Category Archives: Television

Moving Perks: TCU to the Big 12

Mere weeks ago, many were drafting eulogies for the Big 12, as Texas A&M announced its departure from the conference to join the SEC.

However, with TCU’s acceptance of an invitation to join the conference on October 10, the Big 12 not only gained a tenth member, but arguably reclaimed some stability.

TCU is presently a member of the Mountain West Conference and was set to join the Big East next summer.  However, in announcing that it will join the Big 12 in 2012, TCU effectively exited the Big East before ever competing within the conference.

TCU’s move to the Big 12 presents several incentives which will be enjoyed by the university and conference.

1.  Money

a.  For TCU

As noted above, TCU was set to join the Big East next summer.  That being said, its 11th hour switch to the Big 12 does not come without financial consequences.  Reports indicate that TCU will have to pay the Big East a $5 million exit fee.

Most would balk at the thought of a school shelling out $5 million to swap out its conference affiliation.  However, the size of the Big East’s exit fee and TCU’s willingness to pay it signals just how much the school expects to gain financially by joining the Big 12.

Last week, the Big 12’s members voted to distribute revenue earned from its television contracts equally amongst its members.  Presently, the Big 12 is a party to a first-tier television rights contract with ESPN worth $480 million.  Next year kicks off the start of a 13-year second-tier television rights contract with Fox worth $1.17 billion.

The Big East’s first-tier television rights contract with ESPN expires in 2012 and is worth $200 million.  The Big East is also party to a second-tier television rights contract with CBS worth $54 million.

Thus, while for some it may seem preposterous that TCU was willing to fork out $5 million to exit a conference it never played a game in, its Board of Trustees arguably realized the television revenue earning potential the school could reap through Big 12 membership.

b.  For the Big 12

Although some believed the Big 12 to be on its deathbed several weeks ago, the conference’s extension of an invitation to TCU was not one made out of pity for the university.

Rather, the Big 12 clearly realized the money-making potential TCU brings to the conference.  TCU is located in Fort Worth, Texas, which is less than forty miles away from Dallas.  Dallas is home to the fifth-highest rated TV market.  This ranking makes Dallas the highest-rated TV market for all of Texas.  By adding TCU to its conference roster, the Big 12 enters this fruitful market and can use this to negotiate future TV contracts.

2.  Geography

Along with providing the Big 12 with a connection to the fifth-largest media market, geography likely factored heavily into both TCU and the Big 12’s decision to join forces.

a.  Recruiting

It is no secret that Texas is a hotbed for high school football talent.  Securing a fourth Texas school into its conference gives all Big 12 members a significant advantage over other conferences in recruiting this talent.

Big 12 college coaches can lure Texas recruits to play for them by promising them the ability to play before their family and friends in their hometown.  With four Big 12 teams being located in Texas, a recruit who signs with a Big 12 team will play at least four games a season in his home state.  Additionally, schools like Oklahoma are a short drive away from TCU.  Thus, non-Texas based Big 12 schools can likewise use the addition of the Fort Worth-based TCU to the Big 12 as a recruiting tool.

b.  Costs

As noted above, TCU was set to join the Big East.  While likely a small factor when considered in the grand scheme of things, the university’s athletic department will incur much lower travel expenses by moving to the Big 12.  Four of the ten Big 12 schools are located in Texas.  When forced to travel outside of Texas, TCU will visit Oklahoma, Missouri, Iowa and Kansas.  Had TCU remained in the Big East, it would have to travel on a frequent basis to places like Connecticut, Pennsylvania, New York, Wisconsin, Washington D.C. and New Jersey to compete.  Staying closer to home undoubtedly curbs travel expenses.

3.  Football

TCU has had well-documented success on the gridiron in recent years.  Last season, the Horned Frogs went undefeated in football and won the Rose Bowl.

The Big East has a storied history as a basketball powerhouse.  In fact, its basketball teams perform so well, that it is one of the only conferences which earned more money from its basketball teams than its football teams.

For the period between July 2009 to June 2010, TCU’s football revenue was $20,609,361.00.  The average football revenue for Big East teams was $18.8 million, while football revenue for Big 12 teams was $35.4 million on average.  Thus, although TCU’s football revenue is less than its new Big 12 peers’, it was larger than teams in the Big East.  By moving to the Big 12, TCU has arguably set itself on good footing to earn even larger amounts of money from one of the biggest revenue streams in college sports.

All in all, it appears that TCU’s move to the Big 12 is a win-win situation for the university and the conference.

How Much Does A&M Stand To Gain From SEC Move?

This writer gained some new friends in College Station (that's me in the middle of the maroonmayhem.com gang)

Aside from a chance to exit the shadow of the Longhorns, Texas A&M also stands to gain some revenue from its move to the SEC.

For the 2009-2010 school year, A&M received $10.17 million from the Big 12. Included in that figure is $841,381 for bowl game expenses, so A&M’s actual Big 12 share was $9.33. Each member of the SEC that year received $17.42 million.

Texas A&M expected to receive $12.71 million for the 2010-2011 school year, $1.48 million of which was for bowl expense reimbursement. Its $11.23 million Big 12 share (exclusive of bowl money) paled in comparison to the SEC’s $18.33 million per member.

According to A&M’s budget for this school year they expect to receive a conference distribution of around $15.83 million from the Big 12. Reports immediately following the announcement of A&M’s acceptance into the SEC today stated ESPN would be increasing rights fees to allow SEC members to receive at least the same compensation they would have received prior to A&M’s addition. That means A&M will see a minimum bump of $2.5 million, and closer to $3.4 million if the SEC repeats last year’s over 5% increase in overall conference monies to be distributed.

Aside from any conference buyout, A&M may also experience some additional travel costs as they join the SEC. However, don’t expect it to decimate the additional revenue they’ll be receiving. An open records request of Nebraska shows an increase of $1 million in travel costs following the school’s move from the Big 12 to the Big Ten.

In speaking with Aggies during my recent visit to College Station, the real value in this move isn’t in conference distributions, its in the ability to build a national brand for the school. As part of the Big 12, A&M was “one of the Texas schools.” In the SEC, they’ll be the Texas school. There’s a lot to gain from this move if the Aggies capitalize on the opportunity.

Note: I should note that I didn’t compare the estimated revenue members of the Big 12 have been projected to make beginning next season under the new FOX deal. That’s because I firmly believe the SEC will have an improved contract after a fourteenth member is added. I’ll wait until the time comes for a comparison.

Is Longhorn Network Roadblock to Texas Joining Pac-12?

Smoke is pluming over Norman like the aftermath of an atomic bomb. And where there’s smoke, there’s usually fire.

Multiple reports are surfacing that Oklahoma is on the verge of joining the Pac-12. The next logical question is: What about Texas?

It was widely reported that University of Texas didn’t join the Pac-12 last year because it wanted to form its own network. We now know that the Pac-12 was planning regional networks across its footprint. A school with its own network didn’t fit into those plans.

The seemingly obvious choice for Texas is to go independent. Texas can control its own destiny. The last time numbers were released, Texas took home $11.8 million for the 2008-2009 school year in conference distributions. Texas’ share of LHN revenue for the 2011-2012 school year will be $10.9 million, increasing by 3% each year thereafter.

According to the LHN contract, ESPN would have the right of first refusal to all television rights held by the conference if Texas became an independent, which is currently rights to all but one home football game. If Texas is getting $10.9 million a year for one, and possibly two, home football games (and some other sporting events that essentially have nothing to do with the dollar figure put on this contract), it’s safe to assume they could make up what they’re losing in conference distributions by contracting with ESPN for the remainder of their home games.

Two other issues arise with independence: scheduling and no automatic BCS berth. Scheduling is a tough one for sports outside of football, but they could simply join another conference for every sport except football. No longer being in a conference with a BCS bowl berth isn’t much of an issue either. They’re the Longhorns. It’s not like they’ll be left out if they have a record deserving of BCS bowl inclusion.

Let’s say independence isn’t appealing, however. Could the Longhorns join another conference? The Pac-12 perhaps?

There’s been a lot of speculation that Texas would be precluded from joining the Pac-12 because of the Longhorn Network. After all, the contract has been signed and the network is on the air.

I pulled out my copy of the Longhorn Network contract (obtained by Twitter user @spadilly via open records request and posted on Midnight Yell) and here’s what I found. First, the entire agreement is subject to the rules and regulations of any conference of which Texas is a member. Not surprisingly, there’s also a provision that covers Texas going independent or changing conferences. Here’s what it says in terms of Texas joining another conference:

…in the event that UT determines during the Term to become a member of an athletics conference other than the Big 12 Conference or not to participate in any athletics conference, UT agrees to continue to grant and provide (or cause IMG to continue to grant and provide) to ESPN the Television Rights set forth in this Agreement.

What exactly are these Television Rights? Let’s look at just football for the 2012 season and beyond:

With respect to the college football season commencing in 2012, and each season thereafter during the Term, UT will use its best efforts to provide ESPN all play-by-play and commentary rights for a minimum of one (1) regular season and/or post-season intercollegiate men’s varsity home football game and will provide ESPN all play-by-play and commentary rights for the Annual Spring Football Game.

The provision goes on to say the parties have a “mutual desire” that LHN televise no less than two home football games per season. For this discussion, that essentially means nothing.

What does the rest mean? Basically, it means Texas is only contractually obligated to allow LHN to air the Annual Spring Football Game. Texas has to use “best efforts” to supply LHN with one home football game. Essentially, however, if they can’t…well, they can’t. No harm, no foul.

For all other sports, the provision begins, “As permitted by Conference regulations and agreements…” And that means…you guessed it, no obligation.

There is also a termination provision that gives ESPN the ability to terminate the contract if a “material portion of the material athletic events” cannot be provided under the terms of the agreement. There are a few sections of the contract that were redacted before the contract was provided pursuant to the open records request, but none of the provisions I see specifically require Texas to pay any sort of fee or penalty upon termination.

The practical effect of all this is that LHN will have nothing to air if Texas goes to the Pac-12, absent some sort of concession by the conference. Since ESPN and the Pac-12 are already partners, ESPN would likely be a part of the discussion before Texas is added and everything would be worked out by mutual agreement. I do not believe the Pac-12 would allow Texas to keep LHN.

I think LHN would morph into the Pac-12’s Texas regional network. Either the Pac-12 could make an exception to their policy of solely owning its regional networks and work out a joint ownership arrangement with ESPN, or perhaps the Pac-12 could purchase LHN (which would likely mean facilities and receiving an assignment of any agreements with cable/satellite providers) from  ESPN.

The bottom line is that the Longhorn Network will not prevent Texas from joining the Pac-12 if that’s what all the parties involved want.

This article offers the personal observations of Kristi Dosh, and does not represent the views of her law firm or its clients. Any information contained herein does not constitute legal advice. Consult your own attorney for legal advice on these matters.

Deep in the Heart of Texas: What The Longhorn Network Means to the NCAA’s Ability to Enforce Its Bylaws

By: Guest Contributor Alicia Jessop of RulingSports.com (Twitter: @RulingSports)

There’s a four word saying which over the course of time, has come to define the pride and character of the state of Texas and its citizens: 

Don’t mess with Texas. [1]

Today, Texans (Longhorns fans, at least) can further tout their state’s prowess as a national stronghold, as the University of Texas Longhorns become the first collegiate team to launch their own cable network—The Longhorn Network.

For Texans, Longhorns fans and college sports fans alike, the birth of The Longhorn Network brings great possibilities.  The first perk born of The Longhorn Network is that Longhorns fans now have the ability to tune into a channel with 24-7 coverage of their favorite team.  Non-Longhorns enthusiasts willing to put pride for their own team aside can find hope in the existence of the network, as a the creation of a network devoted entirely to the college team of their preference is largely contingent upon the success of The Longhorn Network.  Thus, the launch of The Longhorn Network and its continued success is seemingly something every college sports fan can rally around for the time being.

However, today’s launch of The Longhorn Network signals another roadblock placed in the NCAA’s path of enforcing its bylaws.

On August 16, 2011, college sports fans were arguably shaken to their core when a story broke detailing a felon’s allegations that he provided improper benefits to 72 University of Miami student-athletes.

In response to the allegations made by Nevin Shapiro that he provided over $1 million in improper benefits to Miami student-athletes over the course of eight years, many pundits have called for the NCAA to inflict the “death penalty” on the University of Miami.

The death penalty is the “most serious” penalty that can be inflicted by the NCAA.  Most recently, it was inflicted against the Southern Methodist University football team and resulted in that team being unable to participate in its own football seasons.

However, the NCAA’s most recent infliction of the death penalty came long before the birth of the lucrative network and NCAA/university/collegiate sports team/conference television agreement marriage.

Although the $300 million, twenty year contract between ESPN and the University of Texas, which spurred the creation of first-ever television network devoted entirely to one university’s teams, the Texas Longhorn Network contract by no means is the only television contract clouding the NCAA’s ability to enforce its bylaws.

The NCAA itself is a party to numerous  hefty television contracts, the most notable being its current $10.8 billion, 14-year agreement with CBS Sports and Turner Broadcasting “. . . to present the Division I Men’s Basketball Championship. . .”

NCAA member conferences are likewise partners to lucrative television contracts.  The Big 10 Network debuted in 2010.  The Pac-12 Conference will launch seven television channels in 2012.  The deal between the Pac-12, along with ESPN and Fox leading to the creation of the Pac-12 Network reportedly calls for the Pac-12 to be paid $3 billion over twelve years. The ACC, the conference to which the University of Miami is a member, signed a twelve year, $1.86 billion television contract with ESPN in 2010.

The existence of these contracts is not news to anyone.  There is large money to be made in college athletics.  In the twenty-first century, the bulk of that money comes from media agreements.

However, the problem presented in imposing the death penalty in the twenty-first century is caused by this widespread entanglement between television networks and college sporting programs and their governing bodies. 

Arguably, the cancellation of any one team’s season by way of imposition of the death penalty in this age of the massive media contract would result in a fury of lawsuits.  Networks would likely argue that the absence of a team from any sports season’s schedule would prevent them from receiving the benefit of the bargain they negotiated for.  Thus, the imposition of the death penalty against a team in the twenty-first century not only kills their season, but kills television contracts. 

This notion is not lost on NCAA President Mark Emmert. 

Recently, when discussing the fact that he “. . . isn’t opposed to [the NCAA Committee on Infractions] using [the Death Peantly],” Emmert quipped, “. . . you have to recognize that, today, inflicting that penalty on any one school has a lot of collateral damage to other members of the conference, around media contract rights and a variety of things. So you wouldn’t enter into it casually.”

In an age when the majority of its Division I programs or their governing bodies are parties to some sort of media contract, and on the day when the first network devoted entirely to one university’s athletics program launches, is it time for the NCAA to review the effects that media contracts have on its ability to enforce its own bylaws?  Given that over the course of the last week, news of the largest scandal to allegedly rock a school’s athletic program broke and the NCAA’s own president noted that television contracts may prevent the NCAA from issuing its strongest sanction against said program, should the NCAA adopt new enforcement bylaws which better mirror the face of NCAA media contracts in the twenty-first century?

The NCAA exists to promote its “core purpose” “. . . to govern competition in a fair, safe, equitable and sportsmanlike manner, and to integrate intercollegiate athletics into higher education so that the educational experience of the student-athlete is paramount.”  Given the broad expanse of television contracts in the twenty-first century NCAA model, how does the NCAA limit these contracts’ effect on its ability to enforce its rules and promote its core purpose? 

Option 1:

Enact legislation limiting the monetary amount that member institutions can accept for television contracts.

Many of you likely gasped upon reading this proposition. 

In a meager economy where most athletics departments struggle just to make ends meet, the idea of the NCAA telling schools, conferences and even itself how much money they can make from television deals seems nearly blasphemous.

However, this proposition is not unfounded.  The NCAA is not a corporation.  Thus, it does not exist to fulfill a duty of obtaining the greatest amount of profit for the benefit of its shareholders.  Rather, it exists to promote its core purpose. Do the existence of billion dollar media contracts which seemingly prevent the NCAA from enforcing its bylaws in certain situations allow the NCAA to promote its core purpose?

Additionally, this proposition may be presentable, because the NCAA is built largely upon the amateur status of its student-athletes.  If the NCAA can mandate that its student-athletes do not receive payment for their participation in NCAA sports (other than scholarships), can it also mandate that its member institutions and their governing bodies do not enter into large media contracts which hampers the ability of the NCAA to enforce its bylaws?

Because of the stronghold that media contracts have on every inch of the NCAA, it is unlikely that this is a popular remedy for the NCAA tot pursue.  Add into the mix the likelihood that antitrust, tortuous interference and other legal action would likely arise in response to such a measure by the NCAA, and this proposition seems nearly dead on arrival.

Option 2:

Because Option 1 requires a perfect marriage of economics and lawyers, it is unlikely to become a reality anytime soon.

Therefore, the NCAA must evaluate its own enforcement mechanisms and present enforcement measures which address the reality of the deep roots that media contracts have dug into the twenty-first century world of the NCAA. 

If media contracts prevent the NCAA from inflicting the death penalty against the most egregious violators of its bylaws, the NCAA must act swiftly to adopt enforcement measures which match the intensity of the death penalty, but do not lead to the breach of such contracts.  However, the adoption of new enforcement measures must be instituted in a way which promotes the NCAA’s “core purpose” and ensure that the education of the student-athlete remains “paramount.” 

Which solution the NCAA adopts to address the lingering issue of the effects of television contracts on its enforcement mechanisms is to be seen.  However, two things are certain:

1. With the changing and widening landscape of television contracts involving NCAA programs, the NCAA must act promptly to adopt a solution which addresses the threat that such contracts pose to its ability to enforce its bylaws.

2.  For the time being, in adopting a resolution, the NCAA must hear the refrain likely to be sung by many:

Don’t mess with Texas.

You can follow Guest Contributor Alicia Jessop on Twitter (@RulingSports) and visit her site at RulingSports.com.


[1] Interestingly, however, the slogan “Don’t mess with Texas” is a trademark of the Texas Department of Transportation which was created with the intention to reduce littering in the state.  (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Don’t_Mess_with_Texas

Texas A&M to the SEC?

The Texas A&M to SEC rumors have heated up the past few weeks, but on Friday it reached a deafening roar. News leaked that the Board of Regents would be voting today on a move to the SEC. However, various reports have it that the SEC is unlikely to vote to allow Texas A&M into the conference. The New York Times ran a story Saturday where an SEC insider said there was only a 30-40 percent chance of the SEC voting to allow the expansion. Reports today indicate the SEC did not vote to expand yesterday when school presidents within the conference met.

Don’t despair, however, Aggies. I still believe Texas A&M will be in the SEC by the 2013 football season.

Fellow lawyer, Clay Travis, did a nice job of explaining how television contracts complicate the situation. Essentially, ESPN has contracts with both the SEC and Big 12. If Texas A&M makes the move, ESPN and the SEC could be subject to lawsuits from the Big 12. Why? ESPN’s current contract with the Big 12 states that if the conferences drops below ten members the contract is cancelled. Meanwhile, the SEC would be able to renegotiate its television contract with ESPN with the addition of a new member. If the Big 12 were to lose its television contract, it could come after both ESPN and the SEC. Accordingly, I expect ESPN to either agree to honor the contract without Texas A&M or for the Big 12 to add a new member quickly.

So, why hasn’t the SEC hasn’t issued a formal invite to Texas A&M? Legally speaking, the best way to effectuate this move is for Texas A&M to decide to leave the Big 12 before the SEC invites them to join the conference. That’s why I think you’ll hear the SEC denying any expansion until after Texas A&M has completed everything on its end. In fact, Arkansas Chancellor Dave Gearhart has confirmed Texas A&M approached the SEC, not the other way around. This makes it more difficult for the Big 12 to claim any kind of tortious interference by the SEC. The SEC will throw up their hands and simply say, “They came to us.”

It looks like a gamble by Texas A&M – what if they announce they’re leaving the Big 12 and then the SEC doesn’t offer? It’s certainly not the way conference realignment generally works. However, conversations have obviously been had between Texas A&M and the SEC. Despite what it may look like to the public, Texas A&M wouldn’t vote on leaving the conference if they weren’t already positive they have a new home.

I’m sure ESPN has also been involved in the conversations at some level. The SEC isn’t going to add Texas A&M without knowing the television contract will increase by enough to make adding a new member a smart decision. And remember how ESPN was involved with making this year’s Chick-Fil-A Kickoff Game between UGA and Boise State become a reality. They could be an important piece in making the situation work for all parties involved.

Bottom line: I think the SEC will be welcoming Texas A&M by the end of the week.

Related posts:

An Interview with Texas A&M AD Bill Byrne

Creating Sixteen Team Super Conferences for Football

Television Contract Breakdown

Texas’ Contract with ESPN for the Longhorn Network

Now that the contract between University of Texas and ESPN for the Longhorn Network is public, conspiracy theories abound everywhere outside Austin. So, I’ve decided to put on my lawyer hat and dispel some of the myths.

I rarely call out others specifically, but one blog on this topic raised a number of issues I think aren’t issues at all. I use this person’s comments as an example, because I think it’s representative of what many who oppose the Longhorn Network think. Although I applaud the person who wrote the blog over on The Midnight Yell for putting forth the effort to obtain a copy of the contract, I think he let his mind run away with him.

The first issue he raises is over the number of football games ESPN will show:

In the signed agreement, the Longhorn Network HAS to show 1 live football game a year (This year it will be the first home game of the year against Rice to fill the requirement) but BOTH the University of Texas and ESPN have a “mutual desire” to  show NO LESS THAN 2 live football games a year on the Longhorn Network.   

So where does the network and ESPN stop at?  Four live Texas Longhorn football games?  The entire home schedule?  And if the network does in fact air that many live football games, how does this affect the overall value of the 1st and 2nd tier media rights of the conference as a whole?  Less money for the entire conference on the table when 1st tier rights become available in 2015-2016?

Okay, let’s remember how this works. The Big 12 already has first (ESPN) and second (FOX) tier rights holders. ESPN/ABC has rights to 19 games and no one team can appear more than 6 times. They’re the first-tier rights holder, so they choose first. Unless ESPN can make a deal with FOX, who gets second pick each week as the second-tier rights holder, ESPN is going to choose the biggest game of the week to show via its first-tier contract, even if it includes Texas. Without some sort of arrangement whereby FOX agrees to pass the game up and let it fall to the Longhorn Network, ESPN isn’t going to risk not choosing a Texas game and allowing FOX to snap it up. And why would FOX agree to pass on a big Texas game? FOX is paying $1.17 billion over thirteen years for second-tier rights.

All those who have been following this as it unfolds know that FOX did agree to a limited waiver which would allow ESPN to air a second Texas football game in 2011. However, don’t think they gave ESPN something for nothing. The agreement between the networks hasn’t been made public, but FOX isn’t some second-rate operation. I assure you they got something in return. Sports Business Daily’s John Ourand explained it like this:

Fox, which holds the Big 12’s cable rights, granted LHN a limited waiver to allow ESPN to shift the games from ABC to Longhorn Network this season. A source said Fox agreed to the change when ESPN offered certain selection considerations for college football games, including the possibility of relaxing its broadcast exclusivity and allowing Fox to televise Big 12 football games on its broadcast channel starting in ’12.

Back to the unfounded fear that the Longhorn Network would end up with four live games or “the entire home schedule.” Read the rest of this entry

The Pac-12 Network

After writing on how media market size will keep Boise State out of an automatic-qualifying conference, I decided to take a look at the new Pac-12 Network that will be available in August 2012.

Most you have probably heard the basic details at this point: there will be a nationwide network and six regional networks: Washington, Oregon, Arizona, Mountain, Northern California, and Southern California.

Obviously, the nationwide network gets you the entire country. What I want to focus on are the regional networks, which will presumably feature region-specific programming. The Pac-12 will get to broadcast region-specific material to a whopping thirteen of the nation’s top 100 media markets. On cable! The national network will be available on basic cable (!) in the regions with Pac-12 schools and regional networks will be available on expanded basic cable through partnerships with Comcast, Bright House Networks, Time Warner and Cox Communications. Commissioner Larry Scott says he also hopes to see additional distribution through the satellite television providers.

Exact details haven’t been provided in terms of coverage, but assuming each state is covered in its entirety here are the thirteen top 100 media markets the Pac-12 will have access to with its regional networks:

Los Angeles (2)

San Francisco (6)

Phoenix (12)

Seattle (13)

Denver (17)

Sacramento (20)

Portland (22)

San Diego (28)

Salt Lake City (32)

Fresno (55)

Tucson (67)

Spokane (75)

Colorado Springs (92)

Do you think the Pac-12 could have convinced cable companies to have a regional network in the 120th media market (Boise)? Each regional network the Pac-12 announced has at least one city in the top 25.

An Interview with Texas A&M AD Bill Byrne

Texas A&M AD Bill Byrne

Texas A&M Athletic Director Bill Byrne chatted with me by telephone yesterday. We talked about everything from the Longhorn Network to rumors of a move to the SEC to Kyle Field renovations. Below you’ll find the full interview followed by my thoughts on the most important thing he said.

Q: What are some things A&M can do to compete with Longhorn Network?

A: I’m not concerned about competing with the Longhorn Network. What I am concerned about is fairness. As Athletic Directors [in the Big 12] we agreed that every school could take one football game and choose to put it on PPV or our own network. As far as the high school games, I think that is absolutely against NCAA rules. I think that’s a recruiting advantage. Fairness is what you want you in recruiting.

Q: What about the fact that University of Texas administers high school sports in Texas? Is that an issue?

A: I think that’s a significant issue.

Q: I’m of the opinion that Texas will become an independent in the next five years. What do you think?

A: They have a very good conference. They get special treatment from ESPN, and they have a place for all of their Olympic sports. I don’t agree that they will become independent.

Q: Tim Brando and I discussed on his show the other day the increasing volume of Texas A&M fans who want to move to the SEC. Tim says he’s hearing from a lot of fans who are ready to make the move. Do you feel like fans are becoming more vocal about wanting to move to the SEC?

A: I don’t know the answer to that, because I don’t know who all is talking to him. There was a movement last year by a number of people on the internet that wanted us to leave Big 12 and go to the SEC. Texas A&M didn’t push Humpty Dumpty off the wall, but we did help put the pieces back together again in the Big 12. There’s some angst here about our future, so I’m concerned about that.

Q: At SEC Media Days Commissioner Mike Slive proposed an increase in GPA required for the core high school curriculum required by the NCAA. Several coaches opposed saying they’d rather increase the standards at the college level instead of putting pressure on high schools or denying kids opportunities. What do you think?

A: I’ve been an AD now almost thirty years and I find where the problems arise are on the front end and whether or not they can compete academically on campus. If prospective-student athletes don’t have at least a 1300 SAT or are in the top 10% of their class, they’re not getting into Texas A&M. We’re an elite academic institution like Vanderbilt or Florida in the SEC and our core curriculum requirements are higher than those required by the NCAA.  

Q: You’ve been compared to Louisville AD Tom Jurich because of your commitment to Title IX and Olympic sports and success at marketing/fundraising. Do you agree?

A: Oh yeah. Tom has done an incredible job everywhere he has been. He’s done a remarkable job at Louisville.

Q: Why focus on non-profit-producing sports? What benefits do they bring to the University?

Once someone puts on a Texas A&M uniform, they are your athletes. They are your kids. I treat our athletes as though we’re part of a big family. When I was at Oregon I was introduced at a woman’s volleyball banquet. They talked about how I attended all their games, banquets and other events. When they introduced me they talked about me being like a father to the program. I feel a personal responsibility to those students and their parents.

Q: Obviously Title IX is the reason some sports are on campus….

A: I was very disappointed when Title IX was passed and not funded. It was an unfunded mandate, and I objected to that aspect. I don’t believe in unfunded mandates. Once it was passed, I stand up and salute it. We are going to do the very best we can for all of our athletes. We treat all of our athletes the same. We want to make sure you have a great experience while at Texas A&M and leave with a degree.

Our women’s basketball team won the national championship this year. Their budget is identical to the men’s except the guarantees are less.

Q: Are there any plans to renovate/expand Kyle Field or any other facilities in the near future?

We’re spending 25 million right now to renovate the baseball field. We’ve recently had seven coach’s nights across Texas where renovation plans for Kyle Field have been presented. We’re also getting a new outdoor track. We have the best indoor track facilities in the world – not the country, the world. That’s why we host the NCAA championship every third year. The new outdoor track will be the best in the country and will host Olympic trials. The Regents passed football plans for Kyle Field last week. We’ll start on the one side at the end of the 2012 season and tear it down section by section. We’ll tear down the west side at end of the 2013 season and the second deck following the 2014 season.

Q: Will there be additional seating added during the renovation to Kyle Field?

A: We will not increase size of football stadium. It seats 90,000 now. There’s a good reason for not having an increase – in the sport of football there is declining attendance both in college and NFL and increase in television viewership. We don’t want to overbuild.

Q: I’ve written a lot about colleges selling naming rights on their facilities. How do you feel about naming rights?

The new baseball stadium will have “Blue Bell Park” in the name, if that answers your question. They’re paying 7-8 million to have the naming rights for 20 years.

Q: Texas A&M is one of 22 self-sustaining athletic departments. To what do you attribute that?

A: I tell all of our coaches they need to hug the bricks at Kyle Field every day. When you have a stadium that seats 90,000 and is sold out it generates a lot of help. Also, our membership in Big 12 and terrific sponsorship program. We manage our money well.

__________

The thing that stood out to me most about this interview is what Byrne said about overbuilding. Texas A&M has made the conscious decision not to add any seating to their football stadium despite their attendance levels. Texas A&M was #13 in average attendance in 2010 according to the NCAA.

This to me underscores the importance of television contracts in college football. I’ve long said more ADs and commissioners should be former CEOs and CFOs because college football is a billion dollar business. Now I’m wondering if the focus shouldn’t be on someone who has worked in or who has connections with the television industry.

No commissioner has been more lauded lately than the Pac-12’s Larry Scott. Why? Because he secured a record-breaking television deal for his conference that involved ESPN and FOX having to work together. Yesterday, he announced details of the Pac-12 Network, which will feature a national network and six regional networks within the conference’s footprint. In my opinion this blows the Big Ten Network out of the water in terms of structure and availability. (That being said, I don’t think he has the same product as the Big Ten, so we’ll see how it goes.)

Television is not only a huge source of revenue for conferences, it impacts the entire structure of college football. For some like Notre Dame and BYU it helps support independence. For others, like members of the Big 12, it can hold a conference together. It’s the reason why TCU and Utah are moving to AQ conferences and Boise State is not.

The stadium capacity arms race in college football is over. Sure, stadiums will still be renovated and improved, but the race to see who can add the most seats has likely peaked. Instead, we are in the midst of a great television race. Which conference can sign the largest contract? Which conferences can support their own network? Which schools can use their own network to get ahead? Which school can a conference add to get into a top tv market they don’t already occupy?

It’s time to face the facts. The future of college football is in the hands of television networks.

More on The Longhorn Network

Yesterday I went on the Tim Brando Show (audio here) and discussed the Longhorn Network. I’ve written about this previously, and basically I have no problem with the Longhorn Network. Let me expand on my reasons why.

Some of you like to argue that college sports being operated as a business is the root of the problem. I’ve heard your concerns about your tax dollars going to support these institutions that pour money into athletic departments operating in the red. But guess what – you can’t feel that way and also preach to me about how college athletes should be paid or why Texas shouldn’t be allowed to have their own network. Feel free to disregard if none of that applies to you.

The main complaint I’m hearing regarding the Longhorn Network is that it will give Texas an unfair recruiting advantage. If you could see me, you’d know that I’m rolling my eyes. Let’s drop the facade that you care about anything other than football recruiting, because for the majority of you, you don’t. Take a look at the Longhorn’s spring football roster. There are eight players from outside the state of Texas. Eight out of ninety-eight. Texas doesn’t have to leave the state, and neither do their airwaves, in order to recruit for football.

I read one account (which I would link to if I could find again, but it wasn’t a unique argument) where the author was indeed worried about these other sports. He was concerned that athletes in sports outside of football and basketball would choose Texas because their parents could watch them on the Longhorn Network. How is this any different than an athlete from Tampa who could choose University of Florida because Sun Sports airs Florida’s softball games? 

Another issue I’ve seen covered involves plans to carry high school games on the Longhorn Network. The concern is that paid employees of the Longhorn Network will have contact with recruits.

Here’s the problem with all the recruiting arguments against the Longhorn Network: they can’t get much more of an advantage than they already have. Did you know the University of Texas runs high school sports in Texas. Yes, you heard me right. In 1903, the University of Texas created the University Interscholastic League, which facilitates competitions in everything from athletics to music to academics. On its website, the University Interscholastic League states that it continues to be run by the Vice President of Diversity and Community Engagement at the University of Texas.

While the football championship games are not played on the University of Texas campus, many other sports do play their championship games (and some semi-final games) on campus, including soccer, softball, track and field and swimming. In addition, all state level academic competitions take place on University of Texas’ campus, and I’ve been told University of Texas faculty and students often judge these competitions.

Does the Longhorn Network really give Texas any recruiting advantage it doesn’t already have?

And where do you draw the line when it comes to television rights? A school can sell its third-tier rights to a regional network like Sun Sports or Comcast Sports Southeast, but they can’t own a network where they air that material. They can even be independent like Notre Dame and sell their own first tier rights, but they can’t own a network where they air games that fall under third tier rights. Schools can pool their rights and have their own conference network, but an individual school can’t have their own network.

And let’s not forget that any sport Texas shows would involve at least one other school who would be getting exposure. Don’t we want more exposure for Olympic sports? Isn’t there a chance a kid will see Baylor playing Texas in baseball and say, “Hey, I’d much rather go to a smaller school. Maybe I’ll check out Baylor.”

We’ve discussed before how only 22 schools are turning a profit without having to rely on student fees or other forms of institutional support. Shouldn’t we be encouraging more athletic departments to do whatever they can to be self-sufficient? Don’t we like to hear that Notre Dame’s athletic department gave $10 million to the university in 2009 or that Alabama’s athletic department donated $1 million to tornado relief or that Florida recently gave back $6 million to the university?

I get that not every school can do what Texas is doing. In fact, I think you only need one hand to count the schools who can.

I despise many of these everyone-has-to-be-equal arguments. Equality does not breed creativity. Equality does not motivate people. If no matter what I did my colleague was still going to be at the same level and pay as me, why would I invest more time or energy (or in the case of athletic departments, money)?

The Dallas Morning News spoke to Missouri athletics director Mike Alden who mentioned his answer to the Longhorn Network is developing applications for mobile devices.

“I think what it means for us, it means we have to continue to find ways to deliver our product,” Alden said.

Can Missouri create the same kind of financial gains with this as Texas can with their network? Of course not. But they can invent something new, something Texas hasn’t thought of. That’s what I want to see. People pushed to innovation.

You will never be able to create a perfectly even playing field. Some schools will always have larger stadiums or larger alumni bases for contributions or some other advantage. Yes, you have to draw a line somewhere. You can’t allow schools to go out and buy recruits. I simply don’t see a good reason why a school can’t own a television network and broadcast their own sports contests.

What’s Wrong With The Longhorn Network?

What’s wrong with the Longhorn Network? If you ask me, nothing.

Seems like just about everyone outside the Longhorns fanbase disagrees with me, however. All you have to do is Google “Longhorn Network unfair” and you can find a seemingly endless stream of complaints.

If you read my piece earlier this week on the BCS, you know how I feel about the “unfair” argument when it comes to college sports, or any sport for that matter. Repeat after me: sports are a business. Yes, even college sports.

Some of you like to argue that college sports being operated as a business is the root of the problem. I’ve heard your concerns about your tax dollars going to support these institutions that pour money into athletic departments operating in the red. But guess what – you can’t feel that way and also preach to me about how college athletes should be paid or why Texas shouldn’t be allowed to have their own network. Feel free to disregard if none of that applies to you.

The main complaint I’m hearing regarding the Longhorn Network is that it will give Texas an unfair recruiting advantage. If you could see me, you’d know that I’m rolling my eyes. Let’s drop the facade that you care about anything other than football recruiting, because for the majority of you, you don’t. Take a look at the Longhorn’s spring football roster. There are eight players from outside the state of Texas. Eight out of ninety-eight. Texas doesn’t have to leave the state, and neither do their airwaves, in order to recruit for football.

I checked another couple of sports for those of you who genuinely care about the other sports. Only 3 of 34 baseball players are from outside the state of Texas. Are there other teams with a slightly larger percentage of out-of-state players? Yes, but I don’t see the point in going down this road any further.

I read one account (which I would link to if I could find again, but it wasn’t a unique argument) where the author was indeed worried about these other sports. He was concerned that athletes in sports outside of football and basketball would choose Texas because their parents could watch them on the Longhorn Network. How is this any different than an athlete from Tampa who could choose University of Florida because Sun Sports airs Florida’s softball games? 

Where do you draw the line? A school can sell its third-tier rights to a regional network like Sun Sports or Comcast Sports Southeast, but they can’t own a network where they air that material. They can even be indepenent like Notre Dame and sell their own first tier rights, but they can’t own a network where they air games that fall under third tier rights. Schools can pool their rights and have their own conference network, but an individual school can’t have their own network.

And let’s not forget that any sport Texas shows would involve at least one other school who would be getting exposure. Don’t we want more exposure for Olympic sports? Isn’t there a chance a kid will see Baylor playing Texas in baseball and say, “Hey, I’d much rather go to a smaller school. Maybe I’ll check out Baylor.”

We’ve discussed before how only 14 schools are turning a profit without having to rely on student fees or other forms of institutional support. Although the NCAA did not list the 14 schools turning a net profit, Notre Dame is one of them. We know this because Athletic Director, Jack Swarbrick, has revealed that Notre Dame actually pours money back into the college’s coffers, to the tune of about $10 million in 2009.

Other schools that have been confirmed to be part of the 14: Alabama, University of Missouri, University of Texas, University of Florida, University of Tennessee and Ohio State University.

Shouldn’t we be encouraging more athletic departments to do whatever they can to be self-sufficient? Don’t we like to hear that Notre Dame’s athletic department gave $10 million to the university in 2009 or that Alabama’s athletic department just donated $1 million to tornado relief?

I get that not every school can do what Texas is doing. In fact, I think you only need one hand to count the schools who can.

I despise many of these everyone-has-to-be-equal arguments. Equality does not breed creativity. Equality does not motivate people. If no matter what I did my colleague was still going to be at the same level and pay as me, why would I invest more time or energy (or in the case of athletic departments, money)?

The Dallas Morning News spoke to Missouri athletics director Mike Alden who mentioned his answer to the Longhorn Network is developing applications for mobile devices.

“I think what it means for us, it means we have to continue to find ways to deliver our product,” Alden said.

Can Missouri create the same kind of financial gains with this as Texas can with their network? Of course not. But they can invent something new, something Texas hasn’t thought of. That’s what I want to see. People pushed to innovation.

You will never be able to create a perfectly even playing field. Some schools will always have larger stadiums or larger alumni bases for contributions or some other advantage. Yes, you have to draw a line somewhere. You can’t allow schools to go out and buy recruits. I simply don’t see a good reason why a school can’t own a television network and broadcast their own sports contests.

*Another issue I’ve seen covered involves plans to carry high school games on the Longhorn Network. The concern is that paid employees of the Longhorn Network will have contact with recruits. This, to me, is a real issue, unlike those discussed above.