One of the things that I noticed right off the bat when talk of Texas A&M leaving the Big 12-2 and joining the SEC was the obvious bias by ESPN against the move. One reporter kept saying the entire move was based upon A&M’s ego. There was not one word from the ESPN reporter about the fact that t.u. was getting their own television network, sponsored by ESPN for the tune of $300 million. At that moment, I quit watching ESPN because they are no longer reporting the news of sports as much as shaping it for the purpose of a profit.
Please, don’t lecture me about how all news companies are ultimately in it for the money. I know that. But ESPN needs to be up front with why they do not like the move for A&M. It isn’t about A&M’s ego, but about the fact that t.u. now has $300 million more to play with than any other team in the country because they have their own network. The network will not make as much money for ESPN if A&M, and the rest of the conference teams, finally bolt and go to other conferences. So let’s put this farce of ESPN just covering the sporting world aside. They are trying to make a lot of money and A&M leaving the conference doesn’t help them in that.
Here is Michael Taglienti’s take on it with bleacherreport.com
In 2010, when ESPN writer Pat Forde wrote about Nebraska’s imminent move to the Big 10, he praised NU and Tom Osborne for joining a league “that isn’t going anywhere.” Fast forward to 2011 when Texas A&M attempts to join the stability of the SEC and Forde rips the Aggies as a mediocre program whose actions could set off college football Armageddon. Forde paints the Aggies as a program defined by insecurity which is making an uninformed decision. So why is there such a dichotomy? Why is it okay for Nebraska to seek stability but not Texas A&M?
A closer inspection of the situation reveals the ESPN has a vested interest in Texas A&M remaining in the Big 12. With their $300 million commitment to the Longhorn Network, ESPN has a huge financial incentive to see the Big 12 remain intact. A conference match-up of Texas vs. Houston is not quite as compelling to viewers as Texas A&M vs. Texas. If Texas A&M leaves to join the SEC, a good portion of the 28.2 million television viewers in the state of Texas will go with them. With a network based on the third tier rights to a single college program and only one football game, ESPN needs all the viewers they can get.
There is an expansion clause in ESPN’s television contract with the Southeastern Conference. If the SEC expands from its current lineup of 12 teams, the conference can re-negotiate the contract for more money. It is estimated that the addition of Texas A&M and its huge television footprint to the conference can cost ESPN upwards of $100 million. Obviously, ESPN has a huge financial incentive to scuttle this realignment.
As Texas A&M continues on their road to the SEC, expect to see more pundits from ESPN bashing the move. Do not be surprised when you see a conjured up economic impact study quoted as the truth on SportsCenter. Evidently, it is too much in this day and age to expect journalistic integrity from even a national news network.