It has been about one week since the University of Texas and ESPN announced that they would be partnering together to bring the Longhorn Network to fruition. This 20 year, $300 million deal is a landmark moment in collegiate athletics and even though the network is only going to show ONE live football game a season the move is a definite positive for the Longhorns on a myriad of levels.
We will get into the football issues after the jump but first a quick look at the definitive positives from the university stand point. Obviously the school as a whole is going to benefit from the added cash flowing into their already overflowing coffers. That means better facilities on both the academic and athletic front. That means more financial stability.
Outside of the total university issues the biggest winners here are going to be the non-revenue sports. Texas has already proven themselves excellent in most any non-revs they choose to participate in, this channel is now where we'll see the biggest "recruiting" benefit. Most teams don't have non-revenue games on television, let alone a network dedicated to showing as many of their games as they can fit on the air. Swimming, diving, rowing, track, volleyball, softball and the like all getting plenty of run. Women's sports being on television more routinely. That is a huge plus that has gone un-mentioned due to the "revenue-centric" viewpoints that most folks have.
Hell I'd like to think that Texas would take this time to add some sports instead of operating at near the NCAA minimum but we know they're just going to pocket the money. For a school of this size and cash flow to only have 18 sports is somewhat disappointing. Another story for another day though I guess right?
So, non-revenues are out of the way, what does this mean for Texas football and more importantly the overall college football landscape?
Not as much as most folks are thinking.
As we saw during the conference expansion rodeo of an off-season ago Texas is one of a few schools capable of not only calling their own shots BUT also calling the shots for a bunch of other smaller dominoes. Those schools in the new 10-member Big XII were already forced to kneel at the Longhorns power altar, this isn't so much a slap in their already spat in faces as it is a teasing "I told you so" with regards their own second tier standing in the caste system.
Having your own school presidents, ADs and the commissioner tell you things are great and you'll just be making less money than Texas on a joint deal is the unfair advantage, not Texas doing what every other school in their position would do (Don't believe it? See BYU and their network, Notre Dame football and NBC and even UF-FSU and Sun Sports to a degree).
Regarding the hullabaloo created around the recruiting impact I implore folks to do a little research before they trot out this reasoning. Please take a look at what Texas has been doing in recruiting for the last half decade and their strategies and practices before just bloviating about how this is an unfair advantage. The network doesn't "give" them an unfair advantage it is more an exclamation point clearly punctuating the distinct advantage being The University of Texas in the state of Texas with Mack Brown as coach has already given the Longhorns.
There exists this basic misconception that a high school kid who watches or plays a game on the Longhorn network is the kid who somehow gives Texas an advantage. Even some folks posturing that if you grow up watching the Longhorn Network that is the advantage. Stop. This network isn't going to "introduce" kids to Texas football. Their mom's and dad's, aunt's and uncle's, pee wee coaches and teammates are going to introduce them to Longhorn football. Their middle school and high school coaches are going to introduce them to Longhorn football. That goodwill already exists, this network isn't going to create it.
Brown's coaching clinics, high school camps, youth camps and carousels are what has built the goodwill that this network will only serve to improve. High school coaches already love Texas. They already have an amazing rapport with high school staffs and that existed prior to the Longhorn Network.
The move is a solid one for Texas, they're goign to lock in their place atop the college football world and continue to widen the gap between themselves and their Big XII "compatriots." The recruiting impact won't necessarily be negligible but I think it is more an extension of what Mack Brown and Co were already pushing towards than some new method of locking down the state of Texas. The two schools I see possibly being bothered the most by this; LSU and Olkahoma, more specifically the Houston and Dallas pipelines they've built, seem to be some of the least affected by the ordeal.
The Longhorns are making a run at another Top 5 recruiting class this year, it would be their fourth in five years, that's all without the network folks.