A Big 12 football team that doesn't bleed burnt orange or bow at the hooves of Bevo will be playing on the Longhorn Network this fall.
And it could be Oklahoma State.
ESPN announced Tuesday afternoon that its new network would broadcast not one, but two Texas football games this season. The Texas-Rice game on Sept. 3 is slated for the network, and a Big 12 game to be named later will be broadcast on the burnt-orange channel, too.
But wait, there's more.
Fox granted ESPN a limited waiver that allows ESPN to shift a game from ABC to the Longhorn Network.
Those ABC games are typically the best of the bunch, the juiciest matchups and the spiciest storylines.
That means the World Wide Leader is looking for marquee games to broadcast on its $300 million venture. It wants to give people a reason to subscribe to the Longhorn Network. It wants to start recovering some of the money that it invested.
You can't blame ESPN for that.
But what about the Big 12 team that finds its game against Texas on the Longhorn Network? Are its fans going to be able to see the game? Or are they going to find one of its biggest games of the season blacked out?
Safe to say, after all, there aren't many cable companies north of the Red River that are going to be providing that channel to their subscribers.
According to the Big 12's agreement with ESPN, the network has to make a “best effort” to get the Longhorn Network game broadcast in the other team's area.
"We are actively in discussions with all distributors," ESPN spokesperson Keri Potts said, "and at the appropriate time, we will have an announcement on the conference game Longhorn Network will televise."
No doubt this is going to take some finagling.
ESPN could offer the broadcast to a local provider such as Cox Cable or could broadcast the game locally on one of its other networks. ESPN can do localized coverage of events. The NCAA women's basketball tournament, for example, is localized on both ESPN and ESPN2. No reason ESPNU or ESPN Classic couldn't be used the same way with the game chosen for the Longhorn Network.
And yet, the broadcast would still be the feed from the Longhorn Network. It would be the network's crew, its production, its feel. It would be tinged burnt orange.
Fans will complain.
School administrators will not. Not publically anyway.
Every Big 12 school is beholden to Texas. Last summer when the conference was on the verge of fracture, everyone hitched their wagons to the Longhorns, and Texas carried them through.
It not only kept the league together but also ushered in an era of unprecedented revenue.
Yes, Texas is making more than everyone else, but everyone else is making more than they did before. That's because of the Big 12's TV deal, so whatever the networks decide, the schools are going to live with it.
Which brings us back to this yet-to-be-named game for the Longhorn Network.
It's safe to say the Red River Rivalry is likely off the table. ABC has set Oklahoma-Texas as a full national telecast. That's as it should be. This is a traditional rivalry that carries coast-to-coast appeal and national-championship significance.
No way it moves to the Longhorn Network.
Ditto for Texas-Texas A&M.
ESPN is planning to broadcast that game on Thanksgiving evening, and frankly, with that game in College Station this year, it might take some major arm twisting to convince the Aggies that their most storied rivalry should air on the Longhorn Network.
I guess arms are twisted more easily with hundreds of thousands of dollars, but still, it seems an unlikely sell.
But there are plenty of other options if ESPN is looking for a good game to go on the Longhorn Network. Oklahoma State on Oct. 15. Texas Tech on Nov. 5. Baylor on Dec. 3.
OSU and Tech are in Austin, a likely selling point for that Longhorn Network game, but all three games are interesting.
The best of the three is OSU. The Cowboys are going to be outstanding — everyone will want to check out Justin Blackmon, Brandon Weeden and Co. — and after beating the Longhorns on burnt-orange turf a year ago, their return to Austin will make for grand theater.
The next best option is Texas Tech. Even though the Red Raiders were down a year ago, they've had some memorable history of late with the Longhorns. Putting that game on the Longhorn Network would be a great way for ESPN to sell the network to a broader audience in Texas.
The Baylor game is the worst of the three options, but it still isn't bad. The matchup promises to be good. The Bears, like the Cowboys, won in Austin a year ago, and they bring back Robert Griffin. The thing that puts this game slightly behind the Texas Tech game is the fan base. There just aren't as many Bears fans as Red Raiders fans, and the more eyes, the better for ESPN and the Longhorn Network.
So, what game will it be?
If ESPN wants to cause the least fallout, it will go with Baylor. The game has already been set for ABC. The school is a Texas neighbor. Add in the fact that Baylor doesn't have as much clout as OSU or Tech, and this option is the least nuclear.
But if ESPN is serious about having a truly marquee game that will draw viewers to its new venture, then the chances of the Cowboys playing on the Longhorn Network seem good.