So this fall it came out that Mack Brown isn’t exactly happy with the Longhorn Network. All those trips across town to tape The Mack Brown Show three times a week, that’s wearing on poor ol’ Mack, coupled with the fact that all those practice highlights on LHN is giving our opponents the advantage. This is the point where Husker fans ask, “So Texas, that was worth nearly destroying the Big 12? By the by, that’s for giving us the push we need to go to the Big 10.”
Brown’s complaints about his commitment to the network is, in part, a by-product of longevity in the coaching world. I remember watching him on the sidelines during the 2010 Texas-Kansas State game, belching at his players while a Wildcat returned an interception. I remember thinking to myself that this coach who wore a sophisticated mesh workout shirt with the Longhorn head on it, just looked tired of being a hands-on coach. Since 1985, Brown has been in a head coach of a FBS program, twenty-seven years without a break. Even though Colt McCoy got UT to the 2009 National Title game, the Big 12 was extremely watered down and Jordan Shipley was the only skill player of note on that team. With McCoy’s leadership gone, Brown had to take it over, and even with elite coordinators, Texas has hit a ceiling.
So it’s not surprising that Brown’s now complaining about his LHN commitments. Texas is in an on-field funk, and suddenly, their gem of a network is a problem. To get conference games on the network, they have to show the game on over-the-air channels in the market of the visiting team. According to Blair Kerkhoff, more people in Kansas than in watched last year’s Texas-Kansas game (whose LHN telecast was announced in glamorous fashion by Brett Musberger during the Red River Rivalry), and this year’s Cyclone-Longhorn game was even shown on the local ABC affiliate in Omaha. The vehemence is palpable.
But my advice Nebraska fans: let this one go. If Pat Fitzgerald, Dan Mullen, Chris Pederson or any young coach, takes the Texas job when Brown retires, either one of them will have the energy to take care of the LHN commitments. That coach will, after all, have one of the best jobs in America. (BTB, if Fitzgerald ends up at Texas, he’ll have one of the best ten to twenty year runs of a coach at one school ever.) Just be thankful that you have a good new conference, even if you haven’t had the highest success on the gridiron.
So, what does the long-term future hold for LHN? It’s only been a little over a year, and remember, it took a while for the Big 10 Network to catch on, although there were a lot more markets that wanted BTN’s content. If LHN continues to flounder, it could hasten Texas’ potential trek to the Pac-12 with Oklahoma. The Longhorns will continue to profit, but it likely be more work than they expected, and the network won’t be the gem everyone thought it would end up being. Smile slyly, Husker fans.