Dr. Saturday - NCAAF

Hope you're getting my good side, big guy.

If there was such a thing as President of Sports Media, Pac-10 commissioner Larry Scott would be flying up the polls faster than the pollsters could count them. He'd be Barack Obama circa early 2008. The long-awaited media deal the conference announced this morning will secure somewhere in the neighborhood of $2.7 billion to $3 billion from ESPN and Fox over the next 12 years, expanding the league's national television footprint and easily doubling (in some cases, possibly tripling) the annual payout to member schools, while also retaining the rights to dozens of football games and other events to air on its own, conference-specific network. And unlike the Big Ten, which splits ownership of and profits from its network with Fox, the forthcoming Pac-12 Network will be owned and produced entirely by the Pac-12, which will split profits with no one. Impressive business.

Impressive, that is, unless you're the University of Texas. If Scott is the new President of Sports Media, Texas is the feudal warlord ruling over its domain with an iron fist. Part of that fiefdom includes the Big 12, which wouldn't exist in any recognizable or profitable form if the Longhorns hadn't spurned Scott's overtures at the last second last summer, a reprieve that entitles UT to keep a larger share of the conference pie than its colleagues. As of January, it also includes ESPN, which agreed to shell out $300 million over 20 years for exclusive rights to the fledgling Longhorn Network — an arrangement that, according to the Austin American-Statesman, apparently entitles the university to fire ESPN employees as its sees fit (emphasis added):

ESPN will do the hiring at the Longhorn Network, but the University of Texas will have the right to do some firing.
[…]
According to the agreement, ESPN projects it will spend $13 million to outfit a studio at UT while production costs will start at $15 million a year and increase 3 percent annually. In addition, ESPN projects that its overhead will start at $11 million a year and increase by 4 percent annually.

Yet, all those millions will not buy ESPN total control of the network.

According to the contract, "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 on 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)."

An ESPN spokesman explained to the Statesman via e-mail Tuesday that the arrangement is "not common" for the network, is reserved for "completely inappropriate" comments or actions and "does not allow for random replacement of commentators or reaction to critical comments."

Well, of course the university's not going to start firing people at random. It's only seeking to exert editorial control in five very specific* ways:

1. All commercial breaks will feature at least one smokeless tobacco ad starring Earl Campbell.

2. Quarterback Garrett Gilbert will star in an annual holiday special, "A Very Garrett Thanksgiving," where he will explore the joy of giving. As a marketing tie-in, all interceptions throughout the season will be referred to as "The Lost Pilgrims."

3. All references to rivals Oklahoma and Texas A&M will be accompanied by sound effects simulating flatulence and the Fail Horn, respectively.

4. The weekly "Recruiting Roundup" segment will feature one-on-one interviews by noted field reporter Nicki Minaj. In a helicopter.

5. All "Hungry, Hungry Hippos" victories by His Excellency Mack Brown (he will be referred to "His Excellency" or, in interviews, "Your Excellency") will be compensated with a $1 million performance bonus.

And the next time Fowler topples a Jenga tower in the middle of a game, he will reconstruct it from memory or he is toast. That's not too much to ask, is it?

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* And very fake, in case you couldn't tell.
Matt Hinton is on Twitter: Follow him @DrSaturday.

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