"Yay, we don't have to play on the Longhorn Network! GO TEAM!" (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
We'd Rather Have the Game on Altitude, Thanks: Wednesday night, a storm erupted over Lubbock with the realization that Texas Tech's road game at Texas State might end up being aired on the Longhorn Network. Texas Tech was so offended by this that they were reportedly floating the threat of cancelling the game rather than being forced to provide content for the hated abomination or whatever. The problem has since been resolved, with the LHN stating they're not interested in airing the game, but the development and death of the story raise all sorts of concerns... most notably, with the venal cynicism with which stories like this are even generated and with the wide-eyed gullibility of the people to whom that news is targeted.
Understand that Texas Tech, by agreeing to play a road game at Texas State, also inherently agreed to the game being aired wherever Texas State's television rights might lead. This, above all else in this discussion, is the most important fact. Texas State is now a member of the WAC, and its television rights thus devolve to the WAC; in turn, the WAC's television rights belong to ESPN with all games not being aired on ESPN2/ESPNU/ESPN3 devolving to ESPN Regional. Texas Tech knew (or should have, and if they didn't too freakin' bad for them and maybe they should look into something called "due diligence") that Texas State was on the way to the WAC when they scheduled the home-and-home, and that the WAC's TV deal was with ESPN... and that unless ESPN opts to air the game on one of their primary networks, the Longhorn Network is a potential carrier for ANY game distributed by ESPN Regional. So while Tech's desire to not play on the LHN is certainly understandable, the story was not about the game possibly airing there... but about Tech being petulant. Period.
It should be noted that this also means, for example, that if the LHN is willing, ESPN could air a second-tier Big East game on the network, or a MAC game. It doesn't mean the LHN would necessarily be the exclusive carrier of the game; for instance, the exact same feed of a Big East game in that situation would probably also be aired on, say, MASN and possibly some local stations which have syndication agreements with ESPN Regional. The affiliate networks sort of make their own decisions on what ESPN Regional programming they wish to air.
Of course, the "biting off our nose to spite our face" moment in all of this is pretty simple: all Texas Tech did by throwing a tantrum here was to reduce the chances their game will be seen in Texas. The most likely outcome here is NOT going to be the sudden elevation of the Texas Tech/Texas State game to a national broadcast on ESPN2 or ESPNU. It will almost certainly air on ESPN3 and on ESPN GamePlan in some form, but that would have been the case even if it were on LHN. It'll also be available for local over-the-air syndication, but there are no existing local syndication partners in Texas. (Admittedly, that can change with a simple a la carte agreement for that weekend, but it's not something that's in place at present.)
The most likely hope for anything resembling "national" availability, and even then it's only going to be for viewers with the high-level sports tiers, is Altitude. In other words, instead of their game being widely available in Texas, it will be widely available in Colorado. Congrats, Red Raiders. Brilliant maneuvering.
A Step Too Far: The NCAA is cracking down on the billboard wars, and they need to stop. Policing direct contact with recruits is relevant and important. Banning things like letting schools attach themselves to the airing of high school games? That's fair, too, as in that case you're actually "providing a benefit" to several dozen potential recruits in the name of your university, and that's an unfair recruiting advantage. Billboards, though? I'm sorry, but a billboard -- even one outside the campus of your main rival -- is no damned different than those mandated 30-second spots each team gets to air during a televised football game. Or, for that matter, any different than airing the game in the first place. A billboard is nothing more than something you may or may not look at, and may or may not register. It provides no "benefit" to a potential recruit; it also does not assault the recruit with unwanted harassment. Knock it off, NCAA.
Down to Three: Kent State fell to South Carolina and UCLA was eliminated by Florida State, both by 4-1 scores, reducing the field to four; last night Arizona drilled Florida State to eliminate them and move to the championship series. They don't yet know who they're playing, however, as South Carolina shut out Arkansas 2-0 to force another game between the two squads tonight. The Gamecocks will, of course, be angling for their third consecutive trip to the CWS Championship Finals, having won the thing the last two years.
Diablerie: This little gem can only mean that a merger between the SEC and Big 12, forming a 24-team behemoth, is imminent, right?. ... Maryland really thought about that black field thing, but decided against it. ... If you don't love Mike Leach, you're broken. Really.