Anti-Longhorn Network rhetoric across the Big 12 Conference landscape continued on Tuesday, as Oklahoma State Cowboys head coach Mike Gundy termed the nation's only school-specific sports network a "failure" and called for the network's dissolution to help strengthen the league.
"If we don't eliminate the Longhorn Network and create our own network, they're going to continue to have issues with this league," Gundy told CBS Sports. "You don't have a Big 12 Network; you have a network within the league that people consider a failure."
Oklahoma Sooners president David Boren has also been outspoken about the Longhorn Network in recent months, criticizing its existence while calling for conference expansion and a championship game.
So there are clearly still rampant issues in a league that lost four schools during the conference realignment saga and has no extremely viable expansion candidates.
One of those issues is clearly revenue, as other member institutions outside of Texas make little from the third-tier rights retained by each school, but other conferences like the Big 10 and SEC benefit tremendously from those rights due to successful conference networks.
But to call the Longhorn Network a failure is inaccurate -- Texas makes $15 million from the network each year, so it's hardly a failure for the school. With relatively widespread distribution, the carriage agreements with major providers like DirecTV, DISH Network, and Time Warner Cable mean that most fans around the country have the ability to access the channel.
And while ESPN has lost money on the network in recent years, those losses are diminishing and the network has shown no signs of wanting to pull out of the 20-year contract with Texas -- if there is any single entity that can legitimately call the Longhorn Network a failure, it's ESPN, and there is no reason to believe that the Worldwide Leader feels that way about its bold experiment.
Where Gundy does have an arguable case is in making the larger point that the lack of a conference network hurts the other schools and threatens the longterm stability of the league by depressing revenues across the board.
"If Texas doesn't [fold LHN] in X number of years, they're going to be in the Pac-12 or SEC," Gundy said. "If that's what they want, keep riding this horse. If you don't want that, you better make some changes or it's going to happen whether you like it or not."
There isn't yet any strong conference-wide impetus to fold the Longhorn Network and create a Big 12 Network instead, but it is clear that there are emerging factions making the argument that the network needs to cease existing and that could eventually coalesce into a coalition strong enough to force Texas to make a decision about LHN.
But if the Texas administration digs in and refuses to give up the benefits provided by the network, what can the other schools really do about? Leaving the conference would take some difficult legal machinations and schools like Oklahoma State aren't particularly attractive to other leagues on their own, so right now Texas holds all the power and frustrated parties like Boren and Gundy have little leverage to impose their views on the conference's most important institution.