SB Nation

Steven Godfrey | October 3, 2013

The eye of Texas

Inside the Longhorn Network as it continues to enter uncharted television territory

DeLoss Dodds is retiring. According to sources.

The report hits the offices of the Longhorn Network around 2:30 p.m. CT on Sept. 13, the Friday afternoon before the 1-1 Texas football team is set to host No. 25 Ole Miss with the public perception of head coach Mack Brown at stake.

LHN producer Tom McCollum and his staff, gathered for an afternoon editorial meeting for that evening's edition of "Longhorn Extra," LHN's all-Texas version of "SportsCenter," are noticeably calm. In fact, the news isn't mentioned until after the regular rundown of the day's UT sporting events (women's volleyball, soccer) and a review of upcoming pieces for Saturday's "Texas GameDay" live pregame show.'s Chip Brown is citing multiple sources within the University of Texas that Dodds, the school's athletic director and brand architect of 32 years, will step down to allow a successor to make upcoming coaching hires. If the story is true, it's huge for Texas, and by extension LHN, the 24-hour national cable network both dedicated solely to the athletics program of a single university and owned in part by that university. But at the moment there's no visible bias, no directive from across campus in Austin, no talking point issued on University of Texas letterhead. LHN is another newsroom, and Dodds' apparent retirement is just another potential lead.

"At the moment, it's being vehemently denied," McCollum tells the assembled staff, who will begin to vet the news.

Within hours, Dodds will take that vehement denial public with an official statement, telling various media outlets such as the Dallas Morning News that Brown's report has no validity. The next evening, Dodds will appear on the halftime show of "Texas GameDay," a program on a network he helped conceive, to denounce reports of his own retirement.

"When the time comes to do that," Dodds said of stepping down, "I'm going to give you a lot of lead time so you don't have to speculate on it."

Depending on what you believe the unprecedented concept of ESPN's Longhorn Network to be, in that moment Dodds was either merely a participant in the news or creating it.


Lhn1_mediumLowell Galindo hosts a show with Mack Brown. (ESPN Images)

"Hey, let’s recap what made your week bad. Let’s go through all the bad stuff that happened to you this week."

Saturday night in Utah, 550 rushing yards from BYU help create the most important week in the Longhorn Network's three-year history.

"It's been ... I'm not good at describing it, because it's just been so much," LHN anchor Lowell Galindo says on Friday afternoon.

A preseason national title contender, Texas sees its defense implode in 40-21 loss, dropping the Longhorns to 2-1 headed into a home game with Ole Miss. The game will air only on LHN, marking the first time a game against a ranked opponent will appear exclusively on the network. Sunday, Brown fires defensive coordinator Manny Diaz and replaces him with Greg Robinson, the former Syracuse head coach and one-time Texas DC. Following his regular press conference on Monday morning, Brown arrives to the LHN studios to break down the previous 72 hours with host Galindo for LHN's "Rewind with Mack Brown." In many ways, the program sets the tone for LHN's interaction with the Texas football program that week.

"I don't think that this week was all that different from previous weeks. It's just that you have an hour-long show where you have to sit down with somebody, and you're essentially saying ‘Hey, let's recap what made your week bad. Let's go through all the bad stuff that happened to you this week,'" Galindo explains. "You just have to respect your relationship with the coach. He knows at the end of the day what my job entails, and that is to take an honest, critical look at this program. He always knows what's coming up on the show. I mean, his name is on the show; he deserves that right not to be surprised."

As the host of the live "Texas GameDay" pregame show and multiple other programs, Galindo could be considered the face of LHN. He was born and raised in San Antonio growing up in what he describes as "the language of football in Texas." His son is named Mack, after the coach Galindo has developed a rapport with over three years. Together Galindo and Brown co-host "Rewind" and "Game Plan with Mack Brown," respectively a look back and look ahead with the head coach in studio to answer questions and break down film. But the week starts with an on-the-fly revamp of "Rewind." The game recap is shortened by one segment, allowing LHN to reintroduce Robinson to its audience, specifically with footage of his success as the Longhorns' defensive coordinator in 2004.

Galindo's treatment of Brown during the BYU edition of "Rewind" is exceedingly courteous. Brown doesn't dodge the obvious, pointing out missed tackles and poor play, but he diplomatically reroutes any potential criticism of individual players or position groups as a failure in coaching, not execution. Galindo asks Brown what the most challenging part of making a coaching change is for him, what his sense of urgency is regarding the season, and at one point nearly apologizes for taking Brown back through the film: "You talk about moving forward, and that's the rough thing with this show, we're bringing you back," he says to the coach.

"Before, I was at ESPNU and you could say things on the air ... you could say whatever you wanted, and there were no ramifications for it because you never have direct access to coaches and players, so there's no way for them even to respond. In hindsight that's not really the way to do things," Galindo says.

A slightly rehearsed weekly coach's show isn't much different than what hundreds of other schools create for local cable. But unlike a simple syndicated "This Week in [University] Football" program, LHN is a 24-hour national outlet offering a variety of programming that includes hard news. It differs from any other form of sports media in that it's home not only to soft-touch feature programming like "Rewind," but also contrasting programs like "Texas All-Access," where the narrative might eventually have to focus on exactly how embattled the coach that was just in your studio actually is or isn't. It might ask uncomfortable questions of its sole assigned subject: Ownership.

"I've always been asked about the editorial standard and how we define who we are. We're not ‘Outside the Lines,'" says Stephanie Druley, vice president of production for LHN. "We're going to report the news, but I don't have an investigative unit, and I'm not going to have an investigative unit. But when things happen, we're going to report it. And we have, and we've had to ask tough questions. Do we love doing that? It's part of the job."


Lhn2_medium(ESPN Images)

"I think the fact that we were going to be homers was probably the big misconception."

Among LHN staffers, it's accepted that many of those who damn its existence the loudest have never actually seen its programming. Those include rivals displeased with the self-aggrandizing enterprise; loyal Texas fans enraged by LHN's once-minuscule footprint blacking out Longhorn sporting events; and jabs from media contemporaries that, as a jointly owned project by both a media outlet and its sole subject, LHN is nothing more than a university-controlled Bevo Pravda. ESPN pays Texas $15 million a year in a 20-year contract signed in 2007 and retains the right to replace talent that doesn't "reflect the quality and reputation of UT," as stated in the original contract.

"I think the fact that we were going to be homers was probably the big misconception," says Vice President of Programming and Acquisitions Dave Brown. "I know all of these guys, I've worked with all of ‘em, and they wouldn't come into work if they were homers. They wouldn't do it. They have too much talent, and it just goes against all sound principles of journalism to be a homer. So that just never happened."

Thursday afternoon, producer Andrea Wall, preparing that night's edition of "Longhorn Extra," explains the variations between this week's preview segments for the Ole Miss game versus, say, Texas' opening week against New Mexico State. There's a decided competitive difference, so analyst and former Longhorn safety Ahmad Brooks is breaking down a position-by-position comparison of the Rebels and 'Horns, something you wouldn't necessarily need in analyzing the Aggies of NMSU. Brooks' breakdown portends an evenly matched game, especially with UT expecting to be without starting quarterback David Ash and wide receiver Daje Johnson due to injuries.

Brooks explains where Ole Miss is stronger (pass rush, receivers), and where UT is expected to struggle. There's no bias. The segment could fit easily on another network, save for the excessive orange and black graphic. Wall even spends close to 10 minutes debating the shade of red lighting in the studio, making sure it matches the cardinal in the Ole Miss logo. Before production wraps, Wall elects to insert a "donut," jargon for an open segment, to be filled that evening with highlights from the TCU-Texas Tech game on ESPN. It's just a highlights package, but upon viewing that night's "Extra," the addition of non-Texas football action creates a much more complete landscape for the UT or Big 12 football fan.

"The absolute last thing I want to do is produce television that only Texas fans would find interesting," Wall says from the front of the control room.

Relative to its mothership in Bristol, LHN's staff of nearly 60 full-time employees is a skeleton crew. It's responsible for 300 hours of original content a year, including 70 live events.

"People who see it are very surprised at the quality."

"I think that people who see it are very surprised at the quality. I don't know what the expectation is, but our expectation is never anything less than the quality of ESPN, and we've achieved that," said Druley.

Druley, a Texas graduate and a Bristol veteran with NFL experience, is responsible for all LHN programming. If the mission is to create a burnt orange ESPN4, LHN is a raging success. Studio analysis programs replicate the feel of any number of flagship ESPN programs, with the bonus of LHN's sharpened focus.

The "Texas GameDay" crew, with the aid of Heisman-winner Ricky Williams, can not only break down the mechanics of a read-option play in an on-field demonstration, but include tendencies specific to Ole Miss quarterback Bo Wallace and weaknesses based on Texas' previous games. On Tuesday, anchor Kevin Dunn spars with offensive coordinator Major Applewhite over the specific play-calling limitations that Johnson's injury caused Texas' offense in the second half against BYU. Applewhite counters that Daje-centric plays he spoke about earlier in the season are still usable with some modifications, and just like that, the viewer learns something from LHN. These moments are the network at its best, not simply cycling team headlines ad nauseum, but melding analysis and storytelling to educate and entertain.

There's already talk of beefing up content. LHN can't expand into the high school football market as originally planned after a NCAA bylaw was enacted that prevented team or conference-specific networks from covering potential recruits. But LHN is ready to create everything else: More studio analysis shows, more evergreen content like documentaries and profiles, maybe a daily live show dedicated solely to college football, and potentially a morning radio program that could be simulcast on LHN, similar to what ESPN does for its national radio programs.

"We have a budget like everyone else in the free world has a budget. We can only hire so many people, and they can only work so many hours," Dave Brown said. "Certainly things like the Time Warner thing helps us immensely because now we have more viewers and more subscribers, but you know I just think we would just like to do more things, more studio shows, more in-depth things on the team, whatever we can do to take it to the next level in terms of covering them."


Expansion of LHN programming is contingent on viewer growth, which means the addition of more carriage providers. In sports television, live events are a ratings trump card and can build viewer demand unlike any other form of programming. Just days before the start of the 2013 season, LHN announced it had broken through and signed a deal with Time Warner Cable, a major provider in the state of Texas, pushing LHN past the 12 million mark. In 2011 the network exclusively aired a Texas football game against Rice despite being available in only an estimated 2.1 percent of TV households in the city of Austin. An agreement with AT&T U-verse in 2012 brought LHN its first major carrier in the United States.

"I think now we have it all in front of us," said Dave Brown. "We thought we did before, but [the Time Warner deal] was a little bit of an unexpected turn, so everyone here has worked incredibly hard and done great work. We got some good luck here where we were able to get a deal with them done before the ESPN/Time Warner deal expired. It's great to have them, it will be great to work closely with them.

"And now you can honestly look people in the eye and say more people can get us now than can't. Sure, we have a few people left to get, no doubt about it, but our guys are working on ‘em, and hopefully we'll get the last three guys (DirecTV, Dish Network and Comcast) here we need to get. So it was just a big difference maker. We were really, really excited about it."

At least on a per-season basis, the manifest destiny of live Texas football on the Longhorn Network has already found its limit, according to Dave Brown. Along with the Rebels, LHN has already broadcast Texas' season opener against New Mexico State and will broadcast the Longhorns' Nov. 2 game against Big 12 member Kansas.

"I think we're about where we need to be," Brown said. "I think three's a great number for us when you consider it's 25 percent of their schedule. And hey, we're cognizant just like anybody else that the team, like any other team in the country, needs to get national exposure."

"I'm a big believer of the fact that we're in this together, as a partner and league members."

Which games LHN can take has become the issue. Texas is afforded at least one game as part of the Tier-3 rights granted to each Big 12 program. That game, usually against a non-BCS opponent like Rice (2011) or New Mexico (2012), defaults to LHN. But in order for any Texas home game against a Big 12 opponent to be aired on LHN, the network and Texas must receive permission from the opposing school. Texas Tech and Oklahoma State reportedly rejected that deal, but Iowa State and Kansas have agreed.

"I'm a big believer of the fact that we're in this together, as a partner and league members," Iowa State athletic director Jamie Pollard said.

Both Iowa State and Kansas officials say their cooperation with LHN was to help build their own mini-networks at home. The Cyclones allowed for their 33-7 loss to Texas last November to air on LHN, provided a feed was made available to the state of Iowa and the Omaha, Neb., TV market, which was the same home market concession made to Kansas that helped create the blueprint for LHN's offer to Ole Miss. For the ISU game, LHN and ESPN arranged for a separate crew of announcers to call the game from the LHN feed for the Iowa audience.

"To our fans, it felt like just another game," Pollard said.

Pollard credits the move for helping establish Cyclones.TV, an ISU sports network available on Mediacom Cable in Iowa that's home to ISU's Tier-3 property. The new Jayhawk Television Network (available in Kansas through Time Warner Cable's Metro Sports and nationally via ESPN3) will air the Kansas-Texas game alongside LHN. That means that in addition to another allotted Tier-3 game, Jayhawk TV will feature a second football game this season, a move that helps drive the value of KU's own Tier-3 rights deal with Time Warner Cable and ESPN. In essence, Iowa State and Kansas have found a solution to one rival concern over LHN: Find a way to make a profit, too.

"We were never worried about [LHN]. We never fretted about it. Our reaction was, let's go do for Kansas what's best for Kansas and grow our own exposure," Kansas associate athletic director Jim Marchiony said.


Lhn4_mediumThe control room during a taping of "Longhorn Extra." (Steven Godfrey)

Locking up anticipated games as hostages to providers not offering LHN is the most effective means of increasing viewership.

The impetus for Time Warner Cable was Texas A.D. DeLoss Dodds' announcement earlier in the year that LHN would air three games this season, a first for the network. Of course, that meant not only finding three games, but at least one that would cause viewer reaction if it was threatened to be blacked out.

By industry standards, the amount and quality of LHN's non-live sports programming is irrelevant to its existence. The network has created demand foremost by exclusively airing live Texas sporting events, from football to track to rowing. If ESPN is going to profit from LHN, locking up anticipated games as hostages to providers not offering LHN is the fastest and most effective means of increasing viewership. Football is the unquestioned king, and LHN's exclusive airing of home games as early as its debut in 2011 has caused considerable outcry from viewers. ESPN continues to haggle with major national cable providers over the price of its package of networks.

Enter the Rebels. In 2007 Ole Miss and Texas signed an agreement to play a standard home-and-away football series, with each team hosting the other over the 2012 and '13 seasons. Long before LHN, a vague contract provision allowing the home team to control the broadcast of the game on any platforms "which may exist or be developed" gave ESPN, LHN and Texas the right to move their game in the series to LHN.

"We were first approached at our spring meetings in Destin, in May," Ole Miss athletic director Ross Bjork explains. "I don't know if approached is the right word. We were basically told they were going to put our game on LHN."

The 2012 game in Oxford aired on the flagship ESPN network, a channel available to 99 million homes in the United States. The game earned a 1.5 rating and averaged 1.75 million households. It was nationally available online and on mobile viewing platforms. For Ole Miss, exposure is the foremost reason for scheduling an opponent like Texas. The Rebels were blown out, but got to show a sold-out stadium and a fiery new coach in Hugh Freeze to a national audience and more than a few high school recruits.

The 2013 Austin game on LHN offered the Rebels none of those incentives. LHN's total availability is just over 12 million homes as of this writing, most of which are in Texas. In one move, Mississippi's flashy national game was reduced to a difficult road trip two weeks before playing defending national champion Alabama.

"My first response was that we needed to do something for our fans," Bjork said. "They said 'Absolutely,' and that that was why they were giving us the heads-up. It was a matter of how we could carve some viewership out and make this better."

Ole Miss ended up securing a feed of the LHN broadcast for ABC affiliates in Mississippi and Memphis. The rest of the SEC was blacked out except for viewers subscribed to AT&T's U-verse, the most popular LHN-affiliated service in the Southeast. And unlike some games designated for regional broadcasts, the game was not made available online, other than to a fraction of existing LHN carriers offering online access.

In Atlanta, Birmingham, Nashville and New Orleans - cities inside the SEC footprint and huge ratings markets for college football - the overwhelming majority went without the game.

"We would've loved to have had more coverage," Bjork said, "but I understand the nature of distribution. They needed to leverage that game."

Six other SEC opponents played road games against BCS-conference members in August and September 2013. Five of those games were optioned for broadcasts on the ESPN family of networks, (specifically ABC, ESPN and ESPN2) and one went to the Big Ten Network. The potential viewing audience for Ole Miss at Texas was eight times smaller than any other BCS road game a SEC team would participate in.


Could LHN claim another existing major non-conference home game? SB Nation obtained copies of multiple agreements between the University of Texas and non-conference opponents for single games and home-and-away series through this decade.

The list of schools included the following FBS programs, designated by the year when Texas will host: Ole Miss (2013), BYU and UCLA (2014), California (2015), Notre Dame (2016 and 2019) and Maryland (2017).

Of the contracts obtained by SB Nation, the agreement with Notre Dame is the most permissive to the host institution. The ‘Horns and Fighting Irish will play four times between the 2015 and 2020 seasons, with each team hosting two games. And there's clear, bold language that the two Texas home games against the program with arguably the biggest national following in college sports could be broadcast exclusively on LHN. Section 9(A) of the agreement states that "all rights to telecast or distribute the home game resides with the home team and that the home team shall have the exclusive right to enter into agreements with third parties for the distribution of those games."

Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick said he did not have "any particular view" on the potential of a nationally limited, LHN-exclusive broadcast.

"It's the host institution's decision to make, consistent with their partners," he said. "Just as we might have a game on NBC or NBC Sports, so too do I recognize that there's a tiering of rights."

Swarbrick said that LHN's existence and its use of Texas' best available non-conference home games "probably would not" affect how Notre Dame schedules in the future.

"Certainly Notre Dame would prefer to have the broadest audience possible, as would anyone, but given most of the complexities involved, you couldn't control that through the course of a contract. It's hard for me to say it would affect our decision making, because you couldn't get a front-end guarantee anyway," he said.

The advent of conference-specific networks in general would change non-conference scheduling in the near future.

Lhn5_medium(Steven Godfrey)

The broad language in the agreement for Ole Miss that allowed LHN to broadcast the game exists in a similar form for Texas' games against Cal, BYU and Maryland: "the home team may release for live broadcasting via any other means of transmission not listed herein which may exist or be developed."

One athletic department official from a university scheduled to play Texas as a non-conference opponent said that having a game relegated to LHN's considerably smaller viewing audience "shouldn't be taken personally," but that the LHN broadcast of the Ole Miss game and the advent of conference-specific networks in general would change non-conference scheduling in the near future.

"The climate has certainly changed," the official said. "And on certain deals you'll see the language of these agreements change with it to try and keep these games as national broadcasts. If you want to go on the road against a team from another major conference, this is the situation now. I think this affects more than just Texas, but it might affect them the most if they can't raise viewership."

Consider the Longhorns' one-off game against UCLA at Cowboys Stadium next season. Texas, designated as the home team, has granted all rights for distribution to the Big 12. The official Big 12 television rights agreement outlining the conference's partnership with Fox and ESPN for Tier-1 rights is not a publicly accessible document, but the Ole Miss move leads to the assumption that nothing in the league's deal prevents or restricts LHN from taking high-profile games. Theoretically, if ESPN gets to select the game as part of its agreement with the Big 12, LHN could leverage the Los Angeles television market.

"We can't take them all, nor would we want to take them all, nor could we afford to take them all," Dave Brown said. "I think three is good. Some years it might be two, but that's the right number for us."

When asked via a follow-up email if any of Texas' future opponents had expressed concern after the Ole Miss game, Brown replied, "We have not heard from any non-conference opponents about potentially appearing on LHN. This is more the norm now than the exception with the Big Ten and Pac-12 and soon-to-be SEC networks. Missouri-Indiana was on the Big Ten Network in 2013, Oklahoma State at Arizona in 2012 was on the Pac-12 Network, and BC at USC this year."


Lhn6_medium(ESPN Images)

conflict of interest is an old issue for ESPN Networks.

If you've never seen the Longhorn Network, your opinion of its journalistic integrity probably coincides with whatever you already think about ESPN's news programs. LHN's ownership structure is the core of its uniqueness, but conflict of interest is an old issue for ESPN Networks.

"It isn't unlike anything I've faced at ESPN," Dave Brown said. "Certainly I had to call and tell people that they were going to be on ‘Outside The Lines,' but more communication is always better in this instance. We just tell them we're going to do this, we're going to do that, and as long as they know it's coming they can handle anything. It's been easy, very easy. And they know from their own dealings with the media long before we got here. They know how it works, believe me."

From the programming made available to SB Nation the week of Ole Miss, the Sunday addition of Robinson to the Texas staff was covered without mention of the coach's struggles both as head coach of Syracuse (10-37 in four seasons) and as the defensive coordinator at Michigan until the Saturday pregame show.

"We don't whitewash anything," Druley said. "At the same time I don't have people hollering for people's heads. That's not what we do. It's not the right forum to do it in. But we're going to give intelligent opinion and hopefully give you a reason for why things happened as they happened."

In the end, LHN gives into the hollering for heads, at least inadvertently. LHN cameras cover Applewhite's midweek speaking engagement at a meeting of Austin-area Texas fans and boosters. The visuals are drab, but the audience's octogenarian age provides comic relief and unfiltered criticism of almost every aspect of 2013 Texas football. At one point, an elderly man, confused by which end of a wireless microphone to speak into, can only be heard saying, "IT LOOKS LIKE THE TEAM IS STILL AT THE FRIDAY NIGHT MOVIE."

Applewhite pauses with confusion, then responds: "All I heard was that the team wasn't prepared, and that that's the responsibility of the coaches."

"And I agree," he says to the old man in the crowd.

The issue of Mack Brown and his tenuous future is at the heart of LHN's ethics debate. The coach is an integral part of the network's programming schedule, more than just an interview subject. In November of 2012, Brown complained publicly that he "didn't ask for" the additional time commitment LHN demands and that rival Big 12 coaches were telling him about scouting Texas during LHN's live broadcasts of Longhorn practices.

LHN responded. Druley changed up the coverage tactics on Texas practices, shifting from live coverage to edited tape delay of the seven periods Texas allows LHN cameras into practice. According to Druley, Texas doesn't have a say in the editing.

"The reality is, we're not looking to give any secrets away. Because we benefit if they win, we're not looking to expose anything about Texas' football program. So, we have the same mutual interests," she said.

As for Mack Brown's attitude in and around LHN's offices and staff, everyone interviewed stated that Brown consistently engages with LHN more than the minimum required schedule.

"I can't speak to what time he has to put in when he's not here in order to prepare for the show," Druley said.

Twice a week Brown travels directly to the LHN studios to tape programs, and Galindo notes that the latter show, taped on Thursdays, was cut from 60 to 30 minutes for this season.

"I think there was probably a little frustration, and that just all came together," Galindo said. "But he knows that we do our best, and I mean, we are ready to go when he comes in now, and at the same time, maybe we weren't being as efficient as we could've been at that point. We do everything we can to make it easy for him so when he walks through the door we're good to go, we're ready to go on air. And once he's done, he's free to go."

"it's great for our young coaches, it's great for our players and I think it's the wave of the future."

"We have a great relationship and a great advantage for the future, we think, with Longhorn Network, and they're constantly working to sell it, so everybody's going to see it," Mack Brown said at Big 12 Media Days in July. "It's here, it's real, and it's a huge part of a future. It's different. I said that last year. I thought the criticism was way overplayed from what I said, because it does take more time, but it's great for our young coaches, it's great for our players and I think it's the wave of the future."

"There's outside noise and there's what everybody is talking about, which you certainly have to address but can't get carried away with simply just what people are saying about a certain situation," Galindo said. "How often do we get into this story: 'Mack Brown is on the hot seat.' So does that mean after every loss we have to ask that question?

"I don't think so, because knowing the current situation around here and everything he's done and the way that administrators feel about him, the man is not on the hot seat, you know? Just because other people ask that question means that we have to all the time? I know when people say, 'Do you have to take a big picture look?' that's basically what people are saying: 'Do you need to question the head coach? Do you need to question the direction of the program?'"


Lhn7_mediumOle Miss fans celebrate beating Texas. (Steven Godfrey)

LHN's biggest Texas football game to date only serves to amplify the unspoken Mack Brown storyline. After trailing at the half, the Rebels slaughter Robinson's quick-fix Cover 2 scheme and don't allow Texas to score in the second half. Ole Miss returns the 2012 favor in a 44-23 blowout. The following week ESPN dispatches "College GameDay" host Chris Fowler to Austin for an exclusive interview with Brown before the game against Kansas State. Fowler pit stops at LHN to sit down with anchor Dunn, and the topic of Mack's future is brought to light head-on in an honest and interesting segment.

The Horns went on to break a losing streak to the Wildcats. Over the following bye week, former Texas great Earl Campbell called for Brown to be fired or retire, and LHN treated his comments as news. On Tuesday, Chip Brown's formerly refuted report that Dodds plans to retire is proved correct, as the AD announces he'll step down in 2014.

"I like LHN," Chip Brown tells me over the phone. "They've benefitted from bringing in a great staff from Bristol. They're probably not as aggressive as ESPN would be - at least by Bristol standards - but they make mention of news that Texas would consider critical. I think their reporting has been balanced and critical when it needs to be."

As Orangebloods seems to be validated that Dodds is nearing his end atop the Texas machine, focus shifts to Mack Brown. Oklahoma looms. As Fowler points out in his conversation on LHN, Mack himself considers anything less than a Big 12 championship and a BCS bowl berth a disappointing season. Oklahoma State and Baylor await. Between now and then, how Brown and the University of Texas actively participate in their own news cycle is uncharted territory.

Producer: Chris Mottram | Editor: Jason Kirk | Copy Editor: Kevin Fixler | Title Photo: Getty Images

About the Author

Steven Godfrey is a senior reporter for SB Nation based in Nashville, Tennessee. A graduate of the University of Mississippi and a long suffering Atlanta sports fan, he can be reached on Twitter @38Godfrey.