Yeah, this nonsense has to go. (Photo by Erich Schlegel/Getty Images)
The Texas Longhorns appear to finally be ready to commit to the Pac-12. Their options are all but exhausted. The ACC will not give them what they want and will not cater to their demands; they've moved onto Syracuse, Pitt, with perhaps Rutgers and UConn next on the docket to shape their future as a 16-team conference. Independence is still there if they want to pursue it, but irrelevance could soon follow. The Big Ten would never ever accept any of Texas's conditions, and the SEC isn't interested. So to the West they must go.
First, the Texas regents must approve of the deal when they meet Monday. (Oklahoma’s regents have made their interest known. Oklahoma State and Texas Tech are a package deal with Oklahoma and Texas.)
The second factor is completing the details of the new 16-team league, including the alignment of the divisions and how Texas’ Longhorn Network would fold into the Pac-12’s television contract structure. This will require intensive work for Scott, ESPN and Texas to see how things can be settled financially and in terms of branding, and still meet the approval of the Pac-12 presidents.
Texas has been reluctant to part with the LHN mostly because of the guaranteed Benjamins they earn from the deal--$300 million over 20 years isn't just something you throw away, unless you have to choose between the money or your pet. Too bad Bevo can't be bartered in these negotiations.
Outside of just the money, the Longhorn Network promises Texas a preeminent platform to promote their university product. To fold it back into the Pac-12 TV structure would be a huge concession, and a pretty bitter concession after a year of hype and promise surrounding the network. Even though it's not clear how successful the endeavor will be, the upside is mighty if they can get it to work.
That's why Texas offered a counter-proposal that would have allowed the Longhorns to pocket an additional share of their revenue from the network. George Schroder:
Texas' Longhorn Network remains an issue. Today's reports indicated some give on Texas' part, a willingness to slightly downsize its network while keeping at least a portion of the media rights -- and the revenues -- for itself. (It's more complicated than that, but see the Austin American Statesman's story, which does a nice job of laying it out.)
It's certainly possible the Longhorns are still trying to leverage the best deal. I don't blame them. But it probably needs to be the Longhorns' opening position in bargaining.
The slightly, sorta-kinda-downsized Longhorn Network we're reading might be a part of the deal? I'm not sure that's enough for the Pac-12 members.
It's starting to become clear that this was simply spin from Austin, because the Pac-12 won't have any of it. No way they'll allow Texas preferential treatment in their conference, certainly not after all the games Texas has played with them in the past. Jon Wilner has more:
For one thing, the Longhorn Network would have to be folded into the Pac-12 regional model — it wouldn’t exist as a separate entity.
What’s more, there is no chance that any school will have more than 1/16th of the revenue that comes from the conference’s first, second or third-tier rights. NO CHANCE.
We’re more likely to see USC give up football and join the Big West.
Remember, the Pac-12 CEOs would like to have Texas, but they are not desperate to have Texas.
They have all the leverage.
The Longhorns are not going to push the Pac-12 around. Scott and the conference presidents know plenty well what's happened in the previous two conferences they've been in, and they're not about to let Texas go and ruin their tidy little conference deal with their own impositions on revenue sharing. Texas will have to do it the Pac-12's way, which means folding the LHN up and moving back into the fold.
Will Texas reject? Hard to say. It'd have to be an ego thing, and we all know how modest Texas is. Sure, Texas will be fine for the next two decades financially if they reject the Pac-12 and then go independent or stay with the Big 12. The Big 12 does have some sadomasochistic appeal: They'll have their own network, they'll have a conference full of low-level FBS and mid-major schools that they'll certainly have a great chance of romping through week after week, and they can rule over their own feudal kingdom of Texasland.
Not sure if that'll help them get back to winning national championships though. Or being in national championships. Or being screwed in future playoff models.
The Pac-12 knows Texas is running out of options, and are ramping up the pressure to get them to cave. They're willing to expand to 14 with the Oklahoma schools and go zipper. It'd pretty much be a pure power move to force the Longhorns to the table. It would immediately deprive the Big 12 of half of their premier college football teams and the majority of their individual matchups. Staying in the Big 12 becomes immediately unattractive and with no other serious conference options, it immediately comes down to the Pac-12 or independence.
Texas might not think the Pac-12 will take the Oklahomas without them, but the conference could always look north to Kansas, Kansas State and/or Missouri to get to the coveted Pac-16 number. While they aren't quite as attractive as Texas, they are a suitable alternative and have their merits.
In short, Texas has to fork the Longhorn Network over or move over. Sure, the Pac-12 is playing hardball, but sometimes when you're chasing a crazy hot girl like Bevo, you have to ignore her to get her to play.