Posted on: January 19, 2011 11:10 am

"Longhorn Network" to be unveiled today

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

Hey, remember when Notre Dame's exclusive deal with NBC was seen as an earth-shaking development in the world of college football? Those days seem so carefree and innocent now, what with the Sports Business Daily reporting that Texas will officially unveil the new "Longhorn Network" today , a partnership with ESPN that will create the first 24-hour channel devoted exclusively to a single university's athletics.

Per the SBD, the network will be ...
the first-of-its-kind channel to broadcast live UT athletic events, shoulder programming and non-sports university content. The Longhorn Network will launch in the fall and will be owned by ESPN, which will pay the school a rights fee that averages $15M a year, sources said. In addition, ESPN has committed close to $400M in production value to the channel over the 20-year term.
Total amount of money flowing directly into Texas's coffers over the next 20 years? $300 million.

But even that's chump change compared to the prestige and influence the 'Horns promise to wield with their own network to flout. There's still plenty of questions to be asked and answered of the new enterprise -- How many homes can the WWL force the channel into? Will it actually broadcast any live football games? Can it turn a profit? How many people will tune in for "Mack Brown Live, And We Mean Live Right Now: 30 Minutes of Mack Brown Doing His Taxes"? -- but it's hard to see how it isn't a major, major feather in the Longhorns' media cap.

The story might be most substantial, though, as a simple milestone. Analysts have long predicted that in the distant future, we'd be capable of watching only our favorite teams all the time. So 20 years from now, when you're checking out "Cardinalvision: Your 24/7 Television Home for Ball State Athletics," remember that it all got started today.
Posted on: January 4, 2011 6:01 pm
Edited on: January 4, 2011 6:09 pm

Blue Raiders enjoy GoDaddy.com bowl festivities

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

Typically, the College Football Blog covers either the hard news that matters or the goofy news that makes you laugh, and doesn't bother with the day-to-day, more run-of-the-mill stories inbetween.

But we're going to relay this one to you on Middle Tennessee State's week at the GoDaddy.com Bowl anyway, because so much of the public reaction to the smaller-rung bowls of the world seems to be either 1. there are too many of these bowls clogging up the schedule and demeaning the meaning of bowl games 2. the smaller teams playing these bowls can't afford them and should simply not go.

There's something to be said about the latter point -- ticket guarantees are a nasty bit of business on the part of the bowls, and indirectly on the ESPN megalith that keeps them in business -- but these arguments almost always miss the point that whatever the negatives, there's no question that there's a huge positive in how much the players involved appreciate the experience. As the story from the Murfreesboro (Tenn.) Daily News-Journal illustrates:
MTSU defensive lineman Jarrett Crittenton was excited about the team activities leading up to Thursday's GoDaddy.com Bowl .

At least he was until the 6-foot-6, 290-pounder nearly got stuck in the cramped doorway inside a submarine during the Blue Raiders' visit to Battleship Memorial Park Monday.

"That was crazy," Crittenton said. "Everything was so tight in there, and I'm so big. I didn't know if I would make it out of there and make it to the bowl game.

"But this is fun. This isn't just practicing and playing a game like we usually do" ...

Today, the Blue Raiders will have a bowling outing and selected players will visit the Children's Hospital. And on Wednesday, the teams will attend the mayor's luncheon, where the guest speaker will be GoDaddy.com spokeswoman and racecar driver Danica Patrick .

That raised the eyebrows of a few MTSU players.

"To us, Danica Patrick is No. 1 obviously," receiver Wes Caldwell said. "We're all waiting on her coming here. But all these things we're doing are great.

"I loved the battleship. It was amazing. But I'm afraid of heights, so I couldn't handle it when I got way up there on top. The submarine was cool, but there was no room to move. This is part of the bowl trip, and we love it."
No, the news that various Blue Raiders are enjoying a tour of an old submarine and are looking forward to meeting Danica Patrick isn't going to shove Rich Rodriguez out of the headlines. But it's worth remembering anyway the next time some pundit or another suggests contracting a bowl out of existence; sure, there might be some benefits, but it's worth asking if they outweigh denying two teams of players who worked their tails off all season some modicum of reward, however meager the payoff of the GoDaddy.com Bowl might seem.

Posted on: December 31, 2010 1:07 pm
Edited on: December 31, 2010 3:00 pm

Minister threatens to sue ESPN over documentary

Posted by Tom Fornelli

If you're a sports fan, then I'm guessing at some point over the last year you tuned in to at least one of ESPN's 30 for 30 series of documentaries.  Personally, I watched just about all of them, and most were fantastic.  Still, the ones that stood out the most for me were the ones on college football.  In particular, The Best That Never Was, about former Oklahoma running back Marcus Dupree.

It was a fascinating story, and one that definitely had a villain.  That villain being Dupree's advisor/agent, Rev. Kenneth Fairley.  It was portrayed in the documentary that Fairley had helped steer Dupree away from Oklahoma following his freshman season and to Southern Miss. Dupree then made the ill-fated decision to go to the USFL.

In the documentary, Dupree says that the contract he signed with the USFL's New Orleans franchise was for $6 million, though he only saw about $300,000. Dupree also implied that Fairley may not have been all that honest with him when it came to handling the money.  Well, Fairley didn't appreciate it very much, and now he's threatening to sue the cable goliath.
The Rev. Kenneth Fairley, pastor of Mount Carmel Baptist Church, has demanded a retraction and issued a notice to sue ESPN, the Bristol, Conn.-based cable sports network that aired the documentary.
"Since the airing of The Best That Never Was..., Rev. Fairley is inundated with claims that he stole millions of dollars from Dupree. The information contained in ESPN's documentary is false and should be retracted," Fairley's attorney, Lisa Ross, wrote in the letter dated Dec. 24 to ESPN's legal office.
Diane Lamb, an ESPN spokeswoman, said Wednesday the company isn't going to comment about the letter.

Ross also went on to say that ESPN has ten days to "broadcast a full and fair correction, apology and retraction" for airing the documentary.

Sounds like the actions of somebody who ran out of Dupree's money to me.
Posted on: December 2, 2010 4:02 pm

ESPN chooses interesting timing for documentary

Posted by Chip Patterson

On Saturday December 11, the Heisman Trophy winner will be announced and presented with the iconic statue in the heart of New York City.  He will be greeted with fanfare and praise for his selection to join the ranks of college football's greatest players. 

Popular belief says that player will be Auburn's Cam Newton.

Which of course means that we will follow the announcement (if he does win) with hours upon hours and pages upon pages debating whether a player tied so closely to amateur improprieties should be given the game's top award.  In the post-Reggie Bush era, there is a segment of the population that would offer a resounding "NO."

No matter which side of the discussion you fall, it will be discussed.  Who better to exploit on the trends of sports media than the WWL?  

ESPN will broadcast the presentation of the Heisman Trophy, and following the program they will debut their newest film in the 30 for 30 documentary series.  Interestingly enough, the film revolves around the Southern Methodist University football program in the 1980's.

The film, cleverly titled Pony Excess, will likely have promos flooded through the commercial breaks of the Heisman broadcast.  For those that stick around and watch the film, they will quickly draw ill-timed comparisons between the new Heisman Trophy winner and the stars of the Mustang teams from that era.  Cam Newton may emerge from the "pay-to-play" allegations as a Heisman Winner and National Champion, but ESPN is not doing him any favors with their choice of scheduling.

Of course this could have been booked for months, or LaMichael James could win the trophy.  If he does, and ESPN does a last minute switch to a documentary on domestic violence, I'll know this is all part of their wicked scheme.

H/T: Friends of the Program
Posted on: November 5, 2010 1:55 pm
Edited on: November 13, 2010 6:05 pm

Report: Texas to earn over $30 million in TV deal

Posted by Tom Fornelli

One of the big stumbling blocks that kept Texas from packing up and leaving the Big 12 for the Pac-10 this summer was the fact that the school wanted to create its own television network, and the Pac-10 wouldn't let them because the conference had plans to launch a network of its own.  So eventually the Big 12 caved and promised Texas that it would get a larger cut of the conference's television revenue and be allowed to start its own network.

Judging by the looks of things, this was a very good decision for Texas, and could end up being a terrible one for the Big 12's future.  According to a report on Orangebloods.com, a television deal the school has struck with ABC/ESPN could see Texas pulling in about $30 million in revenue next season.

The new agreement between Texas and ESPN for the Longhorn Network includes a $10 million payment up front, sources said. It also would make Texas the top TV revenue-producing school in the country, earning close to $30 million next year in TV revenue and more than $32 million beginning in 2012-13, sources said.

Schools in the SEC currently earn $17 million per year in TV revenue under 15-year contracts with ABC/ESPN and CBS that began in the fall of 2009. Big Ten schools currently earn roughly $20 million per year from the Big Ten Network in a 20-year contract with operating partner Fox that began in August 2007. 

According to sources, Fox had guaranteed Texas $2 million per year to distribute the Longhorn Network to cable systems that included at least 500,000 viewers. Then, ESPN came in and provided a bid six times larger with a viewership that reaches from coast-to-coast, sources said.

Now if you're another member of the Big 12 who has already had to agree with letting Texas get a bigger piece of the pie, and now find out that the school will already be getting this much money on its own from ESPN, how would that make you feel?  While conferences may tell you that the grand plan to expand and form giant super-conferences is dormant, I don't buy that for a second.

You think the Big Ten or SEC won't go calling other Big 12 schools at this point and let them know that in their conference they'd be an equal member?

So this may work out great for Texas, but it could also mean the end of the Big 12.  I sure hope Dan Beebe got the money in his new contract extension up front.

Posted on: October 7, 2010 8:01 pm

Miami forces ESPN to keep logo off 'The U' cover

Posted by Adam Jacobi

College football is big business these days, and part of monetizing that big business is aggressive controlling the public perception of the team, whether it be through press coverage or brand management. And the way to do that? Lawyer up, buddies, and use 'em. A lot. No, it doesn't sound particularly honorable or desirable, but we're talking about big business, and that's the new reality of the situation.

Even so, after allowing that athletic departments' lawyers will go after such trivialities as t-shirts with specific mentions of players or team names, Miami's strongarm of ESPN in the wake of ESPN's "30 for 30" documentary The U is just baffling. According to Techdirt, the school demanded that the production company remove the Miami "U" logo from Michael Irvin's helmet on the cover, for reasons passing understanding.

The movie is a documentary about Miami, so if "fair use" doesn't apply here, then the clause basically doesn't need to exist. But it costs a lot less to airbrush a logo off a helmet than it does to fight this lawsuit, so expect ESPN to capitulate without a fight. And that's a shame. ESPN's probably capable of out-lawyering pretty much anybody, and it would be nice to see a stand made over fair use to stop these predatory lawsuits (Ohio State, we're looking at you).

But alas, that's not really the world we live in anymore.

Category: NCAAF
Posted on: September 2, 2010 11:03 am
Edited on: September 2, 2010 2:24 pm

USC could go independent? AD thinks "why not"

Posted by Chip Patterson

In more fascinating indie talk, there are some albums I've been meaning to pick up this from the last six months.  In less fascinating indie talk, USC athletic director Pat Haden is causing a stir by not ruling out a break from the Pac-10.

Haden has been making headlines since taking over for Mike Garrett about a month ago, whether it's about giving back Reggie Bush's Heisman Trophy or keeping a short leash on new head coach Lane Kiffin, it is clear the new AD is not afraid to speak his mind.  So when asked about the possibilities of USC following BYU's lead and going independent in football, Haden did not hold back.

“I think you always have to look at every opportunity,” Haden, who’s starting his second month on the job, said from the football team’s hotel in Hawaii.
“We’re a happy member of the Pac-10. I don’t have any ulterior motives or plans to advance the ball on this. I think the Pac-10 with a new commissioner and new opportunities has some growth built in already.  
“But would we every consider it? I think you have to. As an athletic director in today’s environment, you have to consider every alternative.”

There goes Haden, pulling the old press question oreo (agree-deny-agree) and leaving everyone with little to no conclusion as to whether or not this is an actual possibility.  

The one piece of BYU's break from conference monogamy that will get the attention of other major football programs is the eight year television deal they signed with ESPN.  USC has a much larger audience on the national level and would be able to negotiate a more lucrative deal should they decide to make the move for independence.  

But for now USC needs to focus on the task at hand and that is getting back into good graces with the NCAA and continuing to build despite their current sanctions.  That campaign will begin late this evening, with their season opener at Hawaii.

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