Barring an upset of epic proportions, the BYU vs. Utah game should be the biggest game in Mountain West Conference history - two undefeated, Top Ten teams playing each other with a shot at a BCS bowl game (or more) at stake. It's a game so big that there's only one sports channel that could handle it: The MountainWest Sports Network.
That's right - the biggest game in non-BCS conference football history is coming, and it's going to be on "The mtn.", a network that practically doesn't exist: it's on the backwoods of DirectTV (probably somewhere in between The Salt Water Fishing Channel and The Australian Rules Football Network) and a smattering of cable companies in Rocky Mountain states.
So for that 99 percent of you who live anywhere else and don't have DirectTV, you're totally out of luck. It's the same scenario as when the NFL Network had the rights to the Patriots vs. Giants game to close out the regular season last year, except it doesn't appear there will be any common sense decision made to simulcast the game. I'll let network GM Kim Carver explain it:
Now with DirecTV carrying the channel, Carver said simulcasting the game isn't necessary because her network is national.
In other words, if you don't have the mtn. and aren't planning to attend the game at Rice-Eccles Stadium, you'd better make some friends who get the network.
"We are pretty excited to be carrying the game," Carver said. "It could be a very big game."
Carver estimated her network is carried in about 5 million to 8 million households this season, compared with just 1.2 million a year ago.
"We've had significant growth," she said. "People have choices."
I know I have a choice: go to a sports bar that might happen to carry it, or don't watch it. At least I have that option - with the vast majority of both team's fans being Mormon, I don't think heading down to Hooters with the wife and 12 kids is a great option for watching the game. I can picture Mrs. Young getting her magic underwear in a bunch now.
And here's the amazing part: The mtn. is No. 3 on the pecking order for choices of Mountain West games each week, behind sister stations Versus and CBS College Sports (each with much wider distribution). Meaning that both other networks passed on the biggest game in Mountain West Conference history to show the following games:
- Air Force at TCU and Oregon St. at Arizona (Versus)
- Conference USA game TBD (CBS College Sports)
That's right: CBS College Sports would rather make sure to lock in an unknown Conference USA game rather than BYU vs. Utah. It's a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for the conference, and they are blowing it. And based on the fact that the two schools have previously hired lawyers to fight the conference's lousy distribution package, I imagine there is some righteous anger going on at Utah and BYU right now as well.
If nothing else, I'm sure ABC or ESPN would love to have the game, and would be willing to pay top dollar to purchase the rights for just that one game. Imagine how many blue nametags or extra bicycle helmets they could buy in Utah with the money they could make?