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Big 12 administrators should blame Longhorn Network mess on themselves

BERRY TRAMEL COMMENTARY — Big 12 administrators find themselves in crisis management. Texas A&M has already bolted for the SEC and Missouri might do the same. All of this could have been avoided with a little foresight.
by Berry Tramel Published: October 4, 2011

Maybe ESPN signed its deal with Texas to forever end talk of a Big 12 Network. The Big Ten Network is going great guns, and just wait until the SEC gets around to establishing a network. ESPN doesn't want to be competing against conference networks from coast to coast.

If ESPN snookered the Big 12 schools, that's dirty pool. ESPN, not Texas, is the problem with The Longhorn Network. The channel itself, even the financial bonanza, is an inconvenience.

But when a Big 12 television partner signs up with a Big 12 member on a separate deal, then starts bullying with the purchase of conference games and pushing for high school content, that's a problem. That's when A&M said enough.

Now the league's options are to sit there and take it, stand up to ESPN or get mad at Texas. It appears getting mad at Texas is the preferred method.

Playing tough, like the Aggies did, is an OK move. Playing smart is better. Seeing and avoiding the landmines is better than gritting your teeth at the damage.

Maybe no one could have seen the $300 million deal coming down the road, though anyone with a nominal understanding of media markets should have known that Texas would stand to make much more than any other Big 12 school.

Maybe no one could see ESPN and Fox conspiring to move a conference game to The Longhorn Network, although if the intent was for each school to show one football game a year on its institutional platform, the rules could have been written explicitly.

But surely someone could have seen high school content as an issue. Surely someone could have suggested a deeper discussion about what's allowed and what's not.

The Fort Worth Star-Telegram contacted me this week to ask why I thought Oklahomans hated the ‘Horns. I gave a philosophical answer about envying UT's power.

Truth is, there are all kinds of things to work up a hate about. You can hate UT's arrogance and power. You can hate Bevo's lack of mobility and burnt orange's lack of flash.

You can even hate The Longhorn Network. But you can't hate Texas for The Longhorn Network. Bevo TV was a Big 12 creation.

Berry Tramel: Berry can be reached at (405) 760-8080 or at btramel@opubco.com. He can be heard Monday through Friday from 4:40-5:20 p.m. on The Sports Animal radio network, including AM-640 and FM-98.1. You can also view his personality page at newsok.com/berrytramel.

by Berry Tramel
Columnist
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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