The Bulldogs Won. But You Didn’t Watch.
By Paul Myerberg // Nov 22, 2011Louisiana Tech’s season opened with a two-point loss at Southern Mississippi, which is one of those losses that look better with each passing week, regardless of the Golden Eagles’ distressing loss to U.A.B. last Thursday. Two weeks later, the Bulldogs had Houston on the ropes — out of the ring, in fact — but allowed Case Keenum and the Cougars to storm back in the fourth quarter to notch a one-point win. That was followed by an overtime loss to Mississippi State and a 44-26 home loss to Hawaii. The Bulldogs haven’t lost since. But you haven’t been watching.
It’s not your fault. Louisiana Tech won the WAC on Saturday, beating Nevada, 24-20, for its sixth consecutive win. But it wasn’t on television: it was the only WAC game not to be televised.
While the conference title was being decided in Reno without a camera in sight, the following WAC games were available either on TV or streaming online: Navy and San Jose State; Utah State and Idaho; B.Y.U. and New Mexico State; and Hawaii and Fresno State.
Not a good game among the bunch. Neither the Midshipmen or Spartans will reach bowl play. Idaho took Utah State to overtime — it was exciting — but the game didn’t register the slightest blip on the F.B.S. radar. B.Y.U. beat the Aggies by 35 points. Hawaii and Fresno State are two of the biggest disappointments in college football.
Louisiana Tech and Nevada? That was the WAC game of the year, if not one of the top non-B.C.S. conference games of the season. And it wasn’t on TV; while viewers were subjected to extra innings in Moscow, those with a rooting interest in the goings-on in Reno were forced to track the game online — or buy tickets, I suppose.
Disappointing. And intriguing, I suppose — why would the WAC not televise its marquee game of the season? There are no ulterior motives: the decision to not broadcast the game was made way back in August, not last week. So while fans were up in arms over not being able to watch the Bulldogs and Wolf Pack, it stands to reason that the conference was likewise kicking itself over making a shortsighted summertime decision not to televise the game.
I asked the WAC about its broadcasting guidelines. Jeff Hurd, the senior athletics commissioner for the WAC, provided the following explanation:
“You are correct that the game is not being televised and that it is the only game this weekend not being televised or streamed,” said Hurd. “But it is not because of any conference-imposed restrictions.”
ESPN owns first right to all WAC games, and it opted to pass on the game when its season schedule was originally determined during the summer. Idaho-Utah State (ESPN Regional) and San Jose State-Navy (ESPN3) both are being done on some ESPN platform as is N.M.S.U.–Brigham Young (ESPNU). Again, those decisions were made long before Louisiana Tech-Nevada carried the importance from a league standpoint that it does.So don’t blame the WAC: blame ESPN, which had its choice of games over the summer but opted for Utah State’s trip to Idaho and San Jose State’s date with Navy rather than the game that eventually decided the conference. The lone WAC choice, according to Hurd, was Fresno State and Hawaii: “The WAC Sports Network also established its schedule prior to the start of the season and (did) the Fresno State at Hawaii game on Saturday.”
And it’s not as if the Bulldogs or Wolf Pack couldn’t have shown the game themselves, according to Hurd. “Further, both Louisiana Tech and Nevada have the right to televise the game on a local basis or to stream it. Both declined to do so.”
ESPN passed first. Then the WAC passed. Then Louisiana Tech and Nevada did the same, though it’s very difficult — and not cheap, it should be said — to provide your own coverage without a national or regional provider. All this is extremely unfortunate: no matter how you cut it, regardless of where the blame lies, we all missed the WAC game of the year.
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