Let me get the story straight.
The Longhorn Network, as an idea, was created to save the Big 12 Conference. Instead, looks like BevoTV will destroy the Big 12 Conference.
But the plot gets richer. A dissolved Big 12 could mean the end of the Longhorn Network.
We've seen this story before. Frankenstein. The tortured scientist who created a monster that eventually destroyed its maker. Then the monster killed itself because of its crimes.
Does anyone else see the irony? Nebraska left the Big 12 in part because of the idea that became the Longhorn Network, and Texas A&M is leaving the Big 12 because of the Longhorn Network's excesses, and OU wants to leave the Big 12 because of the instability the network wrought.
And when those cards fall, Texas' best option might be dismantling The Longhorn Network so UT can join the Sooners in a Pac-16 Conference.
* Conceptual stage: The Longhorn Network exists because Big 12 members figured its possibility would keep Texas happy and at home.
Let league members establish their own television channels, and Texas (and OU, Nebraska and A&M) wouldn't look longingly at other conferences.
It seemed like a solid plan. And heck, that part of the plan worked — the Longhorns remain dedicated to the Big 12. No one loves the Big 12 like Texas.
But all the big boys at that time (four, five years ago) were intrigued by individual-school networks. The Big 12 even ran off a commissioner, Kevin Weiberg, who wanted to implement a conference television network.
Weiberg left for the Big Ten, where as associate commissioner he created what is now the affluent Big Ten Network. Then Weiberg went out West and helped Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott formulate that league's fledgling conference network.
* Implementation stage: Nebraska had a change of heart and came to believe that a conference network was the better way. Maybe the Big Ten Network's success changed Tom Osborne's mind. Maybe he got wind of the $300 million bonanza headed Texas' way. Maybe Osborne was just leery of all things Bevo.
Whatever the case, the Huskers fled, Colorado got skittish and the Big 12 settled in at 10 schools.
* Monster stage: Everything changed when ESPN became Texas' partner. Hello, Frankenstein's monster.
ESPN guaranteed Texas $247.5 million over 20 years (and management company IMG College another $52.5 million), way over-paying for the content available. Texas received first-tier money for third-tier programming.
ESPN immediately began looking for ways to recoup that investment. Which is why it began politicking for a second football game on its channel and why it pushed for high school content, hoping to cash in on the recruiting-crazed crowd.
That's when A&M said “enough for us,” and called the Southeastern Conference. And when the Aggies made it clear they were gone, the Sooners wearied of the instability and called the Pac-12.
All of which leaves Texas in a corner, with no way out unless it sheds its beloved Longhorn Network.
Independence doesn't work on any level. The ACC would be a disaster; can you imagine the Longhorns trying to sell the ACC after their arch-rivals have just bolted for the SEC and the Pac-12?
Texas' only options would be cobbling together a weakened Big 12 (which could grow even weaker; anyone think Missouri isn't shopping around?) or swallowing its pride to compromise on the network.
The Pac-12 requires that each school have a broadcast partner. Tech, presumably, would have to get a share of BevoTV.
UT knows its best landing spot is the Pac-16, with OU, OSU and Texas Tech. That would keep some of the Texas politicians at bay, it would keep regional rivalries intact, it would create a solid eastern division of a really good conference.
Texas is like OU. For whatever reason, the Longhorns have always looked more West than South. UT has played series with Stanford and UCLA during the Mack Brown era and has signed a deal with Southern Cal.
And Texas president William Powers, a Cal-Berkeley graduate, is like OU president David Boren. Both are attracted to the academic allure of the Pac-12.
The only sticking point for Texas going West is politics and Frankenstein's monster. And now the 'Horns seem likely to slay the monster that did so much damage.
Berry Tramel: Berry can be reached at (405) 760-8080 or at email@example.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.
THE LONGHORN NETWORK Unveiled: April 3, 2011. Launched: Aug. 26, 2011. Major cable carriers: Verizon FIOS. Not yet available on Time Warner, Comcast, DirecTV and Dish Network. Owner: ESPN Manager: IMG College Guarantees: $247.5 million to the University of Texas, over 20 years. IMG is guaranteed $52.5 million. Programming: * Longhorn Extra: weekday newscast cover UT sports; * Rewind with Mack Brown: Monday night playback show featuring Brown's analysis; * Texas All Access: weekly insider show, focusing on football; * Game Plan with Mack Brown: Thursday night preview show; * Texas GameDay: a Saturday two-hour pregame show, on location for home games and in studio for road games; * Longhorn Legends: roundtable discussion program with Mack Brown and selected former players.