Big 12 schools knew the Texas Network was coming. But that doesn't mean they were prepared for it.
There is no preparation for stark reality.
UT's $300-million, 20-year deal with ESPN is a blow to whatever was left of Big 12 stability.
Not on Texas' part. The Longhorns love the Big 12 more than ever. The 'Horns have the conference version of an open marriage. All the benefits of a league alignment, plus all the benefits of independence.
Texas gets the financial bonanza of the Big 12 television contracts, which are tilted toward UT (and OU and Texas A&M) anyway, then gets an extra $15 million a year for all the stuff no one cares about, including most UT fans. One football game a year against a rumdum. Eight basketball games a season against the likes of Navy, Sam Houston State and North Florida. All the minor sports and coaches shows you can ingest.
ESPN appeared to cut this deal not because it made financial sense but because it wanted the 'Horns as a business partner.
Don't worry about the 'Horns going anywhere. Why would Texas walk away from this cushy setup?
Everyone else, different story.
Starting with A&M. The Aggies flirted with the Southeastern Conference last summer when OU and Texas flirted with the Pac-10. A&M still has factions that favor the SEC.
The Ags can't be happy with the Texas Network. The only counter could be a jump to the SEC, where A&M could proudly and truthfully claim to be the only school in Texas playing in America's best league.
The Texas Network causes some consternation on the OU campus, too, though less than at A&M, since the Sooners plan to launch their own cable channel. Hard to get too mad at Texas for doing what you want to do yourself.
The Sooners won't reap anywhere near the financial benefits headed Texas' way, but with the right distribution efforts could get close to the same exposure.
And it's not like the Texas Network is a huge boost for UT football. Or even men's basketball. The 'Horns recruit fantastically anyway. Sooners, too, in football. Any advantages would be small.
In the other sports, though, the individual networks are a boon. Texas could tell the parents of a third baseman from Abilene or a hurdler from Lufkin that they'll be able to see every event in which their child plays.
OU can tell a wrestler from Perry or a gymnast from Houston that all their competitions will be televised.
That's a powerful draw, and one that has to worry the rest of the Big 12. Not that the likes of Texas Tech and Oklahoma State and Kansas can do much about it.
Could the anxiety over the Texas Network lead to a Big 12 breakup? Only if led by A&M or OU.
The Aggies are volatile. Capable of anything, including standing up to Texas if only out of spite.
The Sooners are more stable, and athletic director Joe Castiglione stands firmly with the Big 12. But others in power on campus are less committed; many still regret that OU and others did not jump to the Pac-10 last summer. No one in authority at OU wants any part of the SEC culture, but the Pac-10 remains a popular idea among people that matter in Norman.
The Texas Network muddles the Longhorns' Pac-10 interest. UT athletic director DeLoss Dodds has said the possibility of starting his own network helped keep the 'Horns in the Big 12, and the Pac-10 has since voted to market its “third-tier rights” (the new phrase for the kind of events headed for the Texas Network) collectively.
But a Big 12 source told me last summer that the Pac-10 was willing to let Texas establish its own network. And some have said the proposed Pac-10 Network will be a tough sell. So who knows?
The Big 12 brass, fighting for its life, soon will negotiate a new cable television contract — its deal with Fox ends after the 2011 season — and one stipulation could be that any individual school's television rights stay with the league, even if that school jumps the conference.
Great if you can get it, but that's one more reason for trepidation at OU and A&M and even Texas.
The truth about the Big 12 survival of last summer is that no one really knew for sure how long the revamped league would last. Now the Texas Network provides even less reason for optimism.
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.