Dick Harmon: BYU broadcasting pioneer admires BYUtv's progress

Published: Friday, Feb. 24 2012 8:00 p.m. MST

"LDS leaders then approached KBYU and asked, 'How many games can you do?' " Monsen said.

In 1979, KBYU-TV broadcast a BYU game at Texas A&M when quarterback Marc Wilson had just had an attack of appendicitis and the Cougars won on a two-point conversion.

"When we got back to Provo, we found out the town went crazy over the broadcast, and that greatly increased interest," Monsen said.

Those satellite games led to creation of the Blue and White Network, and Monsen employed color commentators that included Gifford Nielsen, Steve Young, Tom Steinke and current MWC and BYUtv sportscasters Blaine Fowler and Dave McCann.

"When we didn't do BYU games, we'd pick up Air Force games. That was the beginning," Monsen said.

Russ Merrill, an early producer with Minor at KBYU-TV, recently returned to campus to reunite with Minor at BYUtv and is now supervising director.

"Jay Monsen always had an interest in BYU sports, and he loved telling stories," said Merrill. "He started doing both years ago and opened the doors at BYU to make broadcasting the games on television a reality. We wouldn't be doing the games today the way we are without the vision and dedication of Jay Monsen. He was a sports broadcast pioneer and, in the early years of broadcast, became the conduit through which many fans have been able to enjoy the unfolding stories of BYU sports and events. We still enjoy them from his innovative and visionary perspective today."

After formally retiring from BYU as a specialist in the athletic department's sports information department, Monsen did BYU women's basketball games for eight years up until 2011, a year he was inducted into the school's athletic hall of fame.

He moved from Lindon to Mt. Pleasant, where he and his wife Lauretta have worked in the Manti LDS Temple the past decade.

Monsen fought and won three battles with cancer in the past 12 years. In 2000 he was diagnosed with lymphoma and given two years to live. During that time, LaVell Edwards called him in Lindon and talked at length. Monsen tears up remembering the conversation.

"He is just that kind of man, and I appreciated his thoughtfulness and kindness and what he took the time to do that day," he said.

Monsen has had treatments for prostate and skin cancer, which are also apparently under control with no life-threatening issues.

"I think some of the things we did in the day laid the groundwork for what you see today on BYUtv, which I believe is comparable and as competitive as any sports production out there," Monsen said. "Their technical work, their talent is for real. They can compete in the marketplace, and I'm proud of what they are doing. The facility at BYUtv is unbelievable, state-of-the-art, and they are taking full advantage of it."

"I have family members in Washington, D.C., who used to drive to mountaintops to hear BYU game broadcasts," Monsen continued. "Now they see them live in their living rooms. This is a great accomplishment."

Today, Monsen fills his days with his grandchildren. His days on the airways are over, but it's not too late to salute this pioneer, a man who simply loved to tell the stories of live games and laid down a lot of track for those who follow.

email: dharmon@desnews.com

twitter: Harmonwrites

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