OU football: Will Texas network hurt?
ESPN and the University of Texas have agreed upon a 20-year, $300-million contract to develop a cable television network devoted exclusively to the Longhorns.
Is that good news or bad news for the Sooners? Is that good news or bad news for the rest of the Big 12?
Here’s how I see it at this point, knowing that all kinds of things could change in the fluid world of college sports media.
* Football: No way it can hurt the Longhorns, but how much can it help?
Future Big 12 TV contracts give each school the rights to at least one game a year. For example, Texas-Rice could be reserved for the Longhorn Network. Or OU-Tulsa for a proposed Sooner Network. Or OSU-Louisiana (Lafayette), which could be distributed by Oklahoma State even if the Cowboys didn’t have their own network.
But virtually ever Texas (and OU) is on TV anyway in this part of the country. In fact, the Longhorn Network is likely to hurt UT’s exposure, since any home that could potentially get the Longhorn Network already gets the networks that would show UT games anyway.
A Longhorn Network constantly airing Texas football content — coaches shows, old games, highlights, etc. — would proclaim the UT recruiting message, which would be a great platform and envied by all. Same with the Sooners, when they get their network going.
The only trouble with Texas is, how much more of a recruiting advantage can Texas muster? The Longhorns already have huge, inherent recruiting advantages. Yes, the Longhorn Network makes the rich get richer, but how much richer can you get? There is a discernible difference between a millionaire and a billionaire. There is no discernible difference between a billionaire and a trillionaire.
Basketball: The Texas deal gives the Longhorns at least eight men’s basketball games a year on the network. How much will that help? The real answer is, it’s basketball. Who cares? In Austin or Norman or any Big 12 locale outside Lawrence, Kan.
But again, it can’t hurt. Most every Texas game is on TV, anyway. Six Longhorn hoop games this season were on the syndicated Longhorn Sports Network, similar to the OU and OSU packages that show some rum-dum games uninteresting to the major networks. So that really doesn’t change much.
Would the hype machine of a 24-hour Longhorn Network help Rick Barnes recruit? Sure. But Barnes is recruiting like a madman anyway. He signed T.J. Ford, LaMarcus Aldridge, Kevin Durant and the current crop of ‘Horn hoopsters without a 24-hour network, so how much extra benefit this would provide? Some, but probably not a significant amount.
Minor sports: Bonanza! I don’t know if anyone cares, but here’s the mother lode of a Longhorn Sports Network. Texas baseball games? Softball. Women’s basketball. Volleyball. Track and field. Tennis. Swimming. Most anyone sport you can think of besides golf, all could be regularly televised live by the 24-hour Longhorn Sports Network.
Now we’re talking recruiting impact. A third baseman out of Abilene has every reason to go to UT anyway, but maybe he likes A&M, too. Or Oklahoma. Or Tech. Or Rice. Or Baylor. Or OSU. Except almost every game he plays will be televised; at least the home games, and maybe the road, too.
You don’t think that’s an incentive? Your family can watch you play without driving from West Texas to the Hill Country? Huge advantage. If I’m Bob Stoops or Jeff Capel, I’m not worked up about the Longhorn Sports Network. If I’m Sherri Coale or Sunny Golloway, I’m beating down Joe Castiglione’s door.
Academics: Again, a great tool for the university. A 24-hour network offers the school a constant avenue to promote itself. Those 30-second commercials during football games? Try 30-minute shows that spotlight the university.
Engineering, law, business, education, all those colleges could have regular spots in which to promote itself to alumni or prospective students. My wife works in fund-raising; I know how valuable a vehicle like that could be for reaching out to prospective donors.
Heck, my mind’s spinning at the possibilities. I know the network has to be sold as a sports channel, but the academic benefits would be close to immeasurable. A video tour of the campus. Visiting lectures or dignitaries. Presidential messages. (Sudden thought: wouldn’t a regular David Boren Show on a Sooner Network have incredible benefits?)
From a sports standpoint, the journalism school would hit the nirvana. I’m sure Texas has the same kind of stuff going on as OU does; student-run sportscasts and sports-themed television shows. Instead of cable access, they could run on the Longhorn Network (or Sooner Network).
Are you kidding me? That would be fantastic experience and platforms for those students, and while the quality wouldn’t be ESPN-caliber or even your local sportscast, it wouldn’t be the worst thing on television.
Revenue: Not to be too crass, but $15 million a year is serious money. I have no idea if $15 million is gross, net or somewhere in between. I don’t know if UT can make more than, or is guaranteed that, or conceivably could make less. I do know that OU (or virtually anywhere else in America) can’t command such a dollar figure.
Either way, I think we’ve established that the benefits of a sports network are enough to warrant existence even if it made no money.
Other content: One potential problem exists with ESPN in the loop. Quality matters.
ESPN provides big money but it also is not in the habit of supporting unwatchable television. And coaches show nationwide are unwatchable.
Coaches shows would be a staple of any school’s sports network, but over the last quarter century, coaches shows have disintegrated into mundane highlight shows that test the fervor of even the most ardent fan.
Bob Stoops is an interesting person and a brilliant coach. His television show is of little interest to most hard-core football fans, much less marginal viewers. Coaches shows have morphed into productions void of color, energy, personality and insight.
Bud Wilkinson’s show and Barry Switzer’s show were must-see TV for generations of football fans. Not Bob Stoops’. And it’s no different for every coach in America.
Coaches are about control. They are about time management. They want to release as little information as possible. They want to dedicate as little time as possible to media endeavors.
That won’t wash if ESPN really is involved. Will coaches allow themselves to be coached? Will coaches give up some time and creative license to produce a decent show.
For instance, I just thought of a great show for Texas or OU. A weekly coaches roundtable. A 30-minute show in which some collection of Mack Brown, Rick Barnes, Gail Goestenkors and Augie Garrido — three of the four, doesn’t matter which three though Mack needs to be there most days — sit around a table and talk about subjects. At OU, Stoops, Capel, Coale and Golloway.
Put a professional moderator on board, someone who will ask insightful, interesting questions, and no fan of the Longhorns or Sooners would miss it. Tales from the recruiting trail. Pressing NCAA legislation. Rule changes on the field of play they’d like to see. The differences in coaching men and women. Living in the fishbowl. The prospects are limitless.
But put some drone as moderator, asking inane questions and not leading the coaches down interesting paths, and someone will throw a brick through their television.
Well, enough rambling. This is a fascinating subject, and we’re going to be talking an awful lot about this in the coming years and months. I hope this gets the discussion started.
Message Sent Successfully
Be Sure to Check Out Our Top Headlines
- 11884OKC Thunder: Thunder trio praise fans before potential departures
- 10282Oklahoma weather: Crews work to clear storm damage in Oklahoma City as the state braces for severe weather Sunday.
- 7018Student shot dead during botched home invasion
- 5955Oklahoma State football: Todd Monken thinks Wes Lunt should've stayed in Stillwater
- 5764Oklahoma medical examiner reports cause of deaths in Grand Lake boat crash
- 4633Oklahoma Severe Storm Updates
- 4517Soaring gasoline prices hurt Oklahoma City area retailers
- 4488Oklahoma football: Sooners get pair of commitments
- 4461OKC Thunder GM Sam Presti won't amnesty Kendrick Perkins
- 3863As Boy Scouts' vote on gay members nears, faith groups weigh in
Back to share with a friend form.
Add More Recipients