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Volume 24 No. 114


West Virginia Univ. will "scrap bids for its athletic department's multimedia rights and start over" after state Attorney General Patrick Morrisey said that "significant errors were made" in the process, according to a front-page piece by Jared Hunt of the Charleston DAILY MAIL. While Morrisey's office found "significant errors and sloppiness" in the bid process, he said that it found "no evidence of 'intentional wrongdoing.'" Morrisey said that WVU BOG Chair Drew Payne and BOG member David Alvarez "should have recused themselves." Both Payne and Alvarez have "financial ties to West Virginia Media Holdings, a company that was poised to subcontract with potential bid winner IMG Media." Morrisey said that Payne also "improperly received information and commented publicly on the process." But he said that "none of those errors had a significant impact on the outcome." Sources said that IMG and WVU were "set to agree" on a 12-year, $110M contract that would have netted the university about $5M "more per year than its current Tier 3 media arrangement." Morrisey yesterday said that his office is "looking at current contracts" between WVU and both West Virginia Media and West Virginia Radio. He also is "examining previous scoreboard donations and purchases, football spring game contracts and university compliance with the Solicitation of Charitable Funds Act." WVU AD Oliver Luck said his communication with Payne during the process was "inappropriate." IMG College VP/Strategic Communications Andrew Giangola said that company officials are "ready to renew discussions with WVU." Should WVU "not have a new Tier 3 partner in place by May 15, its current radio broadcast contract with West Virginia Radio will automatically be renewed for another year" (Charleston DAILY MAIL, 4/16).

FALLOUT FROM DELAY: In West Virginia, Chuck McGill writes under the header, "WVU, IMG Marriage Still A Likely Conclusion." However, IMG will "lose time because of the review process." The first year of a restructured deal "could -- and should -- be prorated to reflect those missed opportunities." WVU's media rights are "so coveted because it's rare for an athletics program to hit the open market" (Charleston DAILY MAIL, 4/16). A Clarksburg EXPONENT-TELEGRAM editorial states the manner in which WVU "handled its multimedia rights bidding process can be viewed as nothing less than substandard." The "lengthy process ... should have been handled in a manner above reproach" (Clarksburg EXPONENT-TELEGRAM, 4/16).

CBS earned a 9.4 fast-national Nielsen rating and 14.7 million viewers for the final round of The Masters on Sunday, up 18% and 9%, respectively, from the Easter Sunday finish last year. Both tournaments included a two-hole playoff -- Adam Scott defeating Angel Cabrera this year, Bubba Watson defeating Louis Oosthuizen last year. However, compared to ’11, Sunday's final round is down from a 9.5 rating and 15.3 million viewers. Saturday’s third round coverage on CBS earned a 5.8 fast-national rating and 8.5 million viewers, up 16% in both metrics compared to last year (Austin Karp, Assistant Managing Editor).


CHART NOTES: * = Ended in playoff. ^ = Aired on Easter Sunday.

ON THE UP AND UP: In N.Y., Bob Raissman writes while there is “enough circumstantial evidence to fuel the conspiracy angle" that Masters officials decided against disqualifying Tiger Woods in order to "boost ratings ... it has absolutely no merit.” Anyone who “still is pushing it can thank” CBS analyst Nick Faldo “for keeping it alive.” Faldo’s “bizarre flip-flopping performance Saturday gave viewers every reason to believe a deal had been cut between the Masters and CBS to keep Woods playing.” But if tournament officials had “deemed that Woods should have been DQ’d it would have happened, even if it was detrimental to CBS’ business.” For anyone to “think that CBS, in order to keep Woods in the tournament, influenced the Masters decision in any way would fly in the face of a relationship totally controlled by club officials” (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 4/16).


The CBS announcers at The Masters knew Tiger Woods was going to have a rough Sunday from the start. The net began its final round coverage with Woods on the first hole, where he missed a makeable birdie putt. Woods followed with a par on the par-5 second hole, and the CBS crew sensed that the drama of a final day charge by golf's biggest draw would not happen. Analyst David Feherty told viewers, "That's not the start he wanted." For me, that was an invitation to sit back, relax and enjoy the pictures coming out of Augusta. I asked NFL Network Exec Producer Eric Weinberger to watch the final round telecast with me. Weinberger is based in L.A., while I'm in DC, so we corresponded through e-mails and texts and then discussed the telecast on Monday morning. We were sure it would be top notch. CBS has carried the event since '56. The Masters is one of the net's crown jewels. It devotes the resources and talent to make sure its coverage is high quality.

GETTING DOWN UNDER: CBS talent -- both in front of and behind the camera -- has enough experience to not feel the need to manufacture drama. Weinberger highlighted that producers that were comfortable enough to step back and let the event breathe until the competition became tense on the course. Weinberger said, "It was a steady telecast to start the day, even with all the Tiger intrigue." CBS was good at identifying the storylines that would come into play later in the telecast. When Australian Jason Day carded an eagle on the second hole to take the lead, fellow Aussie and CBS analyst Ian Baker-Finch said of a potential win for the country: "We're a very proud sporting nation and it would mean more than I could say." Some have criticized CBS for spending too much time on the Aussie storyline, but I feel it was a legitimate topic that was properly handled by the net. Baker-Finch added a unique perspective.

TREADING LIGHTLY: Early last week, NBC's Bob Costas criticized CBS producers for ignoring the racism and sexism that historically have existed at Augusta. It was no surprise that CBS continued to stay away from those topics Sunday, as its telecast was filled with the reverence associated with all Masters productions, where fans are described as "patrons" and the short rough is called the "first cut."

KEEP IT SIMPLE: When CBS analysts gave opinions, it was about the play on the course. I did like the fact that they were not shy about making predictions. With about an hour left in the telecast, Feherty asked analyst Nick Faldo who he thought would win. Faldo correctly predicted Adam Scott, saying the eventual winner "has really stepped it up." Faldo: "The focus on his face, the determination, has really, really risen." CBS' slow pacing was helped by the fact that The Masters is so old school. It was almost jarring to watch an event on a "clear" screen. There was no scroll, no leaderboard, no CBS bug. With graphics kept at a minimum, the telecast seemed quaint. The problem is that I'm conditioned to busier screens and wanted more information. Still, I grew to appreciate the clear screen, especially during the tournament's most dramatic moments. I'd like to see other events de-clutter, at least during pivotal moments.

PICKING THE RIGHT MOMENTS: As the final round drama increased on the back nine, so did the intensity of CBS' telecast. Weinberger: "It built up to the drama of the tournament, which CBS captured. Production of the late holes was edge-of-your-seat television." CBS captured that tension through its replays, such as the slo-motion replay that caught Angel Cabrera's reaction after he mis-hit a shot on the 13th hole. The tension built with the course getting darker and rain falling harder. Camera lenses on the 15th and 16th holes had raindrops on them. It is no surprise that the drama carried over into the two-hole playoff. CBS replays captured Cabrera giving Scott a thumbs-up sign on the final playoff hole, which became the defining image of the final round and helped show the event's drama for viewers.

FINISH STRONG: After building the drama throughout the final round, CBS should have done more at the tournament's end. After Scott made the tournament-winning putt, CBS stayed with the celebration for about 90 seconds and showed three highlights. The production then left the celebration at the final hole for a generic shot of Amen Corner. It proceeded to show the final tournament results, taking a lot of the emotion out of the telecast. After such a thrilling ending to a major championship, viewers were left wanting more. CBS returned and conducted a 90-second interview with Cabrera, who needed a translator. I cannot think of another major championship where the loser is interviewed before the winner. Again, an interview with the runner-up -- even one as gracious as Cabrera -- ­ sapped a lot of the excitement from the telecast. The only time viewers heard from Scott after his win was during the stilted interview in Butler Cabin. I would have preferred to hear him speak soon after his emotional win. This tends to occur more frequently CBS, which rushes to get to "60 Minutes" on Sundays. After two playoffs holes at The Masters eating well into the popular newsmagazine's scheduled start time, ­this transition felt particularly rushed.

JIM DANDY: The star of The Masters' telecast was host Jim Nantz, who demonstrated why he is the net's top announcer. Weinberger said, "I think Jim stands out. He's been the voice of big sports events for the past three months, and he finishes with his best event. What sets Jim apart is his ability to do three totally different events with seeming ease." Nantz called the Super Bowl in February and the NCAA Championship early last week. However, he's at his best on the golf course and his preparation and knowledge of Augusta and the golf pros is impressive. Before the playoff started, CBS cameras caught Cabrera speaking to his coach, Charlie Epps. Nantz immediately identified Epps, spoke about his relationship with Cabrera and even recounted how the two met. That kind of knowledge combined with Nantz' effortless delivery is what sets him apart on golf telecasts.

Actor Kevin Connolly, whose ESPN "30 for 30" documentary “Big Shot” premieres Friday at the Tribeca Film Festival in N.Y., was determined to make his film on former Islanders Owner John Spano, whether the former con man agreed to be interviewed or not. Connolly, who starred in HBO's "Entourage," wrote and directed the film. He said, “I’d be lying if I said it was easy to get John. It took a while, but I told him, ‘I’m making this movie anyway. Why not use this one chance to tell your side of the story?' I think he did himself a huge favor by talking to us. He had genuine remorse.” In '97, Spano perpetuated one of the biggest frauds in sports history by purchasing the Islanders for $165M and operating the club for a few months. He was then sent to jail for five years on charges of bank fraud, wire fraud and forgery. Spano seems satisfied by the opportunity to make his case in the film. In a recent tweet about the film, he wrote, "Many things never discussed will be made public." The documentary is a passion project for the 39-year-old Connolly, who was raised on Long Island and is a life-long Islanders fan. When ESPN allowed him to take the film from the originally-scheduled 60 minutes to 90, Connolly was able to weave the Islanders’ dramatic and traumatic history -- which includes four straight Stanley Cups in the early '80s, but only two playoff series victories in the last 25 years -- around the story of Spano’s con. Connolly said, “Getting to tell the story of the dynasty and everything that came before John made a big difference in the film."

GETTING TO GARY: NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman agreeing to be interviewed also lends gravitas to the film. Spano’s fraud was not just initially missed by the banks that lent him money, but also by the NHL. The episode, which led to increased background checks on prospective owners throughout sports, was not a happy time for the NHL. Connolly: "The commissioner was a cool customer and very, very honest. Let’s be honest -- it’s not like I’m Mike Wallace. The commissioner, I’m sure, wasn’t worried about my interrogation. He’s a smart man. I asked him about every aspect and he gave me his candid answers. If there was something he didn’t want to talk about, he just politely passed.”

WHY THIS TOPIC? Connolly said that his goals for the film were to shed some light on a fascinating moment in sports business history, but also to entertain. He said, "There are some light moments. Enough time has gone by and John certainly did his hard time. It’s really a story that transcends hockey, a story that not a lot of people know about.” In the documentary, Connolly does not pass judgment on Spano, but it is clear that he was moved by the man who got away -- at least for a little while -- with buying his favorite NHL team. Connolly: “I guess it’s like any reporter who spends a lot of time and gets to know their subject, no matter how troubled they may be. You start to see him as a person who has a mom and dad, as a person driven to buy a sports team and be someone like (Mavericks Owner) Mark Cuban. I think John’s out of trouble now. He has his friends and a life in Ohio, and he has moved on. I’m sure he could have done without this story being brought up, but I appreciate him talking about it. My hope is that it doesn’t set him back at all.” The film is expected to make its ESPN broadcast debut in the fall.