So for all you underfed ESPN readers, here’s some context on the network’s role in the current mess from the guy at the center of all of this: A&M athletic director Bill Byrne:
You all know the landscape of the Big 12 Conference was altered by the creation of the Longhorn Network,” Byrne wrote. “We rebuffed an attempt to televise high school games on the LHN, arguing that this type of activity was a clear violation of NCAA rules. The most recent attempt by ESPN is to take highlights of high school games as part of news segments. The NCAA is taking a wait and see attitude on the highlights. I disagree with their stance — as do many of my colleagues across the country. We anticipate that ESPN will continue to push the envelope with the Longhorn Network, regardless of Texas A&M’s conference affiliation.”
The bottom line is simple for its editorial staff: ESPN has major conflicts of interest on this story, and not mentiong them—every time—makes it look really bad.
UPDATE: Gracie Blackburn of ESPN PR writes to say “I was discouraged to see that your article did not emphasize the numerous times analysts have mentioned LHN (and the fact that it is owned by ESPN) on air over multiple networks and a variety of shows when covering realignment.”
Fair enough. I don’t know how often ESPN’s on-air people mentioned the Longhorn Network and its ownership. I should have noted that I was analyzing the coverage ESPN collected last week on its website’s college football front page.
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