Many students and fans gathered in the South Mall in front of the Main Tower on campus to witness the launch of the new Longhorn Network.Scott Robbins

Longhorn Network debuts on UT campus

The Longhorn Network officially launched on Friday with a College Gameday Special from the South Mall on campus.

The controversial Longhorn Network kicked off Friday on the campus of the University of Texas at Austin as thousands of fans joined the ESPN College GameDay crew for the highly anticipated debut. Setup began in the middle of the week around the Littlefield Fountain/South Mall area of the UT campus and filming commenced Friday evening at 6:00 P.M., with students and fans convening hours prior to the event. The atmosphere was inspiring, and as corny as it may sound, uplifting – which is exactly what the university and its students are seeking, following a embarrassing and morale-depleting 5-7 season.

However, the love for the new multi-million dollar network doesn’t extend much further than the city limits of Austin, Texas. Most certainly, the new network isn’t welcomed with open arms in cities such as Lubbock and College Station, among others. In fact, it seems to be the primary factor behind reports of Texas A&M considering jumping ship and joining the SEC. The school’s athletic director, Bill Byrne, has openly expressed concern about the new Longhorn Network and its potentially harmful affect on his program, as well as the Big 12 Conference.

“I have continued to have concerns about the Longhorn Network since the original announcement by ESPN and Texas,” Byrne said. “Since last summer, the Big 12 member institutions have committed to work together in a spirit of unity and equality. Recent news reports concerning this network; however, have created a considerable amount of uncertainty.”

I have continued to have concerns about the Longhorn Network since the original announcement by ESPN and Texas

— Texas A&M Athletic Director Bill Byrne

These questions concerning “equality” and “unity” come after the network’s original plan to broadcast two live Longhorn football games, as well as high school football games in which Texas’ recruits would be showcased. It didn’t take long for schools in the Big 12 to express worries that The Longhorn Network is, essentially, an unfair recruiting advantage that jeopardizes the stability of the already teetering conference – and with Colorado and Nebraska already bolting to other conferences, it was a legitimate concern. The NCAA has since ruled out the possibility of any conference or school affiliated networks broadcasting high school football games.

Nonetheless, hate it or love it, denying the rationale behind Texas’ new network is impossible. The move makes perfect sense for the university, and other Big 12 coaches believe the controversy surrounding The Longhorn Network should be squashed.

“I don’t know if it was good, bad or indifferent, said Texas Tech Head football Coach Tommy Tubberville. “I don’t think it’s an advantage one way or another to be honest with you because I don’t think anybody in this country is able to really sell a network nationally. You might be able to sell it within the state. Texas obviously has a lot of pull . . . I guess it’s an advantage, obviously for money. But other than that, I don’t really see it making any difference whether you have one or not.

Money-wise, there’s no question. The network looks to bring in $300 million to the university over the next 20 years. Recruiting-wise? Well, there’s little denying that as well, considering the amount of behind the scenes access that will be granted to the public and potential recruits. Below is a list of the regularly scheduled shows set to be broadcast on the Longhorn Network:

Longhorn Extra – Essentially, Texas’ own mini version of SportsCenter
Texas GameDay – A live, 2-hour football pregame show
Texas GameDay Final – A live football postgame show
Rewind with Mack Brown – A look back into the previous weekend’s matchup, with Mack Brown. To air each Monday.
Game Plan with Mack Brown – An in-depth look into the upcoming Saturday matchup with – you guessed it – Mack Brown. To air each Thursday.
Texas All Access – A behind-the-scenes access show, looking into the UT football program
Texas Football Practice – Access into Longhorn football practices, Tuesday through Thursday
Mack Brown Radio Show – A television broadcast of Mack Brown’s weekly radio show
Texas Football Encore – A replay of the previous weekend’s game.
Texas Football Overdrive – An “enhanced re-air featuring interviews, sound and analysis”

It seems the only remaining task is to make the network readily available to the public. It’s laughable that no contracts have been inked with any major cable television providers, yet the debut has come and gone. With that being said, it’s not too difficult to realize that the target date wasn’t necessarily August 26, but instead September 3: the Longhorn’s football season opener against Rice. You can bet a deal will be in place by then with Time Warner Cable, AT&T and/or Grande Communications.