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Texas Appears to Be Trying to Bluff Its Way to Keeping the Longhorn Network

If you missed it over the weekend, the Big 12 was nearly wiped off the college football map. Oklahoma and Oklahoma State began packing their bags to join the Pac-12 – soon to be Pac-16 – and Texas and Texas Tech (a package deal) were supposed to be right behind them.

Then, on Sunday, Chip Brown of Rivals floated this:

A source close to Texas put the chances of UT going to the Pac-12 at “50 to 60 percent” on Friday night and had those odds increasing as of Saturday. But on Sunday, those percentages dropped to “20 percent,” according to the source, because Texas wanted to explore ways to hold onto the Longhorn Network.

Texas would have to give up LHN if it went to the Pac-12, which has equal revenue sharing and pools its third-tier TV rights in a series of regional networks.

The $300 million, 20-year contract Texas signed with ESPN has become important to UT’s board of regents, sources said, because in an age of higher education cutbacks, UT athletics is contributing $5 million per year to academics in the first five years of the deal.

If Texas went to the Pac-12, LHN would have to be re-worked so that Texas would share revenue with a partner in a regional network (possibly Texas Tech) as well as the Pac-12, forcing the Longhorns to give up much of their unique branding and riches.

But if the Big 12 comes apart, another way for Texas to hold onto LHN may be joining the Atlantic Coast Conference, two sources close to the situation said Monday. ESPN holds the TV rights in the ACC and also owns and operates LHN.

If you’re unaware of Chip Brown’s history, he made a big splash as a reporter last summer during conference realignment. He broke a lot of stories that were Texas-related. Many surmised that Texas was using Brown as a mouthpiece for the university, and if Texas wanted to float rumors to its benefit, Brown was their outlet. (Remember when schools/agents/large corporate entities used to use newspapers this way?)

Naturally, reporters covering the Maryland-Miami game last night asked ACC commish John Swofford about a Texas-ACC union and he said it was “news to him.” Obviously, Swofford could have been lying. But the guess here – today, at least; shit, at the rate this story is changing, who knows what could happen tomorrow – is that Texas is trying to bluff the Pac-12 into keeping the Longhorn Network. Surely, some suits in Texas are complaining about the potential of losing the contract with ESPN, but moreso, what about the ignominy of having to share the same bread with Texas Tech! Texas got all huffy and tried to muscle Texas A&M into not leaving the conference … I wonder if we’ll hear the same threats about Oklahoma and the Red River Rivalry.

Ruining the Big 12 for the Longhorn Network is one thing; causing the league to disband to join the Pac-12 and be on equal football with Texas Tech is another. According to Jon Wilner of the Mercury News, the Pac-12 won’t budge on the revenue issue. Nor should it. The Pac-12 could use Texas, but it certainly doesn’t need Texas. So, uh, Baylor, how you doin‘?

Previously: Rice Band Mocks Texas, SEC, Alignment
Previously: Texas A&M Has Left the Big 12. So Who Will the SEC Invite as the 14th Team, Missouri or Virginia Tech?
Previously: Ranking the Big 12 Sports Programs From Most to Least Desirable

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