August 19th, 2011 10:22 AM║ Posted By: John Pennington ║ Permalink
║ Schools: Alabama, Arkansas, Auburn, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, LSU, Mississippi State, Ole Miss, South Carolina, Tennessee, Vanderbilt
Tags: Boone Pickens, ESPN, Longhorn Network, SEC
Things have gone quiet on the SEC expansion front in recent days. While the league has worked behind the scenes to find a 14th member to possibly pair with Texas A&M, all chatter has been coming from the Big 12 side of things.
Commissioner Dan Beebe said he wants A&M to stay (while also suggesting that he might force the school’s hand with a deadline). Big 12 mega-boosters like T. Boone Pickens have asked A&M to stay. Panicked economists attached to Baylor University have cranked out numbers showing that if A&M leaves for the SEC, the entire state of Texas will go the way of the Roman Empire. And even folks attached to the University of Texas have publicly stated that they desperately want the Aggies to stay put.
While all these statement have been bubbling up on the surface, Texas and ESPN have actually been back in the kitchen cooking up new plans for the Longhorn Network — the cable channel that started kickstarted A&M’s escape plans.
The NCAA ruled last week that high school games could not air on college or conference networks for fear that such broadcasts would give said school or league a recruiting advantage. On Monday, the NCAA will discuss the matter further with representatives from multiple networks and multiple schools, according to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.
But Texas and ESPN are already planning to get high schoolers onto the Longhorn Network in another way — highlights. During a news conference yesterday, a representative for the network said that UT and ESPN plan to show high school football highlights on their co-owned channel.
In other words, “We really want you to stay, A&M… now how ya like these apples?” In addition, it was announced that the network would carry two Big 12 games this season, another of the original sticking points for A&M.
Consider this to be passive-aggressive behavior on a collegiate level. And the Longhorns’ actions are speaking a lot more loudly than their words.
In response to all of this, an Aggie official said only, “Our recent conversations are reflective of our ongoing concerns.” Indeed.
If Beebe holds his league together this time around, he should know that it will be even more flawed and fractious than it has been for the past year. Of course, if he can deadline A&M into staying, he also knows he can up the exit penalty by tens of millions of dollars before the Aggies actually do depart.
And they will depart. It’s just a matter of when.
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