Longhorn Network to air 31 softball games

Sara Beth Purdy

With the implementation of the Longhorn Network this season, the University of Texas has been both praised and criticized for its multimillion dollar decision. Although the Longhorn Network has been credited with the exodus of four different universities to new conference homes, here on the 40 Acres it can provide some positive opportunities.

For the softball team, the Longhorn Network could prove to be a powerful tool to help them overcome some recent bad luck on the national stage.

The Longhorns excelled throughout the course of the 2011 season. They cruised through both their non-conference and conference schedules, culminating in an impressive 46-10 regular season record. They were within one game of clinching the Big 12 title, finishing second behind an equally impressive Missouri squad.

For the second year in a row, they were poised for big things. They were seeded No. 3 in the NCAA post-season tournament and for the second year in a row, hosted their own NCAA regional in Austin. However, for the second year in a row, they suffered two unexpected early postseason losses and weren’t able to make it out of the first round.

Texas doesn’t have good history in front of a national audience, even in the regular season. Last year, the Longhorns were featured twice on ESPN against Oklahoma and Missouri and once on Fox Sports Network for their annual showdown against Texas A&M. But despite entering the weekend as the projected winner, the Longhorns struggled and lost all three games. In fact, it’s been several years since Texas has won a televised game.

During the past four regular seasons, they were featured on television nine times while only coming away with a victory once against Texas Tech on Texas Student TV, the Texas student channel, in 2008. As far as the NCAA tournament is concerned, in the past four years, Texas has not made it out of the first round once. They have dropped a regional in Houston, Tuscaloosa, Ala., and two in Austin in consecutive years.

This season however, the Longhorns will be appear on television 32 times, once on Fox Sports Network with the rest being featured on the Longhorn Network. While it may seem trivial, hopefully the Longhorns can use the consistent national presence to overcome their big game flops.

“Having a little more depth and experience under our belt with playing the NCAAs, and really understanding what that is about,” said Texas head coach Connie Clark. “I think as much as you try to teach that to your athletes, until they really go through it, they can look back on it and say they really know what the coaches were talking about.”

Maybe it’s their youth that is not able to adjust quickly to college level competition or maybe it’s nerves about playing in the spotlight, but hopefully this year’s senior class can finally see beyond the regional round of the tournament.

Tonight, against Cal State Fullerton in their spring 2012 season opener, the Longhorns will get their first chance to break their television curse.

“Our expectations this year are to finish all the way through the season,” said junior starting pitcher Blaire Luna. “I think this year we are more determined to finish strongly. We’ve lost the last two years in regionals, but if anything I think we’ve learned from it.”

Printed on Thursday, February 9, 2012 as: LHN provides more exposure for horns