From the onset, one of the initial motives of the Longhorn Network was to increase Texas’ national clout.
At the two month-mark, it appears instead that the Texas football program has become as unknown as ever.
“The network’s taking a lot of time, much more than we anticipated,” Texas head coach Mack Brown said last week. “But it’s great stuff and I hope it gets to cable systems soon so people can start watching it.”
And the longer it takes the network to get to those cable boxes, the more likely it is to lose credibility.
To start, those without the network — owned and operated by ESPN and available, most notably, on Grande and Verizon FiOS — will not be able to catch Texas’ first action on Saturday against Kansas, unless they have a ticket to the game.
This problem was discussed ad nauseam leading up to the season, when the Longhorn Network broadcasted (we think) the season-opener against Rice.
But an inability to watch two of Texas’ 12 games still isn’t the biggest problem: It has been given the good stuff — one-on-one interviews with the Longhorns, inside access to practices, meetings with head coach Mack Brown — and, in turn, put it all on a network that few can watch.
The local media has been given the second helpings, receiving one interview per week with Brown and a few crowded question-and-answer sessions with the same players over and over again. After a few weeks or so, with such few resources, content around these parts can get pretty repetitive.
“They’re paying us $300 million for access, so we have to give it to them,” Brown said this summer at Big 12 media days.
That’s logical business. You get what you pay for. But what about the public? The fans? They didn’t ask for a network to suck them dry — much less for it to turn the college football landscape on its head — and give them an ultimatum: Either you switch your cable and internet provider, or you’re stuck with the same tired and stale content from the regular media — there’s still kind of a quarterback rotation, Fozzy Whittaker is good at returning kickoffs; Blake Gideon has been around for a while.
“We’re not bringing them to the media luncheons because they’re still young and getting settled. If you have a guy that gets settled and is really good, you can see him every Monday.”
The young quarterbacks — you know, the most important players on the team — are off-limits for the newspaper writers. But practices are open for the network.
How is that right?
We’re now entering the third month of the network’s existence. It’s given us the following:
Mack Brown is frustrated, the majority of fans are left in the dark, Longhorn Network employees wish their work was visible and the local media has no new angles. Public resentment of Texas has sizzled in the past months, college football is as unstable as ever and Texas A&M is gone.
The network offers an obvious monetary perk, but only eight percent of that goes towards academia. Sounds almost like a sales tax.
So, if the Longhorn Network is merely pumping money back into a football program that doesn’t really need any more of it, and if it’s monopolized (and hiding) all the information regarding the team, and if it’s tiring the coaching staff and alienating the fan base, then we have to ask ourselves the $300 million question: What, exactly, is its benefit?