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Wins and losses, not LaVell, affect BYU’s TV future

SHARE Wins and losses, not LaVell, affect BYU’s TV future

So, what will BYU football coach LaVell Edwards' retirement mean to future television coverage of the Cougars?

Nothing. At least not directly.

If, however, Edwards' departure coincides with a decline in the program's fortunes, that would have a distinct influence on the number of national broadcast and cable appearances the Cougs make.

ABC, ESPN and ESPN2 telecast games, after all, not coaches. If the Cougars win, they'll be attractive to the Disney-owned TV outlets. If they don't, they won't.

Just look at the BYU basketball team, which has been pretty much nowhere to be seen on ESPN in recent seasons. It wasn't because nobody liked Cougar coach Steve Cleveland, it was because his team was losing more games than it won.

But it's amazing what a little thing like a 22-11 season and a nice run in the NIT will do for a team. BYU is scheduled for two Big Monday matchups on the cable network — home games against UNLV and Utah.

The Cougar football team currently is scheduled to appear in one ABC national telecast (vs. Florida State); one ABC regional telecast (vs. Virginia); four national ESPN telecasts (vs. Mississippi State, Wyoming, Colorado State and Utah); and one national ESPN2 telecast (vs. Syracuse). That's not counting the syndicated, ESPN-regional telecast of the BYU-UNLV game.

If, however, the end of the Edwards Era means a corresponding fall in BYU's football fortunes, expect that number to be significantly lower. Remember, fellow Mountain West Conference member UNLV, which has been synonymous with football futility, hasn't been on ABC in 19 years.

BAD NEWS, GOOD NEWS: The weird thing is that a fall in BYU's football fortunes could be good for KSL-Ch. 5. And, weirder still, good for BYU itself, at least in the short run.

Because the Cougars have been so attractive to ABC/ESPN, Ch. 5 has been left with what, frankly, amounts to the dregs of BYU's schedule. KSL has been aced out of all the big intersectional games, leaving it with only Air Force (its best game), Utah State (a Friday-night affair it gets by default) and New Mexico (not a great matchup). Ch. 5 also may pick up the BYU-San Diego State game, which is not one of the biggies, either.

But if the Cougars lose more and ABC/ESPN want them less, KSL could get the games. And, since BYU makes more money from a SportsWest telecast than from the Mountain West Conference's ABC/ESPN games, the school's bottom line would benefit.

Told you it was weird.

NO LIVE COVERAGE? A number of local viewers were surprised — even offended — that KSL-Ch. 5 chose not to cover Edwards' retirement press conference live at 1 p.m. Thursday.

The longtime TV Home of the Cougars was pretty much alone in that decision, what with Ch. 2, Ch. 4 and Ch. 13 all pre-empting regular programming to carry at least part of the press conference. (And cable's Fox Sports Rocky Mountain stayed with it longer than any other station.)

It wasn't like KSL ignored the story. Ch. 5 made it a big part of its noon newscast as well as its news programming later in the day. But the lack of live coverage was curious.

(How upset were some viewers? Well, one e-mailer called it a "big mistake" and added that the station "owes its devoted viewers a big apology." Given that the press conference was available on so many other stations, that seems a bit strong.)

It's also curious that KSTU-Ch. 13 — the Fox-owned station that didn't pre-empt a single second of regular programming for either the Republican or Democratic National Conventions — did think Edwards' announcement was worth covering. Granted, the lack of political coverage was a network decision, but it does display an interesting set of priorities.


E-MAIL: pierce@desnews.com