|« Harvard Searches for New Offensive Leader||Time spent covering Northern Colorado sports teaches appreciation »|
Griz left to close TV gap
This, I suppose, is what can happen when you go 5-6. Your friends start doubting you; you’re not as welcome in people’s homes.
That’s what some around Western Montana think about ROOT Sports, which decreased its coverage of Montana Grizzlies football from a league-high seven games last season to four in 2013.
That leaves eight Griz games that are so far not televised, and maybe this does sting a little: Are you telling me that, Treasure State rooting interests aside, that last year’s North Dakota and Eastern Washington games weren’t great games?
Then again, the NAU and Southern Utah games certainly had their slow moments. Especially on offense.
The local bottom line is that ROOT, whose 5-year contract with the Big Sky Conference began last fall, was going to move the Griz brand name out there farther among the masses.
And it is, since it’s reaching 26 million homes. It’s just doing it three times less this season.
But you shouldn’t fear. There is time between now and Aug. 31, when Appalachian State comes to Missoula, and I have a good feeling about this. History is on the Grizzlies’ side. As Big Sky Conference assistant commissioner Jon Kasper noted:
Was every game on last year? Yes.
So before you start blowing the dust off your cathodes, let’s review.
Four different television networks teamed up to air the Griz games a year ago: Altitude Sports and Entertainment handled the Liberty game, Max Media (FOX/ABC) did the South Dakota and Southern Utah games, and the Appalachian State game aired on ESPN GamePlan.
The Big Sky Conference owns the rights to the league games not aired by ROOT, and a call to Kasper on Tuesday implied that those that involve the Griz will be on the tube.
“I can confirm that we received one bid for the other four league games,” said Kasper, referring to road games against UC Davis and Sacramento State, and home games with Cal Poly and Weber State. “We’re waiting to see if another entity bids by Friday.”
By mid-May, we should know who won. A year ago it was Max Media, which aired a total of six Griz and Montana State Bobcat games.
That leaves non-conference road games at North Dakota (Sept. 14) and South Dakota (Nov. 9), and home games against App State and Oklahoma Panhandle State (Sept. 21).
A regional network that has handled a lot of UND and Coyote games – Midco Sports Network – could help there. But it does get a little more complicated, and that’s before you consider that Learfield Sports owns the rights to the non-league home games.
“We’re working with television partners right now,” said Kent Haslam, the Grizzlies’ athletic director, who notes that the opener is a marquee event and adds: “We want to be able to leverage that Appalachian State game to get as many other games on the air as we can, as well.”
It does not sound like ESPN will: a) air it on GamePlan or b) muck it up by putting it on ESPN3, the Internet channel that has reached only a few rural corners of Montana.
“I don’t know that ESPN has expressed any interest in the Appalachian State game,” Haslam said. “I haven’t heard of any.”
No, the major interest has come from ROOT. The Big Sky, and by extension the Griz, have traded quite a few non-cable homes in Montana for greater exposure around the country.
Well, that and production values. Those were awesome. I am hooked to the point I’m not sure I can cut back 40 percent on that DVR experience.
But I’ll try, and that’s all I can ask of the Grizzlies’ AD, who governs a department that could use good news – as in, no corner of Griz nation will go without its game day fix.
As it is, he’s looking forward to a prime-time season opener.
“It’s really preferred that we play the game at night,” Haslam said of Appalachian State. “I think we’ll be able to manage something that would carry that game statewide and still carry it at night.
“And I know how important it is to get those games on TV. I’ve been in Havre today and Glasgow today and we head to Sidney tomorrow. It’s important to them; it’s important state-wide to have every game televised.”
In a couple weeks, we should get the news. In the meantime, it’s important to keep a good Altitude. I mean, attitude. Or whatever comes in clear on a Saturday afternoon.