The big story coming out of the Big 12 media days was not about how Oklahoma might be a BCS championship contender, nor was it about how the conference is adjusting to life without Nebraska, Colorado and a Big 12 championship game. Instead the big story centered on the Longhorn Network, a new network designed to provide 24-hour coverage of the University of Texas in partnership with ESPN.
The NCAA will hold a summit to discuss collegiate networks, and representatives from Texas are expected to attend. The summit scheduled for August 22 likely means that the Longhorn Network’s plans to air high school football games will be put on hold for the time being. The idea of broadcasting games of Texas recruits and other potential prep stars was alarming to many in the Big 12 and beyond, and the possibility of it becoming a reality caused quite a stir over the last week or so with rumors of Texas A&M being so upset about it that they were considering a move out of the Big 12 and to the SEC.
“To me, there’s no common sense there,” said Missouri head coach Gary Pinkel. “It’s a lack of common sense there to think that the network, the university network, can have high school games.”
Texas head coach Mack Brown defended the network and the possibility of airing high school games, reminding the media and critics that the decision was not up to the university, but up to ESPN instead.
“It would have nothing to do with the University of Texas,” Brown said. “Those games would be games that might be on ESPN anyway. … We’re going to sign 20 to 25 players a year, and those players will probably be committed to us before June in their junior year. So I don’t think that part will have any effect on recruiting at all.”
Texas will move forward with the Longhorn Network with or without high school games and regardless of what kind of criticism they receive from opponents. Yes, the network does give Texas a recruiting chip to count on with or without high school sports coverage. No, they should not feel bad about it.
Needless to say, the Longhorn Network was a perfect distraction for a number of issues Texas has on the field.
Texas is coming off a bowl-less season and one in which the running game was abysmal and the passing game was not much better. The quarterback competition between Garrett Gilbert and Case McCoy will be a key position battle heading in to 2011, and
Texas was picked to finish fifth in the Big 12 media poll. Oklahoma received 41 of 43 first-place votes. For the Longhorns, the lowered expectations, just two years removed from playing for the BCS title, can be a good opportunity to perform without added pressure.
“We get to earn our respect,” Texas linebacker Keenan Robinson said. “We are Texas, but if we go out and gain everything rightfully, it will mean so much more.” Robinson feels as though the team has something to prove following the first losing season since 1997 and just the third losing season since 1990. “I’ve got something to prove,” Brown said. “They (the players) have got something to prove. It’s a good place for us.”
Sources: Big 12, San Antonio Express News, CBSSports.com
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