When plans for the creation of the Longhorn Network first were revealed, Kansas University’s role was not on anybody’s radar.
Thanks to a joint effort between TLN and The Jayhawk Television Network, the Jayhawks this weekend will be all over the new network, available sparsely in Texas and to online subscribers.
Given that the KU football team sits at 2-5 overall and 0-4 in Big 12 play, it truly is a story of a university going from the basement to the penthouse. Under normal circumstances, it’s likely that the KU-UT game, which kicks off at 6 p.m. Saturday in Austin, Texas, would not have been picked up by television. However, because of cooperation between the two universities, the game will be shown on the Longhorn Network in Texas and on stations throughout Kansas, with each side being able to handle its own broadcast.
“I wanted fair compensation, and I wanted our fans to have access,” KU athletic director Sheahon Zenger said. “Then it dawned on me that we could show it on the Jayhawk Network.”
For a few weeks last summer, Zenger and Texas AD DeLoss Dodds worked hard to hammer out the details to make it work. At the time, the Longhorns, who were promised $300 million by ESPN to create the Longhorn Network, had plans to show just one UT football game on TLN — the season opener against Rice on Sept. 3 — and were feverishly searching for a way to add a second during conference play. Zenger said he was aware that UT officials were talking with other schools about the coveted second game, but remained focused on asking for what he thought was fair for Kansas. He got it.
In addition to ensuring that this week’s game would be on television throughout Kansas, Zenger secured similar compensation to what KU would get for having any other football game shown on high-profile networks. The best part, Zenger said, is that the broadcast will look 100 percent like a Jayhawk Network production.
“When people turn on the TV and see all the crimson and blue and (play-by-play announcer) Gary Bender and our advertising, people will see that it’s just like watching a Tier-3 Kansas basketball game,” Zenger said. “It’s on our network, it’s our production, it’s our talent, it’s our everything. We’re sharing cameras. To have an opportunity to get our feet wet in broadcasting college football was too good to pass up.”
The final details, which included negotiations with officials at UT and ESPN, took a few weeks to hammer out and, at times, moved more quickly than most believed they would.
Zenger credited the solid relationships between many people at the two schools for that.
“It’s pretty well known that our schools have a good relationship,” he said. “There’s a lot of mutual respect between the two institutions. Beyond that, I think this is good for the Big 12. I don’t think we’ve had many weeks where all 10 Big 12 teams have been on TV. And this allows all four other games to be on TV, so everyone’s happy. I think that’s a coup for the league.”