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Scott D. Pierce: Cougars completing a remarkable TV season

Published December 24, 2011 10:29 pm

This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2011, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

With its appearance in the Armed Forces Bowl on Friday (10 a.m., ESPN),the BYU football team will complete a season the likes of which anyone not named Notre Dame has to envy.

Not on the field, but certainly in terms of television coverage.

By now, it sounds familiar. Five games on ESPN. Four on ESPN2. Two on ESPNU. One on BYUtv.

The only game that posed any real difficulty for Cougar fans anywhere in the country to watch live — either on TV or on the Internet — was the one at Oregon State, which was on Fox College Sports-Pacific and KBYU.

To put this in some perspective, BYU fans had an easier time watching all their team's games than fans of either of the two teams in the BCS championship game. LSU and Alabama each had a game on pay per view; each had a game on the regional SEC Network.

The folks in Provo accomplished exactly what they set out to do when they made the decision to go independent. They made their games available to fans across the country.

It was a quantum leap from the appalling lack of exposure the previous five seasons as a member of the Mountain West.

It was, quite simply, an extraordinary achievement. One that not many schools could have pulled off.

"BYU has a national following, a lot like Notre Dame," said ESPN analyst/former Oregon coach Mike Bellotti. "In some ways, it was a great idea. A way to keep the fans happy. Be more a national-type team in terms of ability to play anywhere and have their fans see them all across the nation."

Here's where some of those BYU fans get unhappy — when you point out that, as great as the Cougars' TV situation is, it's not perfect. When you point out that:

• There's no guarantee that this kind of exposure will continue. It could be as few as three games per season on ESPN, ESPN2 or ABC; one on ESPNU.

• Night games in November aren't exactly fan-friendly for the folks who buy tickets. And a 10 a.m. MT bowl game isn't exactly ideal.

• Late-season games against lesser teams with no conference title to play for aren't overly interesting. Televising games doesn't make them relevant.

• The uncertainty of the future, both when it comes to scheduling and if super conferences come to pass and BYU is shut out.

"That could be a problem down the road, depending on what happens with the BCS," Bellotti said. "But who knows what's going to happen?"

Given what they pulled off in 2011, you've got to think that the folks at BYU might be able to navigate the coming storms.

Scott D. Pierce's column appears Mondays and Fridays in The Mix. Email him at spierce@sltrib.com; follow him on Twitter @ScottDPierce; read his blog at sltrib.com/blogs/tv.