This piece about how the powers that be at Texas A&M are beginning to get stirred up over the steps the WWL is taking to ensure the success of its new broadcasting joint venture with Texas seems to have drawn more attention over its TAMU-to-the-SEC speculation (and the hint that there are NCAA troubles coming down the pike sooner rather than later for a number of SEC schools) than what is to me the truly troubling aspect of what ESPN is up to as it seemingly goes balls out to promote all things Texas.
Stewart Mandel is one of the few so far who gets that.
… And that’s the part that should really be troubling not just to Big 12 fans, but to college football fans everywhere. From the moment this 20-year, $300 million deal was announced, it’s been astounding just how deeply the company is getting into bed with one of the schools it covers journalistically. Granted, conflicts of interest are unavoidable in sports media these days. This website is owned by a company (Time Warner) that holds the rights to NBA, PGA and NASCAR programming. But ESPN isn’t just testing the separation between church and state with Texas; there isn’t one. Case in point: The ever-popular GameDay crew (Chris Fowler and Co.) will be appearing live from Austin for the channel’s Aug. 26 debut. ESPN and Texas are now one and the same, and you can’t tell me it won’t affect the way GameDay, SportsCenter, Outside the Lines, et. al., cover Mack Brown’s program. In a sport where many fans already live in a constant state of paranoia that the media is propping up someone else at their expense … well, ESPN is flat-out doing it. It should make for some interesting signs the first time GameDay goes to Norman.
Perhaps the best way to look at the Longhorn Network is as if it’s akin to a nuclear reactor planted on a creaky fault line – in this case, the junction of ESPN in its varied roles as journalist, entertainment source and facilitator. You figure that something’s gotta give at some point in time. Maybe it’ll take having a direct hand in blowing up a BCS conference for that to happen. In the meantime, expect to hear a lot of disgruntlement. Justifiably so.