Dick Harmon: TV answers need to come soon

Published: Sunday, July 22 2007 12:05 a.m. MDT

The Mountain West Conference football media days kick off Monday, and issues surrounding distribution of the league's coverage on TV will certainly surface as one of the hottest topics, perhaps overshadowing previews of actual teams and what coaches and players have to say.

A year ago at these meetings in San Diego, the handling of the "exciting" new league TV contract couldn't have gotten off to a worse start as commissioner Craig Thompson found himself in the face of an issue devoid of proper answers. These TV partners hung Thompson out to dry. They couldn't have embarrassed him more if they'd forced him to come out in his boxer/jockey shorts.

He was sequestered almost 72 hours leading up to the MWC meetings. During most of the 48 hours of the actual meetings, he was holed up in the Coronado Marriott, trying to get answers from TV officials about distribution of games, especially as it pertained to satellite services and cable companies in San Diego and Las Vegas.

Nada.

When Thompson finally got in front of the microphones, he tried not to appear rattled. He was David facing Goliath with no stones. The TV folks either misled him, refused to give straight answers through spring and summer, or simply presented him with a partner of a thousand faces and no single mouth. Nobody could give him any information of substance.

Personally, I'd have liked to have seen Thompson turn Jack Bauer after 24 of those hours.

Ironically, that scene a year ago is about how the TV distribution question has played out the last 52 weeks.

Now, we meet again.

Monday and Tuesday at the Green Valley Resort in Henderson, Nev., reporters will have plenty of opportunities to talk to Thompson, The mtn. President Kim Carver and CSTV's Timi Pernetti. I didn't see anybody's name from Comcast on the agenda, but it could be an oversight on my part reviewing the schedule. Or, perhaps Carver and people working for The mtn. will speak on behalf of Comcast, who owns half the network.

Comcast needs to show face. CSTV's Pernetti needs to have the authority to answer some questions.

If these folks don't have more substance to deliver regarding TV distribution than a year ago, it will be a travesty. Hopefully, they've come to Las Vegas with some breaking news, some big announcement they can spring on eager and frustrated MWC fans.

This would be the time and the place for such a delivery. It would fall like manna.

This time, they shouldn't keep Thompson on the phone in his room and roll him out without answers. If they do, he ought to trade his nice, pressed suit for a clown outfit. I know fans want Thompson hung like a pinata, but after witnessing stuff behind the scenes, I feel sorry for the guy.

MWC presidents who brokered this deal haven't faced much accountability the past year. We still don't know what legal firm OK'd this contract for the league without more clout on the side of the MWC, including a possible seat at the negotiating table with satellite companies and Comcast/CSTV.

Let's give credit to the presidents this summer. They've hired a smart, savvy lawyer to investigate options. But that comes two years late.

What we don't need Monday and Tuesday is what we've received over the past 12 months — talking points recited off some Xeroxed sheet.

The bullet version of those talking points?

• Fans should call cable and satellite companies and pressure them to respond.

• Some kind of deal is just around the corner.

• These things take time.

• New distribution deals are being hammered out in the MWC footprint and coverage is spreading.

• The satellite companies are almost on board.

Blah, blah, blah.

The time has come for the MWC to answer, as definitively as possible, why the league and its potential recruits can or cannot expect more exposure on a national level, and who, by name, is responsible to get it done.

Sad, but true, this TV issue may really overshadow the cliche-filled interviews with those who actually count here: the football coaches and players who have taken a chunk of time out of their schedule to attend this media kickoff at the Henderson hotel.

Awaiting word of some big announcement, or discovery if Thompson likes boxers or briefs, I am Las Vegas-bound.

Coming Monday

The Deseret Morning News looks ahead to MWC media days and tells fans what they can expect to see coming out Las Vegas.


E-mail: dharmon@desnews.com

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