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Berry Tramel: Longhorn Network turning Big 12 into a soap opera once again

by Berry Tramel Published: July 26, 2011

DALLAS — Big 12 folks speak gently in public about the Longhorn Network rift. In private, not so much.

“Gotta stand up to ‘em,” one Big 12 coach told me about Texas.

“Texas won't do anything unless you make them,” said a Big 12 administrator.

So goes life in the soap opera-like Big 12. As The Conference Turns.

A league that almost disbanded last summer is feuding again this summer over the Longhorns' fledgling network.

The story of Big 12 Media Days, which concluded Tuesday at the Westin Galleria, was not the mighty Sooners or the upstart Cowboys and Aggies or even the suddenly-hapless Longhorns.

The story was how much of a rift the Longhorn Network has caused. Is this just internal squabbling, which is how commissioner Dan Beebe describes it, or a crack in solidarity?

The answer is squabbling for eight schools. But for Texas A&M, which has to live daily with Longhorn hubris, stay tuned.

Texas' $300 million contract with ESPN is enough to rile up the Aggies. But the threat of the Longhorn Network showing high school games and, through television dirty pool, adding conference games to its allotted one broadcast game, has boiled Aggie blood.

Some in Aggieland long for the Southeastern Conference.

Forget the talk of Oklahoma going to the SEC. There is no interest on campus in the Sooners joining the SEC culture.

The Sooners don't like Texas to start with and don't like Texas throwing around its weight, but OU generally works out its frustrations in the Cotton Bowl.

A&M is different. Its leaders have to share a state with the ‘Horns. Share boardrooms and courtrooms and even bedrooms.

The Aggies aren't likely to bolt the Big 12. If for no other reason, Texas Gov. Rick Perry won't let them. Perry is a big-time Aggie, appointed the A&M board of regents and helped keep the Big 12 together last summer.

Perry might be running for the White House; he doesn't want to alienate his Texas constituency, which in politics goes far beyond A&M football.

Still, Aggie athletic director “Bill Byrne is in the crosshairs,” said one Big 12 AD.

Byrne showed remarkable diplomacy Monday, expressing his displeasure with the events of the network but vowing his allegiance to the Big 12.

“I was trouncing around this neck of the woods 20 years ago as an NCAA investigator,” Beebe said. “There's a contingent of people at Texas A&M who for 20 years have wanted to go elsewhere. Anytime something happens, they say, ‘this is our chance, let's go.'

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by Berry Tramel
Berry Tramel, a lifelong Oklahoman, sports fan and newspaper reader, joined The Oklahoman in 1991 and has served as beat writer, assistant sports editor, sports editor and columnist. Tramel grew up reading four daily newspapers — The Oklahoman,...
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