Texas A&M athletic director Bill Byrne unleashed a salvo on the Longhorn Network in today’s “Wednesday Weekly” editorial on the school’s website.
In explaining what is different this summer, as opposed to last summer _ when A&M officials opted to remain in the Big 12 during a ticklish stretch of conference realignment _ Byrne cited the existence of Texas’ 24-hour network with ESPN as a major factor. Along with its 20-year, $300 million contract and desire to show high school games (or highlights) on a school-branded network despite an NCAA ruling that such content is against existing bylaws.
The NCAA has subsequently said it will monitor content on the Longhorn Network to make sure it is “acceptable” and that “acceptable content is limited to scores, statistics, standings and news video used to report those details.”
In Wednesday’s piece, Byrne identified the Longhorn Network as an entity that made operating in the Big 12 “considerably different than it was a year ago” preceding the departures of Nebraska and Colorado.
Byrne said the “landscape of the Big 12 conference was altered by the creation of the Longhorn Network,” which caused “a great deal of uncertainty within the Big 12.”
Byrne also said ESPN attempted to “coerce” other Big 12 schools to play games scheduled in Austin on the Longhorn Network. In fairness, representatives from other schools seem satisfied with existing guidelines _ LHN can show a football game involving another Big 12 team only if the opposing team and the league office agrees. Thus far, no school has agreed to the arrangement although K-State is considering the possibility for the Wildcats’ Nov. 19 game in Austin.
In other nuggets from Byrne’s rant, he said: “We rebuffed an attempt to televise high school games on the LHN, arguing that this type of activity was a clear violation of NCAA rules. The most recent attempt by ESPN is to take highlights of high school games as part of news segments. The NCAA is taking a wait and see attitude on the highlights. I disagree with their stance – as do many of my colleagues across the country. We anticipate that ESPN will continue to push the envelope with the Longhorn Network, regardless of Texas A&M’s conference affiliation.”
Byrne added that, “When the smoke clears on conference realignment for Texas A&M, I’ll give you my perspective on what precipitated our decisions, as well as my optimisim for the future.”
It should make for an interesting read.
_ Jimmy Burch