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If you sports fans think you're getting less sports news on the nightly newscasts lately, you're absolutely right.

Thank the recently installed Nielsen ratings system for that.When the Salt Lake television market was wired for overnight ratings almost four weeks ago, the technology allowed the stations to take a minute-by-minute look at their news ratings. And station executives discovered that when the sportscasts go on, the ratings go down.

As a result, Ch. 2, Ch. 4 and Ch. 5 have all taken a significant chunk out of the regular sports segment. At 10 p.m., we're seeing a minute, 90 seconds, even two minutes less sports than we used to.

(Obviously, that hasn't held true for the last few days, what with the hoopla over the Utah-BYU game.)

Sports fans - and sportscasters - are getting less time than they used to. And less than they ought to, ratings or not.

NO UTAH-USU TV: There's a local college basketball game on TV tonight. Just not the one most people wanted to see.

Yes, we'll see the weak BYU team play Washington. No, we won't see Utah play Utah State.

To recap last week's column, Ch. 2 had originally planned to broadcast the game. But when the date was switched to tonight, KUTV's owners at CBS nixed it because the network is airing the second half of a two-part movie.

Ch. 2 offered the game to KJZZ-Ch. 14, which offered to pay $12,000 for the rights. But Utah State Athletic Director Chuck Bell stepped in and said that if Ch. 2 wasn't going to do the game, it was his to sell to the highest bidder.

Bell demanded $22,000. KJZZ offered $12,000, and pointed out that it would have little opportunity to promote the broadcast and no chance for it to make most TV listings.

But Bell, who apparently has never looked at local TV ratings, insisted that if Ch. 14 would pay $22,000 for a BYU-Utah game it should pay the same amount for a USU-Utah game.

(Sorry, Chuck, but TV runs on ratings. And the Aggies can't begin to compare with the Cougars - or the Utes - in those numbers.)

So, instead of making $12,000 from the TV rights, USU will make nothing. And unless you've got tickets, you won't see the Utes match up against the Aggies.

BOFFO RATINGS: If you think the 18.8 ratings and 30 share for Saturday's Jazz-Bulls game was good, how about the incredible 28 rating the Ch. 14 broadcast drew during the last 15 minutes of the telecast?

(And the 13 rating for the postgame show was pretty darn good, too.)

NOT A FAN: The BYU football team's least favorite TV football analyst was at it again on Saturday.

Before the BYU-Utah game, Kirk Herbstreit was ragging on the Cougars, their schedule and their chances of playing in either an Alliance bowl - probably the Fiesta - or the Cotton Bowl.

"They haven't played anybody. They haven't beaten anybody worth a darn," he said. "They'll go back to the Holiday Bowl in San Diego."

Herbstreit, you may recall, picked Rice to defeat BYU in his "upset special." BYU, you may recall, beat Rice 49-0.