Scott D. Pierce: Ch. 4's Ute coach's show embarrassing

Published: Friday, Nov. 30 2007 12:03 a.m. MST

Kyle Whittingham did a great job with the media after his Utes lost on Saturday, both in post-game interviews and on his coach's show on Sunday night.

He was calm, sincere and honest. He didn't dodge and weave, except to offer a "no comment" about the officiating. Which was smart, given that he could have been reprimanded or worse had he complained about the calls.

The problem with that coach's show, which aired on KTVX, isn't with the coach, it's with Ch. 4's Wesley Ruff and Kent Rupe. Week in and week out, they destroy any credibility they might have as sports journalists.

They're cheerleaders for the Utes, even using the pronoun "we." If this were their only assignment, that wouldn't be a problem. But you can't be a cheerleader and deliver a credible newscast. And there's no reason anyone who's not a Utah fan would watch Ch. 4.

Yes, KSL's Tom Kirkland hosts BYU coach Bronco Mendenhall's weekly show. And, no, I'm not a huge Kirkland fan. Oh my heck (to use the BYU vernacular) he opened Sunday's "SportsBeat" by stating, "The last 11 BYU-Utah battles, all decided by a touchdown or less."

(Apparently, he slept through Utah's 52-21 win in 2004.)

But Kirkland conducts an interview with Mendenhall, he doesn't celebrate or commiserate with him.

Ruff let his boosterism get in the way of facts on Sunday night. Comparing a personal foul called on Utah's Robert Johnson with a non-call on BYU's Bryan Kehl, KTVX chose an angle that made it appear that Kehl might have led with his head. Ruff even talked about the "head to the back" Kehl applied.

I'm not here to discuss the merits of either call. TV replays make it easy to second-guess a whole lot of calls through the game. Through every game.

But Ruff's statement about "head to the back" was simply not true. Multiple other angles, including the one that ran in real time on The mtn.'s telecast, clearly show that didn't happen. Kehl's head never made contact with the receiver.

(Replays showed that Johnson didn't lead with his head, either. There was, however, an angle on KSL that had pretty much the same view of the play the ref did — and it appeared that Johnson used his head. That doesn't excuse the call, but it does, perhaps, explain it.)

At the very least, Ruff owes Kehl an apology. This was a misstatement of fact, not the expression of an opinion.

And if KTVX is looking for a way to improve its woeful news ratings, it might want to look at ways to avoid driving away anyone who's not a Ute fan.

FAMOUS LAST WORDS: What I'll remember most about The mtn.'s telecast of Saturday's game is this declaration by play-by-play man James Bates just before BYU converted that famous/infamous (depending on your blueness or redness) fourth-and-18: "Final play of the game offensively for BYU."

BYU FANS ARE wondering why a couple of Cougar basketball games were telecast live on KBYU-Ch. 11 and BYUTV last week and no Cougar live football games were on the channels this season.

In the first case, Hartford at BYU, The mtn. chose not to do the game, leaving it available to KBYU/BYUTV. In the second case, the BYU-Louisville game in Las Vegas, The mtn. didn't have the rights to that game, which was on a neutral court. So KBYU/BYUTV had the opportunity to pick that one up, too.

The mtn. (or CSTV or Versus) chose to pick up every BYU football game that was available.


E-mail: pierce@desnews.com

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