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Friday Water Cooler: The Georgetown/Lafayette TV Kerfuffle

(Graphic Credit: Bogus Megapardus, not-so-proud member of the Any Given Saturday Community)

The definition of the word "kerfuffle" is a one-liner: a "commotion" or "fuss".

This week, a kerfuffle broke out in the world of the Patriot League: a fuss over broadcast rights in regards to televising a Patriot League football game.

Inadvertently, the commotion about the airing of a Patriot League football game highlights a lot more than the situation of the game itself: it also highlights the strange, twisted world of Patriot League football coverage nationally and the differences they have, say, with the television concerns of the big boys.  (more)
Earlier this year, Nebraska joined the Big Ten.

One of the main reasons for its move was not only the money they'd be receiving from the Rupert Murdoch-controlled entity known as the Big Ten Network, but the exposure as well - their games would be available almost on a national basis every week.

In most of the BCS world, TV broadcasts are the definition of a big deal.

Even in the world of FCS football, some conferences have it really good.  The CAA, for example, have a sweetheart deal with the Comcast family of stations that enable its games to be broadcast all up and down the Eastern seaboard, all through the local Comcast sports-themed stations.

And then there's the Patriot League.

Recently, the Patriot League has been trying to generate a national TV package through CBS College Sports, a TV network that is nationally available but frequently is in the more premium packages.  For example, I would have to pay $30/month extra to get that station - so I don't get it.

Last weekend, CBS College Sports covered the UMass/Holy Cross game at Fitton Field, and by all accounts brought a big-game atmosphere to the first-ever night game there.

But for games not on the national TV package, each of the individual schools are allowed to pursue the TV deals that best suits their interests.

For example, Lehigh has a local television deal with the cable provider on its campus, Service Electric, and allows its home-grown station, Service Electric 2, to broadcast all its home games.  The game this weekend versus New Hampshire will be available on SE2 in the Lehigh Valley.

While, the games themselves are produced (and paid for) by Lehigh, with Mike Zambelli and former Lehigh LB Mike Yadush as the main announcers, its games are distributed not only through SE2.  They also are broadcast on Fox College Sports, sometimes on a tape-delayed basis, sometimes live.  The spot on Fox allows Lehigh broadcasts to be available across the country, on many cable systems or through Dish Network and Satellite TV.

(This weekend's game, unfortunately, will only be available on tape-delay, since the "Cleveland Classic", pitting North Carolina Central and Central State (OH), will be broadcast instead.)

In addition, some away games are broadcast by Channel 69 in Allentown.  The 6:00PM game at Princeton next weekend will be broadcast there.

Lafayette has a similar agreement for its broadcasts.

The Leopards have prided themselves in producing and televising every game, home and away, for many years, through its school-based productions of the Lafayette Sports Network.

They have their own announcing crew, Mike Joseph and Gary Laubach, and have a fairly strong market in the Philadelphia market all the way up to Easton through its home-grown cable network, RCN-4, an over-the-air station, WBPH-60, and a spot on the DirecTV as well through Satellite.

LSN's coverage is also picked up on occasion in other markets, notably MASN in the Viriginia and mid-Atlantic area.

*****

For games not produced by CBS College Sports, Lehigh and Lafayette's TV coverage dwarfs the local coverage from the other Patriot League schools.

For example, while Holy Cross has a local home-grown cable station they work with (Charter TV-3), but their schedule to televise games is a lot more uneven that Lehigh's or Lafayette's.  For this weekend's big against Colgate, for example, read this missive from a Holy Cross poster on Any Given Saturday:

One week they go from having a fabulous event that is nationally televised, and this week they will not even have the game streaming over the internet. The excuse they gave: "We are without a broadband producer/coordinator right now, after we lost ours to a full time position at TV3, and so are scrambling to fill this position. It's a very technical position with setup/breakdown of all the equipment as well as directing the game broadcasts, and so it is tough to find someone qualified to do it on a part-time basis."  
What a joke this is...they make it sound like this happened overnight and it is some complicated science experiment in order to carry it out. If Holy Cross is truly serious and committed to their football program, this would not be an issue. Looks like I'll splurge the $6.95 to watch the UNH-Lehigh game (mute) on the internet, while HC-Colgate is just the audio.

Hard to believe that one of the Crusaders' biggest game of the year will not get a TV broadcast or even a live stream on the internet, but that seems to be the case.

In the past, Colgate has had local games televised on their home-grown Time Warner Cable station, but last weekend's game versus Albany was not televised.

Fordham has had some big games broadcast on its local HD-only stations in the New York City area in the past.  Last Saturday, it's game against UConn was streamed live on ESPN3.

Bucknell does not have a local partner with which they broadcast games, but when Lafayette Sports Network produced a broadcast from Matthewson Statdium, the local station, My WQMY, picked up the broadcast, holding out hope that perhaps Bucknell might be able to work with them with future broadcasts.

And unlike the Bison, Georgetown has a local deal with Verizon's local DC station, Fios1, to broadcast its games - but on a tape-delayed basis.

*****

Which leads us to the Lafayette/Georgetown game this weekend.

The last four years, LSN has been allowed to come to Georgetown's Multi-Sport Field to run their broadcasts.  But this year, they were told no:
LSN-TV was denied the television rights because of Georgetown's agreement with Verizon Fios1, which is televising the game on a tape-delay basis exclusively in the Washington, D.C. market. 
LSN-TV has broadcast all Leopard football games for the past eight seasons, including the last four at Georgetown.
Georgetown's Fios1 deal, which started last year, would mark the first time LSN and Fios1 would have gone head-to-head on TV broadcast rights for Georgetown games.

Lafayette reaction, through the Morning Call's Paul Reinhart, was swift and disapproving:

For some baffling – no, make that idiotic – reason, the people at Georgetown will not permit the LSN guys to do it on cable. Inagine that, the university has a chance to get a bunch of free exposure in the Northeast market and they thumbed their noses at it. It makes absolutely no sense.  
They cited the fact that the game is being telecast by Verizon, but that telecast is tape delay and on only one cable network in the Washington, D.C., area. With LSN, there’s a chance that something can be picked up nationally. Free publicity. The kind of thing they’d pay big bucks for.  
 Maybe this kind of thing can happen only at Georgetown. While it is big-time with its basketball program, football is almost like an orphan.

And that's just the point.  The crux of the issue is that Georgetown's, in effect, denying people across the country to watch the game live on their TV thanks to a sort-of TV contract for one station in the Washington, DC area to broadcast the game.... on tape-delay... on one TV network.

It's hard to imagine the Big Ten with issues like this.

It's also hard to imagine a CAA school stiff-arming a school that would bring in its own broadcast team, deliver it more exposure on a national basis.. in favor of a tape-delayed broadcast agreement that, frankly, will not be watched by a fraction of the number of people.

And even on a pure cost basis it seems ridiculous.  In a world of declining athletics budgets, how many schools will pay to come to Georgetown and broadcast their games?  It looks like all Georgetown would have needed to do is to talk nice to Verizon, and get out of the way of the LSN crew.  It would have cost them nothing to have LSN's trucks come in to do the broadcast.  (Sorry, it may have cost more to provide more free food in the press box.  But that's about it.)

I'm struggling to find something positive to say about Georgetown's side of the decision.  But I can't.  If someone is willing to pay to promote your team, isn't it your responsibility to get the barriers out of the way to make it happen?

******

Hard-core Lafayette and Georgetown fans, of course, will still be able to watch the game over the internet.  But the kerfuffle about a Lafayette and Georgetown game in mid-September illustrates perfectly how important TV still is.  While the Patriot League will probably never have its own TV network - and might even struggle to get a national broadcast package together, even on CBS College Sports - there needs to be a better environment between all the schools when it comes to broadcasting games on TV.

When schools and cable companies bicker over TV rights in the Patriot League, everybody loses.

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