UT network faces dilemma about showing recruits’ games

Matthew Stottlemyre

UT’s new network with ESPN could lose points with the NCAA if it airs high school athletics events, a Texas A&M University official said.

A&M Athletic Director Bill Byrne said because of the network’s direct affiliation with UT, airing high school athletic events may violate NCAA recruiting rules.

“I can’t speak for the NCAA, but I would imagine the governing body will look into the use of a collegiate television network airing games of prospective student-athletes,” Byrne said in a statement to several members of the media Tuesday. “I understand networks such as FSN and ESPN airing high school sports, but whether or not employees under contract with a university that may have additional contact would seem to be an issue.”

Nick Voinis, a UT athletics spokesman, said the athletic department is aware of the issue and will adhere to any NCAA and Big 12 rules and regulations.

“We are aware of the issue, and we’ve been looking at it for about a year,” Voinis said. “ESPN is in the business of programming, and they are looking at a variety of different programming content, so nothing is set in stone. Certainly we wouldn’t do anything that would be in violation of NCAA rules.”

NCAA officials could not be reached for comment Wednesday afternoon, but NCAA spokesman Cameron Schuh said in an e-mail to the Texan that specific bylaws govern schools’ recruiting efforts. Schuh included the text of the specific bylaw addressing TV and radio appearances of potential recruits.

Voinis said although the athletic department knows of the potential conflict, they have not reached a decision on whether airing high school athletic events on the still unnamed network violates any NCAA regulations.

In addition to bringing almost $300 million to the University over 20 years, which the administration will split between the athletic and academic departments, the network will provide exposure to the University’s smaller sports and academic endeavors.

The College of Fine Arts has a particular opportunity to gain exposure by televising its music and performing arts events, Fine Arts Dean Doug Dempster said. He added that the college also plans to profile professors doing research in the field and art exhibits in documentary style programs.

Fine Arts administrative associate Joshua Denslow said ESPN will control the production process for any shows on the network. He said although the network is scheduled to launch in September, the college hasn’t yet worked with ESPN directly.

“They haven’t really told us exactly what we’re going to do,” Denslow said. “It’s all sort of like dreams at this point.”