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NCAA To Review High School Sports Ban On School/Conference Networks

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Longhorn Network, ESPN, and University of Texas representatives participated in an NCAA summit on Monday expected to launch a review of the governing body's ruling that televising high school sporting events on school and conference networks violates NCAA bylaws.

Among the attendees were Dave Brown, the general manager of the Longhorn Network, Burke Magnus, the vice president of college sports programming for ESPN whose comments Friday sparked discussion of the possibility of showing high school football highlights on the Longhorn Network, Chris Plonsky, the women's athletic director and senior associate athletic director, as well as a Texas media consultant and the school's vice president for legal affairs.

It's a list full of hard hitters from the school, ESPN, and the Longhorn Network, and they were there to represent those intertwined interests, particularly in regards to achieving some ability to show high school sports content on the Longhorn Network, whether games or highlights.

Other representatives of school and conference networks were in attendance, but it's not clear whether there is much impetus from those entities to change NCAA bylaws. ESPN seems to be leading the charge here, though the increased programming opportunities would benefit the Big 10 network and the Pac 12 network, as well as any school or conference networks that will emerge in the next several years.

There's at least a possibility that ESPN will get its way with the NCAA. Kevin Lennon, the NCAA's vice president for academic and membership affairs, noted that the summit was the beginning of a review process that will re-evaluate the NCAA's position on the issue of televising high school sports:

This is the start of an educational process that will lead to a final policy decision on this issue by the presidents. We want them to make the best possible decision based on data. We are approaching this from a broad policy perspective. We began the conversation today, and we will go back out to the membership to continue it.

The consummate consumer advocate, Magnus noted the desire from fans for this programming and went as far as to offer to the NCAA "our continued participation as these issues evolve." In other words, ESPN will continue to monitor the situation and begin to bring whatever pressure to bear is necessary to get what the network wants.

At some point between six and nine months from now, the NCAA Board of Directors will meet to make a final ruling that could include revising the bylaws that forbid televising high school events. If ESPN has anything to do with it, the Longhorn Network will get the power to at least show high school football highlights. Can the NCAA afford not to heed such a powerful voice as that of ESPN?