Posted by Adam Jacobi
Concerns about the Longhorn Network were made official today, what with Dan Beebe addressing them in a statement earlier Thursday. The Longhorn Network was set to air two Texas football games -- including a conference game -- and had made plans to televise high school football games involving Texas recruits, even before the NCAA could make a ruling on its permissibility one way or the other. Fortunately for the rest of the conference, Beebe put the kibosh on that idea Thursday.
Still, that wasn't in time to stop a meeting by the Texas A&M Regents on the issue, and now Texas A&M athletic director Bill Byrne has become the first administrator to make his thoughts on the network public, in the somewhat ominous statement issued Thursday. The statement is reprinted in full below.
I have continued to have concerns about the Longhorn Network since the original announcement by ESPN and Texas. Since last summer, the Big 12 member institutions have committed to work together in a spirit of unity and equality. Recent news reports concerning this network; however, have created a considerable amount of uncertainty.
We had an agreement in place that Big 12 members would have the right to one non-conference football game and four to six basketball games for third tier, or institutional rights. The concept of the Longhorn Network broadcasting two live football games—with one of these being a conference game—had not been discussed among the Big 12 athletic directors.
Our concerns were heightened further when news reports surfaced that the Longhorn Network would be broadcasting high school football games featuring Texas high school recruits, including recruits living outside the state of Texas. Knowing how restrictive NCAA rules are regarding any collegiate representative contacting prospects, we contacted the NCAA for an interpretation. We are still waiting for the NCAA’s response.
I have continued to communicate our concerns to the conference office and my fellow athletic directors. We are pleased that the Commissioner has started to address these concerns, but many questions remain. These are significant issues for all of collegiate athletics as they relate to broadcast rights, revenue distribution and the recruitment of student-athletes.
Obviously, there's more than a little lingering dissatisfaction here, and if Texas and its new network don't address them to Texas A&M's satisfaction -- which might be asking a lot, considering we're talking about rivals with a very divergent set of opinions on what constitutes an optimal deal -- that could spell disaster for the conference's already teetering stability.
Still, it's also unfair to say that Beebe has merely "started to address" these things. He has already said that, until further notice, Texas can't show high school games on the Longhorn Network or televise more than one game on it, and those rules will go for any other school's network if/when they start up. That is as fully addressed as those concerns can be at this point, is it not?
And still, Texas A&M may continue to claim uncertainty, since Beebe left the door open for those things (but only with the other conference members' approval, and that ain't exactly happening anytime soon). And in these types of situations, "uncertainty" is really just an acceptable way of saying "political cover for acting more selfishly." So this is all music to the SEC's ears, if they want the Aggies or anybody else feeling a little more disloyal to the Big 12 these days.