Big 12, A&M release statements on Longhorn Network flap

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Nearly 48 hours after the fit really hit the shan regarding The Longhorn Network’s intent to televise high school sports, and after rumors surfaced that two member schools were once again casting a flirtatious eye toward the SEC, both the Big 12 and Texas A&M have released statements addressing the growing imbroglio.

As first reported by the Dallas Morning News Wednesday evening, Big 12 commissioner Dan Beebe reiterated in his statement this evening that the conference is pushing the pause button on The Longhorn Network’s desire to televise high school sports content as well as their plans to air two football games — including one conference contest — this season.

“The Conference members are committed to working together to address issues in a manner that benefits all members. There are elements of our new television agreement, which take effect in 2012, that need clarification and the members will be working together to develop a process that will work to the benefit of the entire Conference. Until the members have a chance to consider all the issues and come to conclusion about how the Conference will manage the interplay between the Conference television package and institutional networks, no more than one live football game will be televised on any institutional network and no high school content will be televised on a branded member’s network.”

Shortly after Beebe’s statement was released, A&M’s athletic director, Bill Byrne, released his school’s response to the latest brouhaha that has, once again, led some to surmise that the Big 12 conference is not long for the college football world.  Suffice to say, Byrne’s words have done nothing to allay those gloom-and-doom fears.

Here’s Byrne’s statement, in its entirety:

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

We had an agreement in place that Big 12 members would have the right to one non-conference football game and four to six basketball games for third tier, or institutional rights. The concept of the Longhorn Network broadcasting two live football games — with one of these being a conference game — had not been discussed among the Big 12 athletic directors.

Our concerns were heightened further when news reports surfaced that the Longhorn Network would be broadcasting high school football games featuring Texas high school recruits, including recruits living outside the state of Texas. Knowing how restrictive NCAA rules are regarding any collegiate representative contacting prospects, we contacted the NCAA for an interpretation. We are still waiting for the NCAA’s response.

I have continued to communicate our concerns to the conference office and my fellow athletic directors. We are pleased that the Commissioner has started to address these concerns, but many questions remain. These are significant issues for all of collegiate athletics as they relate to broadcast rights, revenue distribution and the recruitment of student-athletes.

In a statement released Thursday evening, commissioner Dan Beebe announced that The Longhorn Network, nor any other member-affiliated network that may be created in the future, will be permitted to televise any type of high school content — i.e. football games.

Both the NCAA and Big 12 are currently investigating the situation, with a decision expected to come at some point in August.

That decision, in theory, could go a long way in determining the future of a conference that just a year ago appeared to be on life support, with Texas ready to pull the plug before heading out west.  This time, however, in-state rival A&M could be the ones holding the cord;  if the temporary decision to hold off on televising high school football games and just one football game per year becomes a permanent one, TAMU may be placated to one degree or another.  If not?

As we wrote last night, say hello to months upon months upon months of A&M/OU-to-SEC speculation/rumor/innuendo being churned out by media outlets far and wide.  And, this time and unlike 13 months ago, said speculation/rumor/innuendo may actually come to fruition.