OU-Texas week arrives, and the most dominant force in college football is neither player nor coach. Not offensive trend nor uniform revolution.
A little-seen cable channel lords over the sport in this autumn of 2011. The Longhorn Network has reshaped the landscape. Sent Texas A&M screaming to the SEC last month. Might do the same to Missouri.
But before we curse DeLoss Dodds, or go all Harvey Updyke and saw off Bevo's horns, or hatch one of those silly plans to kick Texas out of the conference, remember this.
If Big 12 leaders want to blame someone for the mess created by Bevo TV, their prey is easily found.
Try the mirror.
Big 12 administrators – presidents, athletic directors, heck, even football coaches – let this happen through their own greed and lack of vision.
Even the Sooners, who have no reason to fear the Longhorns and little reason to fear The Longhorn Network, sought to play stare-down with Dodds' baby.
Bevo TV indeed has created trouble. The financial inequities, which are so vast Texas signed off this week on sharing all other revenues equally. The shifting of conference games to the network. High school content, which would be an obvious recruiting advantage.
All legitimate concerns.
But this is crisis management. Waiting until the house is on fire to check the smoke alarm. Where was the attention to detail when institutional networks were being discussed? Where was the foresight when then-commissioner Kevin Weiberg campaigned for a Big 12 Network?
Conference leadership either didn't stand up to Texas or didn't carefully consider the ramifications.
If it's the former, that's not on Texas or ESPN or even deposed commissioner Dan Beebe. That's on the other Big 12 schools.
When the Longhorns entered the league in 1996 and stipulated inequitable revenue sharing, Texas bargained from a position of strength. If the Big Eight schools wanted the ‘Horns, they had to meet UT's demands.
But 15 years later? Where was Texas' negotiating strength? What other league was going to give UT the freedom to form its own channel?
For reasons I still don't understand, Big 12 schools preferred institutional networks over a conference network. Maybe it was to prove Weiberg wrong. Maybe it was to upstage the Big Ten and its vaunted network.
Either way, a total misplay. A total lack of vision.
The other big money-makers — OU, A&M, Nebraska — never dreamed that Texas could land a deal like the $300-million, 20-year contract with ESPN.
Maybe they were misled. A Big 12 source said early talks were held with ESPN, which showed scant interest in either a Big 12 Network or school networks. “But as we see, things change,” the source said.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org. 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.