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Longhorn Network Set To Go Live Friday; Will Texas A&M Counter With Its Own News?

The long-anticipated Longhorn Network will officially debut on Friday, and there is wide speculation that Texas A&M may take the opportunity to pre-empt the launch of the controversial once-of-a-kind TV sports network with major news of its own.

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ESPN GameDay at launch of Longhorn Network
ESPN GameDay at launch of Longhorn Network

After many months of speculation and much sensitivity, the first-of-its-kind Longhorn Network is all set to debut with a series of activities on the University of Texas campus in Austin.

The 24-hour TV college sports channel is a joint project of the University of Texas Athletic Department and distribution and development partner ESPN, along with multimedia rights partner IMG College.

Launch activities will begin at 6 p.m. CT with the Longhorn Network on-air team of anchor Lowell Galindo, reporter Samantha Steele and analyst Kevin Dunn on hand for a live on-campus remote broadcast introducing the new dedicated college network. They will be joined by the ESPN College GameDay team of Chris Fowler, Kirk Herbstreit, Lee Corso, Desmond Howard and Erin Andrews. The GameDay crew will do a live broadcast in conjunction with the debut of the Longhorn Network in which they will preview the upcoming college football season.

Programming for the Longhorn Network will include coverage of 20 sports at Texas, offer original sports programming and provide fans a taste of the university's academic, arts and cultural offerings, according to network officials.

"The starting gun is finally going to go off, which we've been waiting for for a very long time," said Stephanie Druley, vice president of production for Longhorn Network.

Some of the regular programming that will air on the new network and represent its initial slate of shows include the program "Longhorn Extra," which will air at 10 p.m. on weekdays and provide news and commentary on Texas' 20 varsity sports programs. "Rewind with Mack Brown," will take place Mondays at 7 p.m. during the football season, and "Game Plan with Mack Brown," will be every Thursday night, previewing that week's Longhorn opponent. "Texas GameDay," with Galindo, Steele and Dunn will precede each Texas football and basketball game.

"We mean it when we say (the) Longhorn Network will provide robust, unprecedented coverage of University of Texas athletics," Longhorn Network vice president Dave Brown said. "These shows will exhibit the same high quality ESPN viewers are accustomed to and represent just a portion of the many great shows we have planned for Texas fans.

Earlier this summer, the Longhorn Network said its programming would include coverage of Texas high school football games, which brought an immediate negative reaction from several schools in the Big 12 Conference, including public responses by Oklahoma head football coach Bob Stoops and Missouri coach Gary Pinkel. In large part, it was the Longhorn Network that served as the final straw and prompted the recent actions by Texas A&M in declaring its desire to leave the Big 12 in favor of the Southeastern Conference.

In what has to be considered very curious timing, Texas A&M officials today gave written notice to Big 12 commissioner that it plans to break away from the Big 12. This has led to increased speculation that A&M will time its announcement that the school is leaving the Big 12 and will be joining the SEC in a pre-emptive move to counter the debut of the Longhorn Network and cast one more stone at its longtime hated rival in Austin.

It has been estimated that the Longhorn Network will bring in annual revenue of $11 million to the University of Texas.

University of Oklahoma officials have announced that they are working on plans for their own network, and several other Big 12 schools are also looking into the possibility.