Warning-I may be compensating for not writing about college football with what might be my longest post in the history of ever.*
You may have wondered, "Why hasn't Elz, a self proclaimed HUGE college football fan, written about college football in months?" Well, honestly, last season was just depressing. Demoralizing. beyond Bad. Sad. and Unexplainable. I think Texas now holds the record for worst performance after a National Championship performance. Our season was just pitiful. Terrible play calling, terrible lack of an offensive scheme, a total failure to come together as a team...We didn't even get a bowl game! Not that we deserved it. ANYHOW. Texas Football hasn't been silent. There was the long awaited firing and complete restructuring of the coaching staff, recruit shake-ups, and most recently the announcement of the Texas TV Network. *If you haven't heard, The University of Texas and ESPN announced a 20 year $300 million partnership creating the Longhorn television Network that will be owned, distributed, and operated by ESPN but with UT providing the programing.* And, finally I'm out of hiding. The TV deal is a game changer.
It's no secret that Texas has wanted its own television network for years. The school was pretty up front about the TV network being a major deal point last summer during the realignment talk. I believe two of the major reasons that Texas did not switch conferences (Yes, I believe Texas held all the cards and decided not to move) were: 1) Texas wanted its own TV deal/network, 2) Texas is linked with A&M through the legislature, public funding, etc. so we can't move unless they are part of the deal. (That's why it would be GREAT for us if A&M ever does move to the SEC. I think it would be terrible for them recruiting and competition wise. I also think their endowments will decrease, but it would allow us the freedom to choose our own destiny...).
The Longhorn Network. What would it be? Who would watch...Who wouldn't watch? Texas is one of the largest schools in America. Texas grads live throughout the world. I remember an Alcade article on the highest concentration of alumnae outside of Texas being in the L.A. and New York area. Those are large and important TV markets. It's one reason that Texas is such a great travel team, the tickets always sell out. However, grads who relocate outside the state often miss games. Prior to this year, fans in Texas could find Texas football games on either a major network or sports channel (like ESPN or Fox Sports Southwest). Most of the time you can also find Texas basketball on network or cable. The rest of the sports are hit and miss. The alumna up North, or to the East might not have found coverage at all. While football is a major money maker and audience builder, there are a number of homes that would tune in to see more baseball games, and more than just a score or highlight from volleyball, golf, and swimming. Additionally, there are a number of fans who would gladly pay for coverage of more regular season games (like many of my friends in NYC). Texas is a strong sports program in general, even if you just relied on graduated athletes to turn into their alma mater sports coverage, you'd still have good numbers watching the Women's Volleyball at 9:30 and Men's Golf at 2pm. The network also promises Longhorn Olympics coverage. I assisted with the Men's Swimming team while I was at UT and really enjoyed watching those guys swim at several subsequent summer games. Most of the swimmers I know have retired by now, but it would be nice to see additional coverage of this sport and the athletes.
The Longhorn "Value Added" Network
In addition to additional opportunities for alumnae and fan viewing, the Longhorn Network is a huge value to The University. First, the deal itself represents straight revenue. Texas is a public university and depends on endowments, gifts, and public appropriation. The less money Texas has to request from the Legislature, the better. The more money Texas is able to raise for itself means the ability to decide where that money goes. It may mean that The University is able to keep its fees lower, to increase compensation for professors and staff, etc. There's also huge PR and marketing value. Texas will have its own 24-7 advertisement. The programming will not be 100% games, there will be a mixture of games, news, athlete interviews, etc. All of these programs will give potential students the ability to get more of a feel for Longhorn life. Free advertising and control over a nationally prominent brand. That's a huge win. It's also a huge step up in the recruiting world.
Texas is a major program and force in the national sports dialogue. I don't care who you are or what team you support, you can not deny that Texas is a major player. Most of the credit for this goes to DeLoss Dodds and his strategic plan to move to increased prominence over the past decade. That said, sports analysts and writers are obsessed with certain coastal schools and conferences (that frankly don't deserve the press they get -cough- USC). So, the ability to highlight our success means we will be less at the mercy of the occasional snippet or SI story. Further, the Texas Network will be a permissible way to increase recruiting presence. Not only will high school athletes in various sports be able to see their future team play, they will have additional insight to future teammates, coaches in a way they might not have gotten through a visit. Additionally, a high school athlete may find themselves spotlighted on coverage of high school games or student athletes. The possibility that The Longhorn Network may air certain high school games is a major win for recruiting. When you are able to get your school, your coaching, your programs out into a high school player's home 24-7, that's a huge benefit to recruiting. That said, football recruiting is not an area that Texas has traditionally needed help as Mack has recruited the top or one of the top recruiting classes every year for the past decade. However, it will be useful as the football program adjusts to new coaches.
I'm excited to see what develops. I'm excited to learn more about coaches, student athletes, and get more in-depth coverage through the Longhorn Network. I love feeling that connection that you get from being on campus or at a game. Since I'm not able to attend many games or walk around campus that often, the Longhorn Network will be my ticket.
If Oprah can have her OWN network, Why not Texas? Speaking of Oprah, how cool would a "Master Class" of Longhorn Alumnae be? Sportswise you could interview Phil Dawson, Colt McCoy, even Ricky Williams, Basketball greats, or just fmous Alums like Matthew McConnahubbahubba. Oh yes!
Bottom Line: This is a great deal for all concerned. I'm excited. I'm ready to sign up for the Longhorn Network. I'll be watching!
*I'll return you to regularly scheduled posting tomorrow*