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Pierce: RSL, Jazz, Utes don’t need TV, but BYU football does
Sports on TV » A lack of exposure won’t keep RSL, Jazz, Utah from winning a championship.

By Scott D. Pierce

| Tribune Columnist

First Published Jun 03 2014 11:50 am • Last Updated Jun 03 2014 09:48 pm

Last week, Real Salt Lake defender Nat Borchers was excited about the prospect of his team appearing on TV somewhere other than just in Utah.

"This is an awesome opportunity for us," he said a couple of days before RSL traveled to Seattle. "Finally, we get a game worthy of national television for Real Salt Lake."

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But then we had to tell him that, despite the No. 1-vs.-No. 2 matchup, the game wasn’t going to be on national TV.

"It’s not? Nevermind," Borchers said. "The game, unfortunately, is not going to be nationally televised.... We’re not good enough, obviously, to be on national TV."

Things didn’t turn out so well for RSL in Seattle — a 4-0 loss. But you could still argue that it was a matchup worthy of national TV attention.

It irks Real Salt Lake’s management that the team is rarely on national TV. It irks fans. It irks me.

But in terms of winning a championship, it doesn’t matter one little bit.

If RSL was never on national TV during the regular season, it could still win the MLS Cup. Make the playoffs, win your games, win the final — you’re the champion.

The same is true of the Utah Jazz, another team that’s seen infrequently on national TV. In the case of the Jazz, however, it’s not just that they reside in the same small TV market as RSL. The Jazz are bad, which is another factor in their lack of national TV exposure.

Should Utah’s NBA franchise suddenly start winning, lack of TV time won’t matter. Make the playofffs, win your games, win the finals — you’re the champion.


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You could certainly argue that lack of national TV exposure has hurt local college football teams. There were poll voters who said they never saw Utah play during the 2008 regular season — a season that ended with the Utes jumping from No. 8 to No. 2 after they beat Alabama in the Sugar Bowl.

That was back in the dim, dark days of membership in the Mountain West Conference and games on The Mtn. The TV picture is brighter for Utah these days as a member of the Pac-12, but — again — it doesn’t matter so much.

You win the Pac-12 and you’re likely to have a shot at the national championship. So it isn’t so important that college football ratings on Fox Sports 1 have been iffy. It doesn’t matter that the Pac-12 Network doesn’t release ratings, meaning they can’t be good.

There has never been a TV network that doesn’t release ratings if they are good.

College basketball teams don’t need TV to win a national championship, either. If you’re in a conference that has an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament, you’ve got a shot.

One program in the state that needs TV to get even remotely close to a championship is BYU football. The Cougars aren’t in a conference. More specifically, they’re not in a conference that matters — ACC, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-12 or SEC.

If the Cougars won all their games and were never on TV, they would be in the position of the 2008 Utes. Or worse.

Should BYU go undefeated, it has that deal with ESPN. People will see the Cougars play. And BYU needs that.

The Cougars’ only hope of ever being selected to play in one of the big bowls is to catch the attention of the committee that’s going to make those selections. It’s a longshot made just a little bit less long because BYU’s games are so readily available to national viewers.

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



Copyright 2014 The Salt Lake Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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