University of Texas reaches 20-year, $300 million deal with ESPN

Originally published January 19, 2011 at 12:57 p.m., updated January 20, 2011 at midnight

— The University of Texas, which already has one of the wealthiest athletic programs in the country, is lining up for even more money.

Texas and ESPN announced a 20-year, $300 million deal Wednesday for a 24-hour television network that will broadcast Longhorns sports, including at least one football game and eight basketball games per season, and other sports and academic content.

“We want to define what it means to be ’the’ public university,” Texas President William Powers said. “The challenge is to create new sources of revenue to support our mission.”

The deal includes Texas’ licensing and marketing partner IMG College, with more than 80 percent of revenue set to go to the university. It will not replace existing television deals between the Big 12 and both ESPN-ABC and Fox.

ESPN will handle distribution of the still-unnamed network via cable or satellite in Texas and other states and already has had preliminary conversations with Time Warner Cable and Comcast Corp.

The network is scheduled to launch in September and will broadcast at least 200 Texas sporting events per year.

The contact also raises the question of whether Texas would consider going independent if the network proves successful. The Big 12 will drop to 10 members in July when it loses Colorado (Pac 12) and Nebraska (Big Ten).

Texas athletic director DeLoss Dodds said Texas is not going independent.

“Absolutely no. There’s no thought of moving, no thought of being an independent,” Dodds said. “We love our conference.”