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Scott D. Pierce: More games on tube might not satisfy MWC fans

SHARE Scott D. Pierce: More games on tube might not satisfy MWC fans

When the Mountain West Conference announced its TV schedule for the upcoming football season, the story was not that all of BYU's game and all but one of Utah's games will be on TV.

The story was which channels those games will be on. Actually, the story was which channels those games WON'T be on.

BYU and Utah (one each) will make fewer appearances on the CBS College Sports Network than Air Force, (three) TCU (three), UNLV (three) and New Mexico (two). The two local schools will also make fewer appearances on Versus (two each) than TCU (three) and Air Force (three) and the same number as New Mexico.

The issue, of course, is exposure. Versus is available in seventysomething million homes; CBS C could be pushing 30 million by the fall; and even if every DirecTV subscriber pays for a package that includes The mtn. (which is NOT going to happen), that channel will have 15-ish million. (Single-digit million is much more realistic.)

But before Ute and Cougar fans completely freak out, it's important to look more closely at the schedules.

Yes, Versus has TCU-New Mexico on Aug. 30, but it's the best of several bad alternatives. Do you take Ohio-Wyoming? SUU-Air Force? Northern Iowa-BYU? Cal Poly-SDSU? Utah State-UNLV? And Versus can't have Utah-at-Michigan, because the TV rights belong to the home team.

A week later, CBS C will air Air Force-Wyoming and Versus has Texas A&M-New Mexico. You could argue that both San Diego State-Notre Dame and BYU-Washington are more attractive games, but, again, those MWC teams are on the road.

That's just two examples of why this isn't quite the slap in the face to BYU and Utah that it might at first appear to be.

Versus' eight-game MWC schedule includes four non-league games featuring Texas A&M, UCLA, Oregon State and Navy. Utah has only one home game against a high-profile, non-league opponent (Oregon State); so does BYU (UCLA); and both games are on Versus.

Three of the eight Versus games and two of the nine CBS C games are Thursday-night matchups, which coaches always complain about. BYU is in one of those; Utah in two; and neither wants more.

When you look at the schedule week-by-week, you can almost always understand the reasoning behind the games CBS C and Versus have on their schedules. But not every week.

For example, on Oct. 11, CBS C chose TCU-Colorado State over Utah-Wyoming and New Mexico-BYU. Given that TCU is on the network three times and BYU and Utah — arguably the league's two flagship programs (and certain to be among the preseason favorites) — are both on only once, that's hard to defend.

For that matter, so is CBS C choosing TCU-UNLV on Nov. 1 over BYU-CSU and Utah-New Mexico.

The one day when CBS C and Versus programmers seem to have perhaps lost their minds is Saturday, Nov. 22. Versus will carry Air Force-TCU; CBS C will carry UNLV-San Diego State (?!?!?!?) — and the BYU-Utah game will be on The mtn.

(And the game times overlap, so there's no chance the Utes and Cougars could be simulcast on either of the other channels.)

That's by far the toughest one to understand.

BYU AND UTAH each have two games that will be on a TV channel yet to be determined.

BYU's game at Washington on Sept. 6 could end up on Fox Sports Net, ABC or one of the ESPN channels.

The Friday, Oct. 3, game at USU is virtually certain to be on KJZZ-Ch. 14 (which has a deal with Utah State). But the WAC has a deal with ESPN so, theoretically at least, it could end up on an ESPN network.

The same is true of Utah's game at USU on Sept. 13. Bet on KJZZ, but there's that theoretical ESPN possibility.

As for the Utes' Aug. 30 game at Michigan, it could end up on ABC, an ESPN channel or the Big Ten Network. The betting is on the Big Ten Network, but stay tuned.

E-mail: pierce@desnews.com