Here we are with yet another edition of the ALDLAND Podcast.  Chris Cunico is off making bad decisions in Nola, so the task falls to blog founder AD to talk about a wide variety of sports-related topics with me, from the exciting finish to the English Premiere League season to the impending change to the college football postseason.  So take thirty minutes out of your work day and check out this awesomeness.


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Less-than-super Wednesday college basketball roundup

Last night was my first chance this season to watch a lot of college basketball, which was especially convenient because both Michigan State and Vanderbilt were playing in back-to-back nationally televised games. Both games were in-conference and on the road. In both cases, the visiting team was considered the better team, and in both cases, the visiting team lost in disappointing fashion. In Champaign, the Illini were barely able to take advantage of brutal shooting by the Spartans and extended absences by Draymond Green, stumbling into a 42-41 W. In Fayetteville, the Razorbacks out-rebounded the ‘Dores and largely played mistake-free basketball, which is a pretty solid formula for winning at home, which they did, 82-74. I also caught part of UT-UK and Clemson-Virginia. The message of the former was “youth,” and the message of the latter was “I did not watch enough to form any meaningful impression of either team.”

If you think this post has been slim on analysis so far, consider the above graphic. (HT: Deadspin)

Keep reading…

The television channel that launched 1,000 conference realignments

So much has happened in the world of college athletic conference realignment that ALDLAND’s coverage of the fluid, polycentric topic has all but fallen off, and it’s easy to forget what started all of this. Yes, last year, TCU had planned to jump to the Big East next year in order to secure that faltering conference‘s automatic BCS bid, and yes, Conference USA, the Big East, and the ACC had adjusted their jocks in recent years resulting in inconsequential shifts between Boston College, Miami, Louisville, and Cincinnati, and the Big Ten and Pacific 10 each had made minor additions, but it was Texas A & M’s move that represented the first falling domino on this American Fall that saw the Aggies loosed from the oppressive, yet apparently failing, bonds of the Big XII, the tumbling of the Big East‘s old basketball regime, TCU’s reversal of course, and about a billion other related stories. And the hand that pushed that first domino belonged to ESPN’s Longhorn Network.

As Deadspin reports, however, the catalytic network is fairly impotent when it comes to actual television broadcasting as, after launching two months ago, LHN still isn’t on anybody’s tv set:

It was two months ago today that we ran a sky-is-falling story on ESPN’s Longhorn Network going live without having lined up cable companies to actually broadcast the channel. We thought that was just last-minute posturing and ESPN’s muscle would get the deals done before long. But here we are, halfway through the season, and it’s still a channel without a home.

Awful Announcing has a good breakdown of the problems, which start with the one major cable provider in the fold not having much of a presence in Texas itself[:]

“The most glaring issue is outside of the Texas fan-base, there just isn’t a lot of interest in the channel and in fact the mere existence of the network has more than likely hurt the brand of Texas nationally more than it’s helped it. The idea that an entire network can be propped up by two shitty football games has cable providers holding the line knowing the implications of giving in.

“Also working against LHN is the fact that ESPN is their distribution partner. You’d think that this would only help adoption of the channel but my take is that ESPN has bullied the entire industry for quite awhile. This is really the only time where operators actually have leverage and can potentially keep it as an ace up their sleeve for future negotiations on other ESPN/Disney talks.”

This situation can’t continue indefinitely. The Big Ten Network suffered through the same growing pains, with most cable companies only agreeing to carry it in its second year of existence, but that was amid public demand. With no one clamoring for the Longhorn Network in their home, it’s still likely that by next year the network’s footprint will be national: but not at the price ESPN wants to charge to carry it.

From the beginning, it felt like the Worldwide Leader had bit off a bigger bite of Texas rawhide than it could chew, but LHN is starting to look like a Tejas-sized broadcast failure that no one will notice because no one’s ever seen it and ESPN won’t report on it.

Welcoming ALDLAND’s newest writer, Magalan

I am glad to welcome new writer Magalan to the site. Check out the first post from this “SEC man” on Texas A&M’s flirtation with decamping from the depleted, Longhorn Network-burdened Big 12 for the neighboring SEC, a topic so hot, Texas Governor (and A&M alum) Rick Perry even weighed in on it yesterday.
Eagerly Anticipating the LSU/A&M Rivalry

Eagerly Anticipating the LSU/A&M Rivalry

Huzzah for inaugural posts. Given the frequency of AD’s posting thus far, I’m a bit intimidated by the prospect of making any sort of regular contribution to ALDLAND. I sat out the first week so that I might get a feel for the Bard of Battle Rapid’s voice and the character of the blog. Unfortunately, from what I’ve seen so far, it would seem that my forte – sweeping, overwrought pieces that capture the zeitgeist and bring readers to a greater knowledge of self and a higher plane of being – will be completely out of place among fake interviews of hockey players.  Further, my commentary on sports usually doesn’t progress beyond cursing from the sidelines or the occasional essay on why Lane Kiffin is an idiot. If you really want my opinion on sports – and by sports, I mean college football – just go read Spencer Hall at Everyday Should Be Saturday. If I could write, or knew anything about sports, I suspect that’s what I would say. At any rate, for now, any contributions I make to ALDLAND will likely be focused on music.

That said, this Texas A & M rumor means I’ll be commenting on sports sooner than I expected. I’ll admit I was a little surprised to read that A & M  was looking at the SEC again. Not that the idea is inconceivable, but the timing caught me off guard. We went through all this last year, with Texas flirting with the PAC10+ (What would they have called that, by the way? Is Texas Pacific Group up for grabs now that the PE shop is officially TPG?) It seemed clear at the time that A & M was pretty content to stick around so long as the Longhorns continued to anchor the conference.

It also suggests that A & M got a look at the details of the Longhorn Network deal about the same time we did. That’s been covered extensively, and I won’t try to add my own thoughts (because, frankly, I haven’t read the thing. I haven’t even read the coverage at Midnight Yell that AD linked). But my understanding is that it certainly doesn’t provide any long term security for the Aggies.

As an SEC man, I’m all for A & M joining the conference. Their strategy, though, suggests that there isn’t strong leadership inside the administration in College Station. I don’t know how strong their bargaining position with Slive and Co. was last year, but it certainly had to be better than right now. If they are in talks this time around, it means they are desperate for an exit, so I’d expect to see the SEC get them on good terms (whatever that means).

As for Big 12 Commissioner Dan Beebe’s comment that moving away from your geographic base and tradition rivals can “create a lot of problems”, I understand he has to say that kind of stuff, but get real man. You can see why A & M doesn’t want to stuck in the University of Texas with a dash of Oklahoma conference. If UT decides to go their own way someday (And don’t say they won’t. As literally every Texan will tell you, it’s the only state that can secede from the union), the whole house of cards falls. Granted, a move by A & M might help accelerate the collapse.

The last question is a matter of balance in the SEC. If Slive puts the Aggies in the West, who do we steal for the East? My pick during this whole debate last year was Va. Tech, and I still think it’s the best move in terms of increasing market share (as well as getting another high quality program). That said, with all that’s happened in the past few months, I bet we could get Ohio State for ten cents on the dollar right now. It’s not a cultural fit by any means, but having a crippled OSU in the East for the Gators to beat up on would make me a happy man. One can dream.

Pulling back the curtain on the University of Texas – ESPN relationship

Bloggers at The Midnight Yell, a Texas A&M site, have made public the contract between the University of Texas and ESPN for The Longhorn Network. One of their friends obtained the document through a successful open records request.

The full report highlights a number of notable terms of the agreement. To me, the most interesting provision is the one granting Texas editorial control:

In the event that UT reasonably determines that any on-air talent does not reflect the quality and reputation desired by UT for the Network based upon inappropriate statements made or actions taken by such talent and so notifies ESPN, ESPN will cause such talent to be promptly replaced (and will in any event no longer allow them on air following such notice).

There isn’t much to add to that, except to say that I don’t know whether clauses like this are common or becoming common with the rise of these sorts of networks (which now exist, to varying extents, in the Big Ten, SEC, and Pac 12), but, common or not, they have to raise questions about the integrity of the host network.

If you’re interested in the money involved, Texas’ ability to leave the ten-team Big 12, or any other aspect of the relationship, read The Midnight Yell’s thorough coverage.