Dick Harmon: BYU's broadcast issues boiling over

Published: Monday, Aug. 23 2010 11:00 p.m. MDT

BYU's fight over Mountain West Conference TV contract details is a battle that should have been decided a long time ago.

The fact that BYU is forcing the action, which brought retaliation by MWC presidents and the MWC commissioner last week in scuttling a Cougar plan with the WAC, shows how far the two sides differ on its importance.

In my opinion, this is how it unfolded:

When CSTV started this whole thing with the MWC, some of BYU's concerns such as retention of some rights for local broadcasts, replays and other items appeared to be no contractual problem. Then Comcast stepped in and later CBS joined the deal. Lost in the changing of chairs were some of these key concessions, which would be in the best interest of all MWC members, especially at Utah and BYU, whose local TV stations could have played a role.

About this time of ownership/operations changes with the MWC'S fledging network, BYU changed presidents and athletic directors and the MWC's board of directors (presidents) pretty much accepted the Comcast/CBS contract that hatched The mtn. It was a very restrictive document that didn't include the concerns CSTV said would be OK, and the MWC gatekeepers let it slide.

Remember those days? The main charge from the MWC, the mtn., and their leadership, was to admonish fans to call satellite companies and demand they take the MWC sports network.

In other words, the fans were supposed to do some heavy lifting.

I'm told this MWC TV contract was not sent to MWC schools to study personally. Instead, an executive summary was provided, and if folks wanted to see the actual canon, they'd have to fly to Denver and turn the actual pages with the flesh.

Dumb, dumb and dumber. MWC presidents were so giddy with the new TV deal, they laid down on the couch to watch.

I doubt any school executive inspected the papers. Years went by with complaints from BYU. Nobody listened.

Then one day, not too long ago, BYU sent a smart lawyer type to Denver to review the actual contract. He found a loophole that non-home games could be broadcast by each school and that led to BYU-TV broadcasting neutral site games at the EnergySolutions Arena and preseason games in Las Vegas.

Still, issues remained. BYU complained for redress. The commissioner's office, in my opinion, gave the complaints lip service with a few MWC presidents that BYU was seeking an unfair advantage. Silly BYU.

They never took BYU's concerns to Philadelphia and the headquarters of Comcast bigwigs. I mean the top level.

BYU erred. They should have bypassed the MWC office and jetted a brainy guy to Philadelphia for a real sitdown with the president or VP of programming.

Something could have been agreed to that wouldn't have compromised the pact.

Now, a frustrated BYU has taken a stand. Some around the league call it arrogant. What it really is, is a cleanup effort, housekeeping.

Unfortunately, it may lead to a different door for both parties.

BYU's best-case scenario is for the Big 12 to expand and call the Cougars. But even then, BYU would need the fit to be right (no Sunday play, use of BYU-TV). BYU's mission, the bigger picture demanded by its sponsoring religion, dictates the facilities on campus receive significant usage. The Big 12 is an ESPN conference and it understands the need for a presence in the West since ESPN's WAC is now injured, Colorado is gone, and competitively the Pac-10 might be headed for a renewal with rival Fox.

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