Longhorn Network causing a ruckus

Jenni Carlson: Showing high school football games on Texas' channel will cause all kinds of problems
by Jenni Carlson Published: July 20, 2011
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The Longhorn Network has yet to broadcast one second of programming, but it continues to create controversy.

The latest scuttlebutt involves its hopes of broadcasting high school football games.

According to the head of the network, it wants to broadcast a dozen and a half high school games this season. Most would be in-state games, but some might be out-of-state contests. Many of the high school games might include players who’ve committed to Texas or players who’re being recruited by the Longhorns but are yet uncommitted.

Yes, those are alarm bells coming from Norman, Stillwater, College Station and every other college town that likes to see a Texas high school football player or 20 on their football team.

The burnt-orange, Longhorn-emblazoned channel broadcasting high school games involving recruits being wooed by the Horns — sure sounds like an NCAA violation, doesn’t it?

Word out of Austin is that the university and the NCAA are in the process of working out the kinks that would allow the broadcast of high school games.

Kinks? These seem more like massive knots. How can a network branded by a university broadcast the games of high school recruits without committing some serious violations? How can it do that while other schools can’t even mention recruits’ names until they’re signed without committing a violation? How can that be allowable?

If the NCAA signs off on it, it would be unconscionable.

Amid all of the uncertainty, Big 12 commissioner Dan Beebe put the brakes on the entire idea Wednesday, the Dallas Morning News reported. He didn’t stop it entirely, but he slowed it down, putting it on hold pending decisions by the NCAA and the Big 12.

I suspect network and school officials are looking for a loophole in the NCAA bylaws, and if I were them, I’d do the same thing. They’ve got this amazing tool in the Longhorn Network; might as well see what it can do within the rules.

The biggest problem for them, though, is what the head of the network has already said.

During a radio interview earlier this summer on ESPN’s Austin affiliate KZNX-FM, Dave Brown talked all about the Longhorn Network. The ESPN programming vice president who is in charge of the new burnt-orange offshoot addressed the issue of broadcasting high school games.

“Certainly, we’re going to follow the great players in the state,” Brown said. “Obviously, a kid like Johnathan Gray from Aledo, I know people are going to want to see Johnathan Gray. I can’t wait to see Johnathan Gray.”

The five-star running back committed to the Longhorns in April.

“Feedback we got from our audience is they just want to see Johnathan Gray run whether it’s 45-0 or not,” Brown said. Tramel: Switzer talks Big 12/Fox alliance


by Jenni Carlson
Columnist
Jenni Carlson, a sports columnist at The Oklahoman since 1999, came by her love of sports honestly. She grew up in a sports-loving family in Kansas. Her dad coached baseball and did color commentary on the radio for the high school football...
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