Conference re-alignment has dominated the sports talk and entertainment landscape over the past few weeks. Texas A&M wants to the leave the Big 12 Conference because they are upset over the creation of The Longhorn Network. Texas A&M is not alone in their sentiments. Other fan bases in the Big 12 aren’t exactly thrilled with Texas becoming richer through it’s own network.
I think we should take a step back for a moment. I’m always aware that something being new, unprecedented, and risky maybe exactly that. History and statistics say that most new, unprecedented, and risky ideas end in failure. However, 100% of all ideas that changed their industry, and thus making their owners uber-rich, started out as being new, unprecedented, and risky. One should look at The Longhorn Network like this.
All of this Conference Armageddon is hinged upon The Longhorn Network actually being successful. Some in the media seem to think this has been fiated, and it hasn’t. As of this writing The Longhorn Network had yet to be picked up by any cable or satalite provider. Aside from one non-conference football game against Rice what is The Longhorn Network going to show? A glimpse can be gathered here. A pre-game show, a coaches show, in insider show just about football, and a replay of the game. Come Wednesday of any week during the college football season I would think even the most hardened Longhorn honk (I call all diehard fans honks, even myself) would get bored of such programming and change the channel. There is not enough programming here to support a 24 hour network. The Longhorn Network wants to show high school football games of recruits because it doesn’t have enough programming. Texas already gets any recruit it wants. Showing high school football games isn’t going to change anything unless the NCAA removes the scholarship cap.
A network totally dedicated to showing the sports from one university on a national level is a new concept. However, I think it should work in it’s own state before we perceive it to be a threat to the rest of the college sports landscape. While not an identical example, one should look no further than Notre Dame’s contract with NBC for proof of this. Despite having their games showcased on NBC, Notre Dame Football has not reached a level of dominance that it once enjoyed without the contract. The Big 10 Conference has had their network for several years. The Big 10 Network has created a decent revenue stream for the conference members, it has yet to translate into conference dominance. Because of this I’m not convinced The Longhorn Network will bring ubr-rich dominance to the University of Texas on the field.
I’m a Kansas State fan. I’m pretty sure at least one cable company will pick up the Longhorn Network, but only after Texas & ESPN come down in their price. I get why people are concerned about Texas revenue streams and un-even distribution of conference revenue in the Big 12. I also get that a lot of sports is about pride. I’m not totally sold that the Big 12 will be around forever, but I know that right now there isn’t a better conference for the current membership, competitively, historically, and logistically than the Big 12. Before we get scared of the giant monster in the room, we might want to make sure the monster isn’t just wearing a mask, and that there aren’t, bigger, more threatening monsters outside the room.