Friday, November 18, 2011

Documents show Texas and ESPN conspired, lobbied NCAA on Longhorn Network

RedMeat In the Dallas Morning-News, reporter Kate Hairopoulos reports on several newly obtained documents that shed light on Texas A&M’s growing discontent with Texas, the Longhorn Network and the Big 12’s reluctance to stand up to the Austin giant.

The DMN story is unfortunately behind the website’s paywall. But the documents themselves are not.

One of those documents provides compelling evidence that ESPN and Texas worked together and lobbied hard for the NCAA to provide a rules interpretation allowing the Longhorn Network to air high school games. One stunning revelation is that ESPN “threatened” Texas Tech.

Perhaps the most explosive allegation of all—ESPN was “pushing hard to help Texas recruit high school prospects.”

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The document excerpted above is from an email from Texas A&M Athletic Director Bill Byrne. It is not clear who the recipient of the email was. Byrne also expresses deep concern over ESPN’s financial relationship with the NCAA and a too-cozy relationship between Texas Athletic Director Deloss Dodds and NCAA top brass. In fact, Byrne even says Dodds himself touted the relationship to NCAA brass.

The NCAA eventually concluded that the Longhorn Network would not be permitted to show high school football games, concluding that it would have provided a competitive advantage for Texas.

However, if Byrne’s conclusions are correct—that ESPN and Texas worked together to help Texas recruit high school prospects and lobby the NCAA for a favorable ruling—the implications are explosive. It suggests collusion at the highest level of a major university and ESPN executives, and Byrne was rightly concerned that the weight being thrown around might unduly influence the NCAA.

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