Published Monday, September 5, 2011 AT 9:31 AM / Updated at 5:13 PM
Bevo Bailout: Why Texas and ESPN should run to the Pac-16
Sam McKewon Omaha World-Herald

A few weeks ago on our Omaha.com blog, I called the Longhorn Network — this $300 million boondoggle of an agreement between Texas and ESPN — too big to fail.

It appears I’m right — in a sense — because the Pac-Pick-Your-Number looks willing to bail out UT and ESPN by transforming LHN into a satellite of its TV network. Oklahoma is setting the pace and trying to coax Texas brass out of its own quagmire. The Lone Star State is equal parts sensible and stubborn, so we’ll see which one wins out.

If I’m Texas, I run to the Pac-PYN. And if I’m ESPN, I give the Longhorns a swift kick in that direction.

It’d be manna from heaven for both parties, which hasn’t a clue how to sell its network without peddling the Friday night lights of Texas high school football. That’s the No. 1 pigskin love in the Lone Star State — I’d argue the Dallas Cowboys are No. 2 — and UT/ESPN can’t fully leverage high school football and reap the benefits of broadcasting it without the NCAA’s permission.

If the Pac-PYN engulfs LHN, however, Texas can keep a distinct burnt orange flavor to its channel and ESPN can breathe easier, pulling a big chunk of its money from the table, as if some benevolent football god saw the Mouse’s rotten hand and gently canceled this round of big-stake poker.

As the Austin-American Statesman’s Kirk Bohls writes this morning:

I’m told that ESPN would welcome Texas’ inclusion in the Pac-12 because it would allow that network to renegotiate a more reasonable contract with the school for a regional Longhorn Network that would include Texas Tech.

I have never seen the Longhorn faithful as riled up as they are over the inability to see the LHN, because of ESPN’s inability to find widespread distributors. If the Lone Star Network, including Tech, were folded under the Pac-12 umbrella, its distributorship would be guaranteed by Pac-12 contracts: Everybody wins.”

And Bohls wrote this, too: “What’s ironic about these realignment developments is that the original idea behind a Pac-16 was conjured up by Texas Athletic Director DeLoss Dodds, after a round of golf with Pac-12 Commissioner Larry Scott during the Longhorns’ trip to the Rose Bowl about a year and a half ago. Scott, as dynamic a person as college sports have ever seen, took that vision and ran with it — and he’s still running.”

So why didn’t this happen last year?

Because the Pac-PYN hadn’t negotiated its first-tier TV rights yet, and ESPN was in danger of losing the whole enchilada to Fox Sports. ESPN kept Texas from going to the Pac-PYN by promising this crazy deal for LHN. That’s all that kept the Big 12 together, folks. That and Texas A&M not being able to politically pull the trigger for a SEC move. Not Dan Beebe, not this mythical coalition of the willing, not the Kansas City media beating its chest against Nebraska, none of it. Just ESPN and A&M’s trepidation.

The LHN deal compelled A&M to act in its own interest. The Aggies are doing that. UT, meanwhile, can’t move its own network in its own state. You know who showed up on ESPN’s Gameday show Saturday morning? Baylor’s Robert Griffin III. You know what everybody talked about Saturday night? LSU’s defense and Boise State’s mojo. Nobody gave two thoughts about Texas’ game vs. Rice.

Here’s why: Texas isn’t that good. And Texas isn’t that important. The Longhorns aren’t the Yankees. Heck, if any Big 12 team is, it’s the Sooners. You know, the No. 1 team in college football.

Meanwhile, UT spent its fall camp in lockdown mode, the normally-loquacious Mack Brown saving all his best lines for LHN insider peeks nobody gets to see. While the local media couldn’t talk to players for weeks, I sure did notice all the gum-flapping those players were doing in LHN promotionals. Talk about nonsense. You’re not going to talk to the Austin American-Statesman and Dallas Morning News, but you’re going to dish exclusively to some 27-year-old producer from Bristol, Conn?

Texas is a kept woman right now, a trophy for private TV viewing to a still-undefined audience. Meanwhile, ESPN expects UT to burn every bridge it has by co-opting Texas high school football as its own? Jeebus. It’s another $15 million per year, yes. But it’s not worth all that.

In one of my favorite movies, “Chinatown,” private investigator Jake Gittes asks the thoroughly rotten tycoon Noah Cross the following: “How much better can you eat? What could you buy that you can’t already afford?”

Cross responds: “The future, Mr. Gittes! The future!”

That’s Texas for the last year. UT is perhaps detestable like Cross was, but more pitiable. Look: the biggest event on the Longhorn Network all year — a game vs. Rice — just happened. Did you notice? Did anyone outside of furious Texas fans who didn’t get to see the game? No. It wasn’t even the biggest game in the state. That belonged to Oregon vs. LSU.

The LHN contract would restrict UT in ways it hasn’t even fathomed yet.

What if, when Brown retires, the next head coach isn’t a shill, but a secretive guy like Bo Pelini? What would ESPN do? Texas, right now, is almost forced to present hams as coaches. Brown, fortunately, can do this without seeming completely ridiculous. Other coaches — I’ll bet Will Muschamp, judging by his get-me-the-heck-out-of-here interview with Erin Andrews on Saturday, would be one of them — aren’t so comfy on a TV stage.

In a perfect world, Texas would burn up the ESPN contract, push for a Big 12 Network and take a slightly higher cut of profit than every other league team but Oklahoma.

But the world’s not perfect. So it’s Pac-PYN.

About Sam McKewon

Sam McKewon covers Nebraska football for The World-Herald. Got a tip, question or rant? Good. Email him at sam.mckewon@owh.com. And follow him on Twitter at @swmckewonOWH. And call him at 402.219.3790.

Comments

  1. Randy Bartsch says:

    Sam,
    I thought you were at Statepaper.com. When did you get hired by Omaha.com?

    In my opinion, this is not a good change. You are the best writer and commentator in the Nebraska media. Omaha.com bought the best writer and gave him the Monday rewind duties? That is like Tommie Frazier transferring to another college to fill the Gatorade bottles.

    I don’t want the Huskers’ best journalist writing articles about next year’s recruits in the middle of regular season. I don’t want the sharpest tongue in the state covering Texas and the Pac-PYN. I want to read your opinion late Saturday night on the game that happened that day. Then I want to read the Rewind on Monday. Am I missing something? Did you do something to get in trouble Sam? Why is my favorite author being censored!

    1. Eric says:

      Randy, I’ve been thinking much the same thing since Sam surfaced at the OWH, which has been seriously underutilizing Sam’s considerable talent for months now. It may be wishful thinking on my part, but I think I’m starting to see the OWH letting Sam get loose. I hope that’s the case.

    2. Marv says:

      Censored???????

      1. Roslan Amir says:

        Mitch Herman was hired away by ESPN.com so OWH got Sam as a replacement. To him, it’s an upgrade from Statepaper.com but at Omaha.com he’s the rookie. So, have to start from the bottom.

  2. Randy Bartsch says:

    Sam,

    Apologies, I found your Saturday article (Reviews mixed for NU’s new-look offense). Phew, am I relieved that you aren’t in trouble anymore. I’ll blame it on Huskermax for not putting a link to it under their commentary section. Keep up the good work!

    1. Mr Football says:

      The OWH is a poorly designed website. They need to give McKewon his own page or at least make it easy to find his stuff…..I can’t find a thing on this horrible site…..make this guy easy to find.

      1. randy bartsch says:

        Mr. Football ~ I agree.

        1. Graham Archer Graham Archer says:

          Hey guys, feel free to send me any specific feedback on this at garcher@owh.com. Also, you can see all of Sam’s blogs right here on his author page:

          http://sports.omaha.com/author/smckewon/

          Hope that helps a bit!

  3. Mark says:

    Sam, what do you think would happen with the old big 8 shools? Really don’t think Big ten has any interest in Iowa State, K State, or even KU. Wonder if the Missouri Valley is looking to expand. :)

  4. Todd says:

    At long last the conspiracy is revealed. For a year now I have been defending NU’s move to my K-Snake and KU friends. They did not believe that Texas started this whole dance, and now the the quote from Kirk Bohls lays it all out. Texas had been planning this for over a year and a half with the Pac 10.

    To paraphrase Kirk in Star Trek II, “Beebe, I’m LAUGHING at the superior intellect…”

  5. Bob says:

    Sam

    This is way off topic, but I am the same Bob who called you crazy last week for predicting that Minnesota might hang with USC.

    You were dead on and I was dead wrong.

    Great call.

    Just wanted to acknowledge that.

  6. Gene O says:

    So, the Pac 12(for now) might bail out Bevo now that it’s LHN is turning into the Lemon Head Network? Why? They’re making a ton of money now. If nothing else, make sure Dodds and Co. are put in their place as an equal partner. Lots of luck with that.

    Just remember what they did to the last two conferences they were in.

  7. Swany56 says:

    Ahhhhh, thats not smoke from a drought stricken state burning to the ground…. it’s that little red headed bully on the corner, Bobby Bevo, burning ANOTHER conference to the ground, if I were Scott I’d be “verwy verwy careful” adding them to the mix, track record says they are not very good at playing nicely with the neighborhood kids…….

  8. Scott says:

    I just moved from Texas and down there we knew of UT shopping around for a conference as early as September of 2009. Just amazed me that the northern schools could not see through all the dung left by roving longhorns. And we all knew who ran the conference, and his name was not Dan Beebe.,

    1. kevin says:

      Scott, I am simply amazed that the PAC XII woud take Texas, almost dumbfounded. I was truly hoping they would get caught holding the LH SH*t bag….. I don’t know after showing my true colors twice before ( SWC, Big XII) I would hope other conferences would see them for what they are… you know the chick who kept cheating on her man…. SOONER /S or later you figure no one would marry her…. I hope at least the Pac XII- or XVI sleeps with one eye open

  9. UltimaRatioRegum says:

    “What’s ironic about these realignment developments is that the original idea behind a Pac-16 was conjured up by Texas Athletic Director DeLoss Dodds…”

    Wow. With conference number 2 burning to the ground around them, the Great Texas Ego claims “Oh, the PAC 16 was all our idea. ” Probably dreamed it up shortly after they invented football, I imagine.
    If the PAC 12 is next up on the Texas firing line, hold on to your hats West Coasters and hope you are not the third conference to be gored to death by the ‘horns.

  10. HuskerinWisconsin says:

    Although I know it won’t happen I’d like to see Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Texas Tech, & Baylor head to the PAC 12. Missouri & Kansas to Big 10 or SEC & leave Texas holding the bag with their “Lone Horn” Network.

  11. david3464 says:

    I think it is kind of ironical how Texass is looking now with their LHN…and their President last yr saying about the whole Big 12 conference fiasco (that they created) how TX didn’t start it but they will finish it…
    How you feeling now Texass? You had total disregard for the entire Big 12 Conference and only wanted what you could get. When Neb asked Texass point blank about whether they would be willing to cede their broadcast rights (so the CONFERENCE could make a TV deal for everyone to benefit…TX said “no” and Neb had to go.
    Now Texass is reduced to hiding behind OK/OK State making the move to the Pac-12 so THEN TX and TT can say they had no choice…and ESPN is probably pushing them along too (knowing the crappy deal they signed is not looking good!!
    So now TX has to play nice with a different conference of USC/ STanford/ Oregon….Good luck winning that one yr in/ out!!

  12. Marv says:

    If the LHN burns to the ground I sure hope our good friend Dari (i’m not going to try and spell his last name) of ESPNU doesn’t get jobbed and pushed aside for Galindo to take over again. Dari (who spent time at KLKN in Lincoln) took over as the lead espnU host when Lowell Galindo left the “U” to be the face of the LHN.