Johnny High School won’t be seen on the Longhorn Network this season, scoring touchdowns under the Bevo sign. Kansas State fans won’t have to buy the Texas network just to watch their Wildcats spank UT once again, unless KSU agrees to the indignity.
The Big 12 stood up to the Longhorns on Monday. Athletic directors voted to ban the high schoolers from university-branded media for at least a year. The one-year ban is in effect until the NCAA has time to enforce its own rule. The Big 12 also put the kibosh on the Longhorn Network airing a conference game, unless the league and the opponent agree. See, that wasn’t so hard, was it? Standing up to Texas does not summon the Apocalypse. Standing up to Texas does not get you punched in the nose. Truth is, the ’Horns have little option but to compromise. They’ve painted themselves into a burnt orange corner. It’s a plush corner, flowing with milk and money, but a corner it remains. Texas has nowhere to go. The Longhorn Network means Texas is off limits to all the usual suspects. Pac-12. Big Ten. SEC. The ’Horns can’t come to the party and bring ESPN as a date. The Big Ten has a lucrative network; not even Bevo is a big enough cash cow to threaten that mother lode. The Pac-12 just announced its own network, a complicated labyrinth that gives all those great West Coast sports a home. Softball. Baseball. Water polo. Unlike the Big Ten, the Pac-12 has stuff not involving football and hoops that you might actually watch. And just wait until the SEC gets into the network business. That league can just put aerial tours of SEC stadiums and mindless interviews of SEC coaches on a loop, and the fanatics will sign up before sundown. Everyone wants Texas, but no one wants the Longhorn Network. Only the Big 12 supplies the open marriage Texas craves — the best of the both worlds — so it’s independence or bust for UT. And independence doesn’t work. Notre Dame clings because the Irish still think it’s 1966. Brigham Young declared last summer because arch-rival Utah got the desired call from the Pac-10, and BYU couldn’t very well sit there in the Mountain West and pretend all was right with the world. But independence isn’t anything it’s cracked up to be. Texas football might be fine — Notre Dame fine, not Oklahoma fine — as an independent, so long as the ’Horns soon get back in the quarterbacking business. But independence would be disastrous for UT’s other sports. I know football rows the aircraft carrier, but you can’t put basketball and baseball and softball into a scheduling sinkhole. Sure, some mid-major conference would take UT as a non-football member. But the Longhorns don’t pay Rick Barnes $2.4 million a year to beat Rice.
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