A&M President Responds to Longhorn Network Questions

There is "uncertainty" and unrest for Texas A&M and members of the Big 12 with word of that the University of Texas' new cable network in partnership with ESPN has been looking to broadcast high school football and even some conference football games.

Thursday, A&M President R. Bowen Loftin was asked about recent comments from UT Athletic Director DeLoss Dodds that the conference was "in great shape."

"I would come again to my term 'uncertainty,'" Loftin said. "We have uncertainty right now, which is concerning most, if not all the presidents at this time."

Thursday, the Texas A&M System Board of Regents met behind closed doors, and in part, discussed the conference situation. No action was taken by the board, and the regents had no comments on the matter.

But Loftin, while congratulatory in saying A&M's arch rival had achieved a great deal with ESPN, said recent overtures the Longhorn Network has wanted to make has raised serious questions with other Big 12 members.

Loftin said that last month in meetings in Kansas City, A&M and the other Big 12 schools agreed to share revenue from the new Fox Sports contract, and that A&M officials left feeling good that there was balance when it came to power in the conference, a requisite for the remaining ten schools to remain united.

However, talk of the cable outlet broadcasting a conference football game and even high school football games might have served to shatter the power balance the schools had agreed upon.

"High school games are very problematic," Loftin said. "NCAA rules are extremely directed at the recruiting function, and how does that change the landscape and ensure equity in terms of access to potential recruits for all universities, not just Texas A&M, but all of us here, in Texas and beyond?"

But just hours after Loftin's comments, Big 12 Commissioner Dan Beebe seemed to put an end to one part of the problem when he stated that the Longhorn Network would not broadcast high school games.

"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 packages 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," Beebe's statement read.

Previous talks between the conference schools had yielded no end to the concerns of Loftin, who says the other eight schools share his opinions about UT's discussed plans.

"The next formal meeting of the Board of Directors (of the Big 12) will be in October," Loftin said. "We can certainly meet between now and then. The next planned meeting we have right now is in October, and hope certainly by then, we'd be able to bring this to closure."

The Longhorn Network launches next month. It is a first-of-its-kind partnership to bring a single university's events and history to cable.

The rumors of an SEC defection by A&M -- or in some cases, the hopes of a defection by Aggie fans -- are back up and running. In fact, 1620 AM out of Omaha, Nebraska had reported recent weekly discussions between the Southeastern Conference and the Aggies. Loftin denied those rumors, saying it had been months since the conference and the university had chatted.


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