The recently-unveiled "Longhorn Network" hasn't even started broadcasting yet, but it's already provided Texas with plenty of benefits: a contract with ESPN worth millions upon millions of dollars, a high level of "buzz" regarding what the finished product will look like (and what kind of benefits it might offer down the road), and -- unsurprisingly -- an awful lot of ticked-off Texas A&M Aggies down the road in College Station.
At least, we're assuming that's how most Aggies feel about their archrivals' latest venture, considering that Aggie athletic director Bill Byrne made clear yesterday that he is -- to put it politely -- not a fan. He's asked for the NCAA to have a look-see:
"I can't speak for the NCAA, but I would imagine the governing body will look into the use of a collegiate television network airing games of prospective student-athletes," Byrne said in a statement. "I understand networks such as FSN and ESPN airing high school sports, but whether or not employees under contract with a university that may have additional contact would seem to be an issue" ...An NCAA official contacted by CBS said that without the "particulars of the specific arrangement with the network," they could not determine whether high school games airing on the Longhorn Network would violate NCAA regulations or not.
"There are many questions regarding this new contract that will be discussed at length here at Texas A&M and within the Big 12 Conference, as well as with our television partners."
But even aside from that issue, "many questions ... that will be discussed at length" is A.D.-speak for "dude, we are seriously not pleased with this." Byrne's not the first A&M-affiliated official to express his misgivings about the Longhorns striking up their own TV deal, either; a "prominent Aggie" who spoke with the Austin-American Statesman's Kirk Bohls last week suggested that A&M could try to arrange its "own deal" with the television powers-that-be, or even rally the league's other eight non-Texas schools into an "Everybody But the Longhorns Network."
However you slice it, the natural rivalry between the two schools appears to have grown into a legitimate administrative rift, and one that's showing no signs of closing any time soon. When the Pac-12 and (according to some) SEC came calling last summer, A&M nonetheless elected to follow their in-state brethren's lead and remain in the streamlined, wobbly-looking, title game-less, 'Horn-dominated Big 12 . If the Longhorn Network proves to be as beneficial to Texas's bottom line and on-field product as Byrne and the rest of A&M are clearly worried it will be, the Aggies may decide their best interests dictate a different course of action next time around.