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Texas Network a blow to whatever stability Big 12 has left

The Longhorns love the Big 12 more than ever, but Texas A&M and OU can't be thrilled with UT's new TV deal. Could this lead to a Big 12 breakup?
by Berry Tramel Modified: January 30, 2011 at 5:37 pm •  Published: January 29, 2011

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.

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by Berry Tramel
Berry Tramel, a lifelong Oklahoman, sports fan and newspaper reader, joined The Oklahoman in 1991 and has served as beat writer, assistant sports editor, sports editor and columnist. Tramel grew up reading four daily newspapers — The Oklahoman,...
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