We’ve been hearing about it for months, and on Wednesday the “it” finally became a reality, on paper at least.
The University of Texas announced yesterday that it had reached agreement with cable sports network ESPN to launch a 24-hour television network devoted exclusively to programming of Texas Longhorns sports. The 20-year $300 million deal will include at least one football game and eight basketball games per season, as well as other sports and academic content, University of Texas officials said.
“We want to define what it means to be ‘the’ public university,” Texas president William Powers told the Associated Press. “The challenge is to create new sources of revenue to support our mission.”
Texas athletic director DeLoss Dodds acknowledged that the Longhorns new network deal would not have happened without the Big 12. Texas rejected multiple offers last summer, at the same time Nebraska and Colorado announced their decisions to break away from the conference, because the Pac-10 and other interested conferences would not permit Texas to start its own television sports network.
“Our commitment to the Big 12 Conference allowed us to pursue this,” Dodds said in a news release issued by the university. “We want to be as strong as we can for us and the Big 12.”
This actually is very good news for the Big 12 and its 10 remaining members. It means the Longhorns are probably committed to the conference for the long haul. “There’s no thought of moving. Absolutely no,” Dodds said. “We love our conference.”
Powers said that Big 12 officials were aware Texas was looking into a network deal even before last year’s realignment issue threatened to break up the conference. Texas school officials began investigating the feasibility of a dedicated sports network as early as 2007.
According to the contract, at least $25 million from the deal will go to academic areas at the University of Texas over the next five years.
The deal also involves Texas’ multimedia marketing and licensing partner IMG College. More than 80 percent of the revenue derived from the new network will go to the university.
The new Texas TV network will not replace the current television agreements the Big 12 has with ESPN and ABC as well as the existing deal with Fox Sports. ESPN will serve as distributor of the new sports network.
The new network, which is yet to be named, is scheduled to launch programming in September. The football portion of the planned programming will include at least one live broadcast as well as replays from other networks, the annual spring football game and pre- and postgame coverage of Longhorns games.
Live coverage of eight men’s basketball games will be provided. Women’s basketball, baseball, volleyball, soccer and other UT sports will also be part of the programming schedule.
Studio space to house the new network will be built at Darrell K. Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium, home of Texas Longhorns football. The new operation will employ up to 100 people initially, according to school officials.
Officials at Oklahoma and Texas A&M are also believed to be investigating starting their own sports networks.
For more information:
Big 12 Conference official website
Additional Big 12 sports news and commentary
More Texas Longhorns sports news