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Scott D. Pierce: Hey, Ute fans, put Hill on a pedestal

Published August 1, 2011 3:55 pm

TV • Fans frustrated by lack of televised games before new Pac-12 contract starts next year.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2011, and information in the article may be outdated.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.

Utah fans should be giving athletic director Chris Hill a standing ovation.

All Ute fans. Because Hill has led his teams to the television promised land — an enormous contract with big networks and being part of revolutionary new Pacific-12 Networks that will give the Utes unprecedented exposure and big bucks.

And, yet, fans being fans, Hill is already getting some criticism from his constituents. Because as incredibly great as things look for the Utes on TV as we move toward the new Pac-12 contract that begins in 2012, there's a bit of a price to be paid in 2011.

As of this writing, only three of 12 Utah football games this season are scheduled to air on TV. That's at USC on Versus (Sept. 10); at BYU on ESPN2 (Sept. 17) and Colorado on FSN/ROOT Sports (Nov. 25). But others will certainly end up on local, regional or national TV.

Utah hasn't announced anything yet, but don't be surprised if some games end up televised locally on a Salt Lake City station. Nothing is set yet — there are a lot of issues involving Pac-12 broadcast windows, etc. — but a certain independent station that used to carry Utah football might be involved.

That will help local fans, but it won't help Ute alumni living in other parts of the country.

"We all know this is a big transition year," Hill said. "We want our fans to get to see the games, but I hope if they don't they understand that is a temporary thing."

Yeah, well, not everybody is so understanding. And some Ute fans are just plain spoiled.

"Last year I was ticked off because one game was not televised," a Ute fan wrote in an email to yours truly. "This year ... all I can say is 'Dr.' Hill ain't earning his keep! Some kind of an interim TV package should have been part of the deal."

Really? Hill "ain't earning his keep"? He positioned Utah for its invitation to the freakin' Pac-12! That's a HUGE reward for a little bit of patience in 2011.

To some degree, that fan's frustration is understandable. Everybody wants to see his or her team on TV all the time.

But, c'mon!

Of course, fans' memories are short. Before the Mountain West Conference began its current TV deal in 2006, the Utes were lucky to get on national TV two or three times a year. And there were plenty of untelevised games.

You've got to wonder if part of this fan's frustration is because BYU will be getting so much TV exposure this season: at least seven games on ESPN/ESPN2; perhaps three more on ESPNU; a game on BYUtv; and one to go. The Cougars will be in a cumulative total of a billion households this season.

But would the Cougars give that up for one season of some untelevised football games and membership in a BCS conference with a great TV deal of its own?

I would.

Gee, maybe the answer to Utah's TV problem this season lies in Provo. There's a certain television network that's available in 60 million households, which is about 59 million more than a Salt Lake TV station can reach.

"[Hill] can give me a call," said Derek Marquis, managing director of BYU Broadcasting, with a bit of a smile.

He pointed out that BYUtv carried the first two rounds of the West Coast Conference men's basketball tourney this year, "and BYU wasn't playing. So to say that we would only do games that BYU is playing in — that's not true."

That would actually be kind of cool. But I wouldn't hold my breath waiting to see the Utes play on BYUtv.

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

Key dates for the U. football team

Thursday • Practice begins

Aug. 20 • Camp ends

Sept. 1 • First game, at home vs. Montana State

Sept. 10 • First Pac-12 game, at USC