Texas's PR man the leading reporter of conference realignment, Chip Brown, ESPN will distribute the Longhorn Network beginning in 2011. It's the private label TV network that was rumored to be in the works back in the summer and ultimately became the deal breaker in the Pac-16 plans.
According to Brown, the Longhorn Network was set to go ahead with a $2 million annual guarantee from Fox, but ESPN swooped in with a $12 million annual offer based on much wider distribution. That offer was far beyond the university's original hopes.
It really makes you wonder what ESPN's goal is here. It overpaid the Big 12 on its TV deal to keep the conference together. It's now drastically overpaying (or at least, over-guaranteeing) Texas to fund its network.
Clearly, someone at ESPN wants the Big 12 to survive and to prevent the Pac-16 from happening. The Pac-16 isn't viable without Texas joining, and its financial projections are impossible without owning local TV rights. With ESPN being Texas's sugar daddy for a decade, the Pac-16 has no hope of even being revisited until 2020.
it also makes you wonder if ESPN would make similar deals to keep the Big East together should the Big Ten get itchy for expansion again. Right now, it looks like the idea of superconferences royally freaks out the people up in Bristol.