Longhorn Network has other schools scrambling

By Chris Duncan, AP Sports Writer Published: February 21, 2011
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“I think it's got a chance to be huge and I'm concerned that I don't want Texas to jump out in front of us on that,” he said. “I don't want to be on the road recruiting here in a couple months and some kid says, ‘Hey, they've got the Texas Network.' I'm going to come right back, ‘We've got the Oklahoma Network,' and I need the program right away to sell.”

Other Big 12 schools without the same resources or reach are hoping for ways to stay competitive on the recruiting trail. Missouri athletics director Mike Alden thinks the answer is developing methods of transmitting easy-to-access information to mobile devices.

“I think what it means for us, it means we have to continue to find ways to deliver our product,” Alden said. “Those are things I think all of us are working on and it's something Texas is able to do and it's good for them. I don't know if it hurts us, but it will definitely help them with what they are trying to do.”

All the schools in the conference are eager to see how the TV deal affects the future of the league.

Texas turned down offers to join the Big Ten and the Pac-10 last summer in part so it could launch the network, but school officials say they're committed to the league and do not intend to break off and become an independent.

Big 12 Commissioner Dan Beebe said the Longhorns' deal can work in harmony with the league's current TV contracts. The Big 12 has a $480 million deal with ABC-ESPN that runs through 2015-16, and a $78 million contract with Fox Sports Net through 2011-12.

“All of our members have acknowledged that no institutional distribution system will be allowed to diminish the value of the conference's media agreements,” Beebe said in a statement. “And all indications are that the Big 12 is in a great position to enhance its future collective media arrangements, while allowing institutions to distribute content that is not used by our television partners.”

The Aggies' Byrne is more skeptical.

Texas A&M also flirted with the idea of leaving the Big 12 — and the Longhorns' formidable shadow — and joining the Southeastern Conference. He said the Texas deal remains a hot topic among school officials.

“There are many questions regarding this new contract that will be discussed at length here at Texas A&M and within the Big 12 Conference, as well as with our television partners,” Byrne said. “As we have stated on many occasions, it is our desire to work with our member institutions in the Big 12 Conference to do what is best for our league, and, of course, do what is best for Texas A&M.”

Meanwhile, Texas football coach Mack Brown said school officials in Austin will brainstorm ways to make the most of their new network.

“There's nothing like it in sports, which is just unbelievable,” Brown said. “It will be great for our university, but it's also great for every sport, and it's something that we're starting to realize now.

“It will, obviously, be great for recruiting,” Brown said. “But we think it's also something to let people have more behind-the-scenes looks at what we do without giving up everything. So we've got to look at what that means and where we go with it.”

AP Sports Writers Jeff Latzke in Oklahoma City, R.B. Fallstrom in St. Louis and Jim Vertuno in Austin, Texas, contributed to this report.