry. Texas is clearly one of that lucky minority.
There's a reason they call it the Lone Star State.