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The Texas Longhorns is the final program on our list of programs looking at getting screwed over by the new move towards superconferences.
How on Earth could the Longhorns get screwed?
In actually very simple—and also preventable.
One of the death-knells of the Big 12 was the creation of The Longhorn Network.
ESPN and UT really screwed the pooch with this one. When TLN was created, it was a direct response to the creation of several conference- and team-based networks popping up around the nation.
In reality, there were very few team-based networks, and those that did exist has only partial athletic-based programming (BYU TV coming to mind).
There are relatively few programs in the nation that could support an entire sports network that focused solely on one college team. Texas is one of those few programs.
So why create TLN? Because the Big 12 hadn't created the Big 12 Network yet.
After the Big Ten created their own network—and did so completely independently of ESPN/ABC, NBC, CBS or Fox—it signaled the beginning of a new source of athletics funding.
With advertising revenue and per-subscriber fees, all of the sudden you have tens upon tens of millions of dollars flowing into the Big Ten conference that wasn't there just a few years ago.
Obviously, Texas wanted some of that delicious television revenue pie.
As the Longhorns waited and waited for the Big 12 to finally man up and create a network, anxiety grew. Texas felt it could wait no longer, and jumped into a ridiculous 20-year contract with ESPN to create The Longhorn Network.
Almost immediately the other Big 12 schools began to express concerns.
The NCAA finally got involved and banned any high school programing—a major part of the proposed offerings on TLN—from any conference or team network.
Now, Texas has a giant burnt orange albatross around its neck, and the other top Big 12 programs are bolting the conference for one that has or soon will have a television network.
So how does this all add up to a screwed Longhorn?
Texas's 20-year contract with ESPN means that the Longhorns will be left out of any network of a potential new conference home. Whether that's the SEC or the Pac-12, those conferences aren't likely to accept a Texas-less television reality. Imagine the Big Ten Network without Ohio State or Michigan. It just wouldn't work, and would subtract a massive potential audience.
So the SEC and Pac-12 aren't likely to invite Texas that can't or won't have any UT games televised on the conference's network.
But we did mention this is all avoidable. Here's how.
As details of the Texas-ESPN contract slowly trickled out, we discovered an escape clause for both Texas and ESPN. Should Texas leave the Big 12 (which seems almost inevitable since the conference is on the verge of collapse), either party may opt to renegotiate the contract.
This is absolutely imperative for Texas.
Once the Big 12 is no more, if Texas has any hope of finding a new home in a superconference, the Longhorns must make themselves available to that conference's television network. That would mean a quick death to TLN.
If those in Austin stubbornly cling to TLN, however, the result will be Bevo stuck holding a very large, very empty bag.