It’s very rare to see a game scheduled for an upcoming season cancelled for reasons beyond acts of god. It appears the Texas Tech football team could set a precedent by cancelling their scheduled game for Saturday, September 8th against the Texas State Bobcats in San Marcos.
The Texas Longhorns-focused, ESPN-based Longhorn Network.
ESPN has plans to show the Bobcats / Red Raiders matchup, and Tech wants nothing to do with this. In fact, the school has threatened to cancel the game if ESPN seals the deal to broadcast the game.
I’m sure you’re wondering what the hell the Longhorn Network has to do with Texas Tech and Texas State, and why the folks in Lubbock harbor so much animosity toward it.
Here’s the deal:
Due to the relatively low-profile match-up between a first-year Division I team in Texas State, that promises to have a tough transition to the “big time” from the FCS, and a Texas Tech team that finished 5-7 (2-7 in Big 12 Conference play), the major television networks have balked at adding the game to their lineups.
Enter the Longhorn Network, or, as it has not-so-affectionately been labeled by Texas supporters, the FailHorn Network. In spite of the direct relationship between one of the NCAA”s most profitable athletic departments, and one of the most powerful broadcasting entities in the world, the network has arguably been a failure.
Major distributors– including Time Warner, AT&T, Direct TV and the Dish Network– have all declined to carry the network due to the cost which would be passed on to subscribers, leaving ESPN to scramble not only for programming, but for second-tier carriers to actually deliverthe programming that does already exist to their customers.
In spite of nominally having a Texas-focus, the Longhorn Network has also shown games of Texas system schools, including UTSA–another new Division I entry–and could extend itself even further out of it’s original “mission” by picking up a game between two schools that have nothing to do with its primary partner.
The final decision on where the game is carried is up to the Western Athletic Conference, given that it is the “host” for the contest. This adds an interesting wrinkle.
Needless to say, the whole situation is ruffling plenty of feathers in Lubbock. Texas Tech officials have noted they are “extremely disappointed” the game is being considered for the Longhorn Network, and they wish instead for the game to be on a “primary ESPN platform”.
In fact, if this doesn’t happen, they are threatening to put the wheels in motion to cancel the game all-together, and play an 11-game schedule instead of subject themselves to being broadcast on a network created solely to feature a hated in-state rival.
The logistics of this suggest it would be more difficult to do than to opine about.
First off, Texas Tech would owe a substantial buyout to Texas State which would likely not sit well with the University and its Board of Regents.
And when you get down to it, the WAC is hardly in a position to make things any more difficult than they already are as they struggle just to remain solvent and partner with a network that could prevent one of it’s major new members from seeing a nice, tidy payday.
When it’s all said and done, the WAC will most likely find a partner to the liking of all involved and this story will be water under the bridge.
If not, we may have a drama-filled, and politics driven madhouse due to one non-conference game.
Who said the college football off-season was boring?
Kris Hughes is the College Football Network Manager for Rant Sports and a member of the Football Writers Association of America.
Kris is also the host of Rant Sports Radio on the Blog Talk Radio Network Wednesday evenings at 8 Central Time.