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TMCNet:  The Oklahoman, Oklahoma City, Jenni Carlson column

[January 19, 2013]

The Oklahoman, Oklahoma City, Jenni Carlson column

Jan 20, 2013 (The Oklahoman - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) -- Remember when the Longhorn Network was the envy of everyone in college athletics When it was seen as such a game changer that it threatened to dismantle a conference When it was considered such a competitive advantage for Texas that other schools wanted to rewrite the rule books That was less than two years ago.

Now, you'd have trouble finding anyone in Austin who likes it.

The network has become a scourge.

Texas athletics has hit the skids since the network launched less than two years ago. It's not just football. It's men's basketball. It's women's basketball. It's baseball.

That network is weighing down the Longhorns like a hundred-pound chunk of concrete around Bevo's neck.

And here we thought there was no way this groundbreaking deal would be anything but good for the Longhorns. Surely, there was no way a $300 million, 20-year deal with ESPN could go wrong.

Um, about that ...

When the Longhorn Network launched, the football team was coming off its worst season in years. The Longhorns only won five games a season after playing for the national championship.

There was no way to go but up.

And the Longhorns have improved -- but barely. They won eight games two seasons ago and nine games this past season.

Still, did ESPN agree to pay an average of $15 million a year for an eight- or nine-win football team Here's guessing the World Wide Leader could've found a 10- or 12-win team for cheaper.

I mean, I'm sure it's riveting television to watch Mack Brown breaking down film from a four-point win over Kansas ...

Then again, who would know After all, the Longhorn Network still has an extremely limited audience. Last month, it added Cox Communications and Charter Communications, but it still lacks three of the biggest paid TV providers.

No Time Warner.

No Dish Network.

No DirectTV.

Maybe it's for the best. Who would want to watch what the Longhorn Network has to offer Even the most dedicated of Texas fans might want to look away.

That's because football isn't the only sport to struggle. Basketball, the big winter staple of the network, might actually be in worse shape than football.

The men's team has yet to score a Big 12 win. There were a pair of overtime losses to Baylor and West Virginia, then came a 20-point loss at Iowa State and a close-but-no-cigar loss to Kansas.

The Longhorns do have a big win on their nonconference resume, a double-digit beatdown of North Carolina, but there's also a loss to Chaminade.

Do those two cancel each other out I vote yes.

Women's basketball is in the midst of a similar slide. After losing to Oklahoma on Saturday afternoon, the Longhorns' losing streak has hit eight games, including its first six Big 12 games.

These Longhorns are having a tough time off the court, too. Earlier this week, they had not one but two players end their careers because of injury. Senior center Cokie Reed and junior guard Chelsea Bass decided to retire for medical reasons.

Talk about some bad karma.

But wait, there's more.

The always powerful Texas baseball team failed to make the NCAA Tournament last spring. Ditto for the usually strong women's soccer team this past fall.

But lest you're feeling sorry for the burnt orange -- though I suspect you aren't -- all is not lost in Austin. Men's golf won an NCAA title last spring. Women's volleyball won one in December.

Does any of that make good TV for the Longhorn Network Stay tuned.

Or not.

Jenni Carlson: Jenni can be reached at (405) 475-4125. Like her at facebook.com/JenniCarlsonOK, follow her at twitter.com/jennicarlson_ok or view her personality page at newsok.com/jennicarlson.

* * --email ------ Show / Hide Comments ___ (c)2013 The Oklahoman Visit The Oklahoman at www.newsok.com Distributed by MCT Information Services

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