BYU football: ESPN partnership has been a boon for school, fans
Those impressive figures and achievements have been overshadowed by ubiquitous conference alignment reports and speculation, but the partnership between BYU and ESPN has been mutually beneficial.
BYUtv Sports coordinating producer Mikel Minor worked for six years at ESPN producing SportsCenter before returning to his alma mater last summer.
"People are tired of me saying this, but it's been validated by all of my associates at ESPN who have been coming to Provo and doing the games this year," Minor said. "They see our HD truck, they see our facilities, and they say nothing else exists like this in the country. It's so unique that a university has this quality of facilities. It's so similar to ESPN. And to have state-of-the-art resources that you have access to, it makes my job so much easier."
On game days, BYU and ESPN pool their resources, sharing cameras and other equipment. ESPN allows BYUtv to produce pregame and postgame shows, even tossing back and forth between the pregame show and the ESPN broadcast. Then BYUtv urges viewers to watch the game on ESPN.
"It's a great setting to do (a college football broadcast). The atmosphere in and around the stadium is great," said ESPN producer Steve Ackels, who oversaw production of BYU's two Friday night games in Provo this season. "It's a collaborative effort by ESPN and BYUtv to put on the best broadcast that we can. We realized that we're a team. There are cameras and equipment that we can share on site that make the broadcast better."
"It makes sense," Minor said of the BYU-ESPN relationship. "It's working pretty well."
Minor has decades of experience in the broadcasting business, which includes a stint working for Comcast in the Bay Area before going to ESPN. When it comes to conference realignment, "I think BYU right now is in the best position it can be with what's available," Minor said. "BYU is doing a great job of doing its due diligence — being very, very careful about not knee-jerking into something just because it's what everybody else is doing. When you have a broadcast partner like ESPN, that is your foundation, then a complementary component that you own, like BYUtv Sports, that has these resources and facilities that are unmatched, that's a pretty good position to be in right now. To say virtually every football game has been on national TV in some form, there's not many schools around the country that can say that."
Minor said working at ESPN was an "eye-opening" experience.
"It was shocking for me to see where the power base was, and how most colleges cater to ESPN," he said. "With that in mind, would it be advantageous for BYU to be in a BCS situation eventually? Sure, but under terms that are complementary to what we are. We shouldn't compromise an issue like Sunday play."
Tittle is optimistic about the future of the BYU-ESPN relationship. "I love using the phrase 'partnership with ESPN,' because that's what it feels like. I'm in contact with them almost every day," he said. "They're very professional. There's a reason why ESPN is the World Wide Leader in Sports. It's because of how they go about their business and how they treat their partners. We are very fortunate to have the relationship we have with ESPN."
That's BYU unique position. And its unique dilemma.
By the time the season ends — including the Armed Forces Bowl — BYU will have been on ESPN five times, ESPN2 four times and ESPNU twice. The Cougars will also have appeared once on BYUtv and once on KBYU/Fox College Sports Pacific.
The cumulative reach of those 13 games will exceed more than 1.2 billion households. Of course not all those household are tuned into college football. However, according to ESPN:
* BYU has been on ESPN networks seven times this year.
* The average total audience has been over 1.2 million households, and over 1.6 million viewers.
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