The Texas Longhorns will begin a new season fresh tonight as they play Rice University. Texas has several new players, six new coaches, new strategies, and an exclusive TV channel zeroed in on the Longhorns alone.
“I think there’s more unanswered questions going into this game than there were in ‘98 because we at least knew the older players,” Head Coach Mack Brown told reporters Monday at his weekly press conference.
Brown has overhauled his program with coordinators such as Bryan Harsin and Manny Diaz who can perhaps re-energize a deflated team after a 5-7 season last year. Brown said he opened up a new depth chart and let the players compete for their spots on the field.
“They are going to be out there and they are going to be out there fast,” Brown said. “So all those fans that have always griped at me for not playing the young ones early. Now they might be griping at me for playing the young ones early.”
Practices this summer have been closed, even to the media. That secrecy has built up the anticipation for tonight’s game, to finally see what the Horns have been working on, said Longhorn fan Pat Rehms.
“I totally think Mack did the right thing. It was overhaul,” he said. “We’ll see today if that’ll all happen. I am just anxious to see the game now.”
At the last minute Friday, ESPN announced Grande Communications would carry the Longhorn Network, which is exclusively broadcasting the Rice game. Grande, based in San Marcos, has 140,000 customers across Texas, but not even half of them are in Austin. A few bars, according to the Austin-American Statesman, will carry the game tonight.
Most Central Texas sports bars contacted by the Statesman said they have DirecTV, Dish Network or Time Warner Cable, giving them no access to the Longhorn Network . However, Third Base, which has locations downtown, in South Austin and in Round Rock, said it will have the UT game. The Tap Room and Pluckers in San Marcos will, too.
Some tailgaters rigged and worked the Verizon FIOS system in Dallas, “slingboxing” the game to their tents outside.
“We have our internet and a computer back there that are accessing the slingbox back in Dallas where they have the service provided,” explained one tailgater in Centennial Park. It seems there are a few people tailgating that have done the same thing, but it’s not exactly legal.
The Longhorn Network will also broadcast the Kansas State game on October 29. That was announced yesterday immediately after the Grande contract.
Kickoff for tonight’s game against Rice is at 7:00 p.m. The game was pushed back an hour because of the heat. Thankfully, the temperatures will fall a bit to 97 degrees in Austin at kickoff time.