History was sealed with a handshake.
Longhorn Network debuted to the world Friday night (Aug. 26) from an elaborate ESPN College GameDay set on The University of Texas at Austin campus. When the first signals were broadcast, Burke Magnus, ESPN’s senior vice president for college programming, found network vice president Dave Brown huddled around a TV monitor, watching intently.
Magnus offered Brown a hand. “You’re on the air, brother,” Magnus said in congratulations.
And so it begins. An unprecedented partnership — ESPN has a 20-year agreement with the university to own and operate the network — has spawned an unprecedented venture. Longhorn Network is the first sports network devoted to a single school.
“This will project UT to the world. This is just the start of it, and it’s exciting,” President William Powers Jr. said. “We have an outlet to show the world that what happens here really does change the world.”
Longhorn Network (LHN) kicked off with a two-hour special live from the South Mall. The on-air team of lead anchor Lowell Galindo and anchor/reporter Kevin Dunn debuted alongside ESPN’s Emmy Award-winning College GameDay cast, which previewed the upcoming Texas Football season and the Longhorns’ home opener against Rice University on Saturday, Sept. 3.
“What better way to sort of kick off the college football season than having GameDay here,” GameDay producer Lee Fitting said. “It’s the voice of college football, so it’s a natural for them to come here and help kick off this network.”
A handful of UT coaches were also featured during the broadcast and were interviewed by Galindo and Dunn.
“I think it’s unbelievable what ESPN, (men’s athletics director) DeLoss Dodds, Bill Powers and (women’s athletics director) Chris Plonsky did. They changed the scope of college sports,” football coach Mack Brown said. “Obviously, it’s opening eyes for everybody, and once again The University of Texas at Austin is a leader in college sports.”
The fourth-ranked Texas volleyball team defeated Pepperdine in four sets on Friday night at Gregory Gym, the first UT Athletics event to be televised live on the network. It’s the first of more than 170 live events to be featured on LHN.
“When you think about it, it could only happen at The University of Texas at Austin,” men’s basketball coach Rick Barnes said. “When you look around at all this, I think you can understand why we all believe ‘We’re Texas.’ I’m not sure right now we realize the full effect. I think it will be bigger than we all imagine.”
Under Dodds, the Longhorns have become a national brand. For the sixth year, UT ranked as the top-selling institution of the Collegiate Licensing Company’s 180-plus clients, and UT’s gross royalties have increased in 12 of the past 13 years.
“It was the brand and the fans that drew us to Texas,” Magnus said. “Plus, strategically, we thought it was very important to deepen our relationship with the university, and Texas has some major pull in the landscape of college sports.
“We have a 20-year partnership. We’re confident about the long-term prospects.”
The fans came out in full force to be part of the historic launch. A jubilant crowd of burnt orange provided a rowdy backdrop to the debut telecast. Students from all over campus assembled in front of the university’s Tower, ready to show the world what Texas is all about.
“I came here to support my university,” said neurobiology junior Ashley Willies. “Texas is known for ‘everything is bigger in Texas,’ and we are one of the biggest schools. It is awesome, the fans here are extreme and I think it’s a fantastic idea to finally broadcast that nationally.”
EXPLORE MORE: On TexasSports.com, view a gallery of photos of the Longhorn Network debut.
This story originally appeared on TexasSports.com.