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Scott D. Pierce: BYU got worst TV time slot

Published: Friday, March 14 2008 12:34 a.m. MDT

More often than not, television controls the scheduling of college, pro and sometimes even high school sports.

And people like yours truly complain bitterly about it.

There was, however, a high-profile exception to that rule on Thursday. And it worked to the detriment of fans.

Who would've thought?

Going into postseason play, BYU was clearly the marquee team in the Mountain West Conference. Not only did the Cougars win the regular-season title, but they were the only MWC squad ranked in the Top 25.

And yet ... BYU got the worst TV time slot the league had to offer on Thursday. The Cougars' 1 p.m. MDT start meant that the game was difficult for much of anybody to see, even assuming they had access to The mtn. (And, of course, few TV viewers do.)

At least in Utah, there certainly would have been more people watching the game had it started at, say, 7 p.m.

There are obviously some great reasons for BYU to be out of prime time. As the regular-season champ, you win the right to have the most time between games on Thursday and Friday.

And we might have expected a game between first-place BYU and ninth-place Colorado State to be less than interesting. (Although the Rams kept it surprisingly competitive in the first half.)

It's just a bit ironic that, in this particular case, if TV had ruled and put its biggest draw in prime time, it would have been better for TV viewers.

When the MWC announced its deal with CSTV (and, later, Comcast), yours truly counseled patience for several months, even in the face of horrendous distribution.

When it became clear The Powers That Be behind The mtn. were out of their league — resulting in two full years of horrendous distribution — I lost patience along with everyone else. And, yes, I've been far less than kind about it in print.

At this point, I'll praise and smack those Powers That Be at the same time. Because they deserve both.

If I was a Utah or BYU fan and I moved back to my childhood home in upstate New York, I'd be doing the happy prospector dance over The mtn.'s deal with DirecTV. I'd (relatively) happily pay whatever it cost to subscribe to the satellite system because I'd be able to see more of my team than ever before. Certainly more than I'd ever seen while living 2,000 miles from Utah.

This is a fantastic thing for out-of-state Cougar and Ute fans.

But getting The mtn. on DirecTV doesn't solve the Mountain West Conference's distribution problems. Even if we are to assume that every DirecTV subscriber will pay for a package that includes The mtn. (which is NOT going to happen), the channel will not be available in 86 percent of American homes.

(That's including the anemic cable distribution.)

If you buy into the theory that lack of TV distribution hurts MWC teams when it comes to rankings and recruiting, this deal isn't going to help much.

Getting on DirecTV is a great step forward. But it's only a step.


E-mail: pierce@desnews.com

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