SBD/Issue 202/Sports Media

Mountain West Conference Signs BCS TV Contract Despite Protest

The Mountain West Conference (MWC) yesterday "signed off on the Bowl Championship Series' television contract with ESPN," though MWC Chair & Univ. of Utah President Michael Young said that the conference will "continue to push for change in the system," according to Steve Wieberg of USA TODAY. Young said the conference "has no choice at this time but to sign." Wieberg notes all of the other ten Football Bowl Subdivision conferences and Notre Dame had ratified the four-year, $125M deal with ESPN, which begins with the '10 season, and the deadline to ratify the deal was today (USA TODAY, 7/9). In Salt Lake City, Lya Wodraska notes failing to sign the agreement "would have meant MWC teams wouldn't have been eligible for BCS bowls, which could have cost the conference millions of dollars in revenue." The MWC, "faced with the prospect of being shut out of the BCS altogether," thus "relented Wednesday and agreed to be a part of the system it has openly fought to change" (SALT LAKE TRIBUNE, 7/9). ESPN.com's Graham Watson noted signing the agreement ends a "six-month campaign to change the BCS and the way it chooses its national champion" (ESPN.com, 7/8).

FIGHT THE GOOD FIGHT: In Utah, Dick Harmon writes the decision to sign the agreement "boiled down to a decision to take BCS money and ESPN exposure rather than stand up on principle and see where being victimized took them." While it is "sad to see this acceptance of what amounts to another bow before BCS powerbrokers," the MWC and Western Athletic Conference (WAC), which also signed the agreement yesterday, "were over the proverbial barrel" (DESERET NEWS, 7/9). In Salt Lake City, Gordon Monson writes the MWC "should have simply told the network and the BCS to pound sand," and it "should have passed on the signing and made a real statement." But instead, it "caved, under duress, maybe even under protest." If the MWC had "gutted up and followed its complaints, its extending of alternatives by refusing to sign the new contract, it would have taken some hits, many of them financial, but it would have gained in even bigger doses something that in the long run could have helped it more: credibility" (SALT LAKE TRIBUNE, 7/9). But in West Palm Beach, Ben Volin noted the MWC has had two teams play in a BCS bowl over the last five years, and the conference last year "split a $19.3[M] BCS check with four other non-BCS conferences." Volin: "Is it the same money being received by BCS schools? No, not even close. Is it way more than Utah ever earned before the BCS? You bet" (PALMBEACHPOST.com, 7/8).

LARGER ISSUES IGNORED: SI.com's Frank Deford wrote under the header, "BCS Isn't Fair, But Neither Is NCAA." Following Tuesday's U.S. Senate Judiciary subcommittee hearing on college football's postseason system, Deford wrote, "Why are congressmen so quick to come to the aid of university lobbyists but not university athletes, the poor laborers in college sport. Because just as the BCS is unfair to certain colleges, the NCAA is an evil overseer to its athletic minions." The NCAA "invariably sides with athletic departments and coaches, denying student-athletes basic rights and honest remuneration, even as programs bring in huge sums of money -- including the very BCS riches congress wants colleges to enjoy" (SI.com, 7/8).

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