Somewhat lost amidst the intense glare given off by the $300 million deal Texas signed with ESPN to create the Longhorn television network (Bevo-TV? ESPNUT?) was the content that will be utilized to fill the 24-hour channel.
Specifically, the rather startling revelation that high school games — including football — are expected to be broadcast by the network. How this is even possible, that a university-branded TV entity can televise games involving potential recruits, is at minimum head-scratching and raises a gigantic red NCAA flag the size of the state the network will be centered in.
And, of course, the televising of high school games, football and otherwise, has at least one in-state rival raising both flags and questions.
By way of the San Antonio Express-News, Texas A&M athletic director Bill Byrne seemed to intimate that he is hopeful the NCAA will look into the prep angle of Texas’ new network.
“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. “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.”
The head coach of the Aggies’ women’s basketball team was even more succinct and direct when it comes to what impact the network could have on high school recruits.
“If Brittney Griner was coming out of high school today, and all of a sudden they decided to televise eight of her home games, don’t you think that would put Texas a leg up in recruiting?” Gary Blair asked rhetorically about the current Baylor star.
“Are we all still going to be on the same level playing field? I want to be on the same level playing field as much as I can, particularly in recruiting.”
An unnamed ESPN insider told the Express-News that a format or how extensive preps coverage will be has yet to be determined, but that in the end it will be “fair to all parties involved.”
We’ve attempted to get a comment from the NCAA on the situation but, frankly, there’s really not a need for official word. Common sense would seem to dictate that you cannot allow a University of Texas network — or any other school, for that matter — to televise high school games. There should be no question about that.
For all of the “clamping down” the NCAA has done on “outside influences” in the recruiting game, it would go beyond mere head-scratching if the governing body of collegiate athletics were to allow this aspect of the network, regardless of how profitable the deal as a whole is for the institution, to exist.
Then again, it is the NCAA we are talking about here, so “common sense” may not really have a prominent seat at the table.