Mack Brown Should Be Wary of the Longhorn Network, But Not Because Opponents Can Watch His Team Stretch

Mack Brown lashed out at the Longhorn Network yesterday. He believes it provides “a true advantage” to his opponents, at least those in DFW with Verizon FIOS. He was also not enthusiastic about his own participation: “It’s part of my job because Deloss and Bill Powers have told me it is. Is the Longhorn Network fueling Texas’ malaise? Perhaps, but not because watching them stretch provides a competitive advantage.

The Longhorn Network is a pioneering venture. Part of pioneering is venturing into the unknown. Texas is the first college football program to jump fully into being a brand, a business venture and a television product. The enterprise intends to serve the athletic department providing exposure and pumping in cash. One wonders, though, to what extent athletics will be molded to serve the enterprise.

Texas’ leadership wants to win. Getting boat-raced by Oklahoma serves no one wearing burnt orange. The trouble is the Longhorn Network can’t help but convolute priorities. Texas needs wins, but also ratings and service providers. Decisions are balanced to fit the team and the revenue stream. Mack Brown the football coach must be Mack Brown the television star for nearly a full work day per week. Most coaches would find ESPN running around with cameras and pulling players for features and interviews distracting. That’s SOP for the Longhorns every week. The more successful the network becomes the more invasive it will get.

The Longhorn Network is piling ancillary demands upon the program, without providing the ancillary benefits. Texas is getting little exposure. What little exposure its getting has been negative.LHN’s enduring qualities thus far have been (a) being a flash point to drive jealousy and conference realignment (b) not being available to most cable and satellite subscribers and (c) fomenting ethical conflicts.

This all has little to do with Texas’ talented defense stinking in 2012, but may gravely affect the program moving forward. Texas is now making television. The Longhorns were willing to jettison their biggest rivalry to make this thing happen. Are we that far off from the Longhorns facing pressure to tweak offensive schemes or considering how camera friendly prospective quarterback recruits are? Will football success be the first priority in non-conference scheduling? Austin has long been considered “the” destination in job in college football. How many elite coaches (Chris Petersen?) want to cede as much control as Mack does and be coaches cum television personalities?

Texas saw the dollar signs and went all in with the Longhorn Network. The only certainty about the longterm football effect is that it will be indelible.

[Photo via Presswire]

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