Longhorn Launch: The Big Day Arrives With Full Slate of Programming

After more than six months of intense preparation, ESPN and the University of Texas are prepared to make television history today.

Longhorn Network launches at 6 p.m. (all times CT) from the South Lawn of the UT campus in Austin, and it will mark the first time a single academic institution will have its own 24-hour, linear channel.

To kick things off, the on-air team of anchor Lowell Galindo, reporter Samantha Steele, and analyst Kevin Dunn will debut alongside ESPN’s College GameDay team of Chris Fowler, Kirk Herbstreit, Lee Corso, Desmond Howard, and Erin Andrews. The two-hour show will preview the Longhorns’ upcoming football season and its home opener vs. Rice, slated for Sept. 3 at 7 p.m. and airing exclusively on Longhorn Network. Texas coaches, players, and former student-athletes will also be on hand for the launch.

Following the premier show, at 8 p.m., viewers will see the No. 4-ranked UT women’s volleyball team take on Pepperdine in the Burnt Orange Classic live from Gregory Gymnasium. ESPN’s Carter Blackburn and Heather Cox will call the game, with Steele reporting.

At 10 p.m., the documentary-style Texas All-Access show will debut, providing unprecedented access to Coach Mack Brown and the Texas football team as it prepares for its opener.

Additional football programming is scheduled to debut next week:

  • Rewind With Mack Brown (Mondays, 7 p.m.) — After every game, Coach Brown will break down the matchup, highlighting key plays and turning points.
  • Texas All-Access (Wednesdays, 8 p.m.) — Each week, viewers will get a never-before-seen inside look at a Texas team or group. On Wednesdays in the fall, the show will focus exclusively on the football team, with camera crews embedded with the coaches and players to provide access to the inner workings of Longhorn football.
  • Game Plan With Mack Brown (Thursdays, 7 p.m.) — During the season, Coach Brown will preview the upcoming matchup, with an inside look at game preparation and a breakdown of the keys to victory.
  • Texas GameDay (two hours prior to kickoff every Saturday) — In the mold of ESPN’s College GameDay, Texas GameDay will be live from inside the stadium prior to kickoff for all home football games and live from its Austin studio for all away games.

“We’re certainly going to cover the football team in a way that they’ve never been covered before,” says Dave Brown (no relation to Coach Brown), VP of programming for Longhorn Network. “That’s really our goal from the get-go when we come on the air, to really make sure that we cover primetime really well from 7 to 10 [p.m.]. But we’ve got a really aggressive lineup there that will speak to all of the sports.”

Longhorn Network provides a unique opportunity for all 20 UT varsity sports to get their time in the spotlight. In the fall, however, ESPN has been blunt about where the major focus will be.

“In the fall, I’m not going to promise anybody that we’re going to be balanced in terms of what sports we cover. Football drives the train; this is Texas,” ESPN VP of Production Stephanie Druley said at last week’s media preview event. “But, at the same time, a lot of these other sports have never had the access for their stories being told, and they will have the chance to have the spotlight be put on them. We’re going to be doing that on a daily basis.”

This Saturday, Blackburn, Cox, and Steele will be on hand for the volleyball team’s 11:30 a.m. and 5 p.m. matches against Mississippi and Israel’s National Team, respectively. And, on Sunday, the Longhorn women’s soccer team will meet Cal State Northridge on the pitch for a 1 p.m. contest.

While Longhorn Network is primarily a sports property, 10% of its programming will be dedicated to non-athletic events, such as concerts, guest speakers, and university President William Powers’s annual address.

“Obviously, we are going to showcase a lot of events that come on this campus, and those are the things I think we will tackle first before the music and entertainment aspect of it,” says Dave Brown. “But, when great speakers come on campus, we’re going to showcase them. It’ll add a lot to what we’re going to do as a channel.”

ESPN has also acquired the rights to the NBC Universal original drama Friday Night Lights. Longhorn Network will air the series from its beginning, with the pilot episode this Monday at 9 p.m.

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