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Pierce: Easy to predict Utes, Aggies fans will hear bias on BYUtv

Published December 4, 2012 3:57 pm

In-state basketball • But pro-Cougar commentary is in the ear of the beholder.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2012, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

The Utah and Utah State basketball teams are traveling to Provo to take on BYU this week. And if you're a gambler, you can bet on this:

Many Ute and Aggie fans will complain that the BYUtv telecast is pro-BYU.

In an equally startling prediction, the sun will rise in the east.

Over the past couple of decades, I've heard about 11 million complaints that TV announcers — local or national — were biased against the Utes. The Cougars. The Aggies. The Jazz. And so on.

So it's hardly a surprise that the Utes and Aggies will think they hear bias this week. But not all is what it seems.

If I told you that the color analyst on a BYU-Utah football game was a college roommate of one of the coaches, you'd expect bias in favor of that coach's team, right?

What if that analyst was ex-BYU quarterback Blaine Fowler? And that former roommate was Ute coach Kyle Whittingham?

That changes the equation. And it happened more than once over the years.

"I'm tied to both programs," said Fowler, "so it's not hard to just analyze the game for what it is."

Since Fowler started doing TV for KBYU in 1986, he's developed into a fine football and basketball analyst. He's always been professional, even when his son, Kellen, played in games he called.

Fowler admits that worried him the first time, but he decided, "I'm going to treat it just like I would any other game. You start analyzing it and you don't think about who the individuals are."

These days, he's calling games for the NBC Sports Network — and that has nothing to do with his ties to BYU.

Except that, oddly enough, NBCSN trumpets the fact that Fowler was a member of the Cougars' 1984 national championship team.

That was not the case when he worked for The Mtn.

"Because BYU was kind of frowned on by the rest of the [Mountain West Conference] institutions, they were careful not to even mention during the broadcasts that I'd been a quarterback at BYU," Fowler said. "Now that I'm at NBC, they want to celebrate it. It's a cool thing. It's credibility."

It's all in the perception. And perceptions are colored by which team you're rooting for.

Fans from disparate BYU opponents — from Baylor to Buffalo — have said positive things about BYUtv. You're not going to hear a whole lot of that from in-state rivals.

If you listen objectively to a football or basketball telecast on the channel, it's obvious this is BYU's home team. The on-air personnel know more about the Cougars than they do about the opponent — just the way the Jazz announcing team knows more about Utah than its opponents.

But cheerleading isn't a problem during BYUtv's football or basketball games.

That's not always true for other sports, however. When the Cougar women's soccer team was playing in the NCAA Tournament, the telecasts went waaaay over the top. The whooping and hollering from the broadcast booth was the opposite of the professionalism we've seen during football and basketball games.

If I was a Marquette fan, the shrieking and cheerleading would have left me with a hugely negative impression of BYU. Or at least BYUtv.

Fans of the Cougars' opponents are going to hear bias even when it's not there. They're certainly going to hear it when it is.

Scott D. Pierce covers television for The Salt Lake Tribune. Email him at spierce@sltrib.com; follow him on Twitter @ScottDPierce. —

On TV

Utah State at BYU airs Wednesday at 7 p.m. on BYUtv; Utah at BYU airs Saturday at 7 p.m. on BYUtv.