ESPN completes purchase of Longhorns with $300 million deal

22 Comments

Back in November, the Texas Board of Regents gave UT president William Powers the authority to pursue the creation of the Longhorn Network.

That months-long flirtation reached its climax Wednesday, and presumably there will be many a UT official puffing on a Marlboro in the consummation’s money-green afterglow.

First reported by the Sports Business Daily Tuesday, and later confirmed by the Austin American-Statesman, Texas has reached an agreement with ESPN on a 20-year, $300 million deal that will create a 24-hour television channel devoted to all things Texas Longhorns.

As the agreement was negotiated by IMG College, the Longhorns’ multimedia rights holder, UT will actually realize annual compensation of roughly $12.5 a year from the ESPN deal after IMG takes their cut.  The first years, however, UT will be forced to “get by” on “just” $10 million a year.  Combined with the Big 12-ish’s network deals — UT’s share is not impacted by the new side deal with ESPN — UT stands to rake in at least $30 million a year just from those two deals.

“We see this as a very important part of sort of continuing to reinvent the models through which we do business,” Powers said. “This is reflective of being much more creative in how public higher education positions itself as we go forward, even aside from the athletics.”

Unbelievably, ESPN is paying $15 million a year — plus committing $400 million in production value according to the SBD — and will only televise one, maybe two football games a year.  Other programming on the Longhorn Network (ESPNUT?) will include, the American-Statesman writes, a larger but unspecified number of men’s basketball games and a variety of other men’s and women’s sports, including volleyball and swimming.  Then there’s this beauty:

Non-athletic fare is likely to run for about three hours a day and include musical performances, plays, and documentaries by faculty members and students, Powers said. Details are yet to be worked out.

“This will be high-level, entertaining cultural, music, scientific, Discovery Channel, History Channel kind of stuff,” Powers said. “And we have a team put together working on it, and that will be done in collaboration with ESPN.”

What, no “Austin City Limits” or “Walker, Texas Ranger” reruns?

The new network is scheduled to officially launch this coming fall.  As far as distribution is concerned, it’s expected to appear on basic cable platforms in Texas, Oklahoma and possibly parts of Louisiana, and in premium packages throughout the rest of the country.

Georgia football’s account remains on Twitter suspended list

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Even as he now resides in South Florida, it appears Mark Richt has lost control of Georgia football’s Twitter account.

Shortly before Saturday’s second spring game under Kirby Smart, UGA’s Twitter account for the football program was suspended.  That marked the sixth time since January 17 of 2017 in which the account was suspended, and that suspension remains in effect as of this posting.

While there has been no official word from the university or athletic department on the latest suspension, it appears that it is related to, once again, a Digital Millennium Copyright Act takedown notice.  Essentially, UGA is accused of using copyrighted music in their tweets, which has led to their five previous suspensions.

Along with the most recent suspension as well as the first in January of last year, UGA’s account was suspended June 20, 2017; July 27, 2017; August 14, 2017; and February 7, 2018.  The last one came during National Signing Day, with USA Today noting at that time that “[t]he DMCA suspends accounts after three violations within a certain period.”

Western Kentucky QB Steven Duncan arrested for DUI

Getty Images
1 Comment

Western Kentucky quarterback Steven Duncan was arrested Sunday morning on a charge of driving under the influence.

The WKU Herald reports that Duncan was booked at 2:43 on Sunday morning and, in addition to DUI, was charged with failure to produce insurance and failure to illuminate his headlights. “We are aware of the situation and currently gathering more information,” the program told the Herald. “We take this matter very seriously as a football program.”

Duncan is a redshirt sophomore from Charleston, S.C. He completed 2-of-2 passes for two yards as a redshirt freshman in 2017, and is in open competition with fifth-year senior Drew EcklesDavis Shanley and Graydon Kulick to replace the graduated Mike White as starting quarterback. White threw for 4,177 yards with 26 touchdowns against eight interceptions in head coach Mike Sanford‘s first season.

WKU concluded its spring on Saturday with a 92-play scrimmage.

“Spring game, beautiful day, great to have the fan base out here, it was a fun game,” Sanford said. “Obviously, it wasn’t a traditional spring game, tackle, playing with two true teams, but the work we wanted to get out of it we absolutely got out of it. We got 92 plays in the scrimmage. We wanted to make sure every single person on our roster got a rep today and that was good to see. Overall, I’m pleased with what I saw.”

Former Notre Dame player Kona Schwenke dies at 25

Getty Images
2 Comments

Former Notre Dame defensive lineman Kona Schwenke died at his Laie, Hawai’i, home on Sunday, the program confirmed on Monday. He was 25.

Cause of death was not known as of press time.

Hailing from the same hometown as Manti Te’o, Schwenke was a 3-star member of Notre Dame’s 2010 class and appeared in 31 games with nine starts over the following four seasons. He collected 30 career tackles, helped the Irish post an undefeated regular season with an appearance in the BCS National Championship as a junior and won the Irish’s Next Man In Award as a senior.

He was signed to the rosters of the Kansas City Chiefs, New England Patriots, New York Jets, Oakland Raiders and Seattle Seahawks but did not appear in a game before concluding his football career in 2016.

“We will tell the stories of how things were different with you. I love you my brother. Thank you for everything over the years,” fellow Hawaiian and former Notre Dame player Robby Toma wrote in an Instagram post on Sunday. “I am grateful for the time we got to spend with you on earth. My heart hurts, but I know the memories we have will last a lifetime. Look over us, my USO. My prayers are with my Schwenke Family. #RIPuso”

Funeral arrangements were not available as of press time.

Ohio State RB Antonio Williams transferring to UNC

Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Ohio State running back Antonio Williams is moving a bit closer to home to continue playing his college football. The North Carolina native reportedly will transfer to the University of North Carolina to play for the Tar Heels. Williams announced his transfer news via Twitter.

“Though being at Ohio State provided me with the right path to reach those goals, the timing for me to be at OSU wasn’t the most ideal,” Williams said in a statement on Twitter. “With that being said, following the end of this semester, I will be transferring to the University of North Carolina.”

Williams appeared in 12 games for the Buckeyes last season, carrying the football 57 times for 290 yards and three touchdowns in a backup role. Ohio State’s running game was led by freshman breakout star J.K. Dobbins and sophomore Mike Weber. Both are back this fall to continue carrying the ball for Ohio State, which would have left Williams sitting no higher than third on the team’s depth chart.

Before attending Ohio State, Williams previously committed to UNC during his recruiting cycle. He switched his commitment status to Wisconsin before making one final switch to Ohio State.

Williams will have two years of eligibility after sitting out the 2018 season due to NCAA transfer rules. Williams will likely burn his unused redshirt season this fall to retain two years of eligibility at UNC.