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Longhorn Network News: Texas-ESPN Agree To No High-School Content

Chip Brown of reported yesterday the University of Texas, and its broadcast partner ESPN, have agreed to not broadcast High School sports content including live or tape delay games or highlights.

This development is further evidence of a Texas led initiative to broker an environment that provides the Big 12 member institutions a way forward in terms of an equitable playing field. Recall the Big 12 members not named Texas were up in arms that the Longhorn Network provided an unfair recruiting advantage given the opportunity to showcase target recruits.

Also recall that ESPN gaffed when in June an executive with the worldwide leader spouted off in a radio interview the intent to air High School content. What irked Texas' opponents was not so much that high school content would be broadcast, but rather the spokesperson touted that the focus of content would be on recruit targets. And not just any targets but the most highly rated targets in the state and beyond.

While Texas and ESPN later worked to walk-back these statements, the Big 12 member institutions not named Texas latched on and used the issue to drive a stake right through the heart of the conference. Texas A&M, Missouri, and Oklahoma strongly opposed the idea and made great public relations strides in convincing a public all too willing to side with the woebegone sympathizers.

Texas has already led in the effort to modify the Tier 1 and Tier 2 rights distribution so that revenues would now be equally shared among all members not named Texas A&M and all that remains to decide is the length of term. Most members, including Missouri who has yet to publicly commit to their conference affiliation preference, are wanting a long-term agreement of up to thirteen years while few others, including Texas, only want a six year rights grant.

The dust certainly has not settled for the Big 12 and the Longhorn Network. Currently, most parties not named Texas are negotiating against a potential threat as ESPN continues to bow their back on distribution fees for their LHN channel. Time will only tell whether the effort to showcase non-revenue sports was worth all the fuss.