By Tom Shatel
Well, Texas did it again. No, not lose another game. Lost in the shuffle of the Longhorn train wreck was a report last Friday from orangebloods.com that UT is ready to sign a 10-year, $120 million contract with ESPN.
The report raised both eyebrows and questions. Is Texas not going to do its own network now? Would all Longhorn games be on ESPN? Would a future Big 12 TV deal suddenly be sans Texas? Would this kill the Big 12?
I e-mailed those questions to Chip Brown, who reported the news for orangebloods.com. He replied that ESPN would just be awarded the rights to put the Texas Network on its cluster of channels and not have any new access besides what’s already in the current Big 12 deal.
Also, this would not preclude the Big 12 from signing a new TV deal this spring. Texas, for its part, would be double-dipping.
Why would ESPN do it? Brown added, “It aligns ESPN with Texas for the future, so that if there’s massive upheaval again in 2016 when the Big 12 TV contracts are set to expire and Texas does something like go independent, ESPN would be there. ... Basically, ESPN wanted to make sure it could protect one of its top TV inventories.’’
In other words, it’s a $120 million life insurance policy for an ESPN-Texas marriage down the road.
The thing is, if this keeps Texas fat and sassy in the Big 12 (and why wouldn’t it, since UT will stand to make $25 million to $30 million annually on TV?), this totally Texas move could keep the Big 12 together. Unless, of course, it miffs the Oklahomas and Texas A&Ms of the world to the point of leaving.