Archive for Friday, August 3, 2001

TV tether

August 3, 2001


The lure of television dollars is playing havoc with university sports schedules.

Exposure on national television can be a good thing for a university and its athletic teams, but, at the same time, there usually is a cost attached to the TV bait.

At a time when most university athletics departments are facing tight financial situations, the dollars handed out by TV networks are mighty enticing. Also, scenes of the campus, hopefully a winning athletic performance by the home team and the usual promotional piece about the university are extras school officials are told they'll receive with televised games.

Coaches like the exposure as a recruiting tool for top high school prospects who might be watching the game and live too far away to attend. And there probably are other benefits. But the big attraction is the money the school receives.

This financial payoff and the allure of being on TV is sufficiently strong that chancellors, athletics directors, coaches and others associated with a university have made commitments through their conference offices that they will alter game times, game days and make other adjustments to accommodate television broadcasts.

As it is today, Kansas University alumni and friends know what games are scheduled on specific dates, but the starting time of all games is subject to change. These changes can be made within a few days of the game, and there is no way for those planning to attend the game to know the time of the football kickoff or basketball tip-off until the TV people decide what game is likely to garner the greatest interest, viewership and advertising revenue.

Because of one such decision, KU officials have had to cancel the highly popular Band Day parade, a long-standing tradition in downtown Lawrence, which had been scheduled for Saturday, Sept. 15. The KU-Wyoming game is to be played that day, and TV people have told KU officials they want the game to kick off at 11:30 a.m. Band Day had been scheduled for that day and high school band directors throughout the state and in the greater Kansas City area had been notified of the date long ago.

For more than 50 years, the morning parade in downtown Lawrence has been one of the highlights of the Band Day experience, with buses from throughout the state traveling hundreds of miles, often starting in the early morning hours, to deliver students to Lawrence. Later in the morning, band members would assemble in Memorial Stadium to practice for the half-time show. After the show, high school students were free to roam the campus or get ready to head back home.

It was a big day for the band members, a big day for those who enjoy watching a parade and a good day for KU.

Because of TV, the parade had to be canceled and there is a chance some band leaders may decide not to bring their musicians to Lawrence. It's an unfortunate situation that has, among other negatives, made KU officials appear to be the bad guys. They get a large black eye because of the deal they and conference officials have made with TV executives.

There's both good and bad associated with the manner in which TV sports now controls the intercollegiate sports program. They have taken it out of the hands of school officials, although in some cases, school officials like the idea of not being held responsible for the negatives associated with athletic conferences selling their souls to TV people.

They (university officials) can tell the public they don't like the disruptions and that they are sorry for inconveniences. They are quick to place the blame at the feet of the TV people, but they sure like the dollars.

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