Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Lights, Camera...

As Georgetown prepares for the start of another football season, it continues an institutional record of sorts: this is the 49th consecutive season of varsity football among 108 years of intercollegiate football, dating back to 1887. With various interruptions variously related to a player’s death (1895-97), World War II (1943-45), and a unrepentant Jesuit president (1951-63), the Hoyas have taken the field every fall since 1964. Georgetown has never enjoyed such a uninterrupted run of football.

Were that more people could see it. On Monday, the MSF passed 2,900 days on its diaspora, there is no effort to add temporary seats for bigger games, particularly for Homecoming vs. Princeton, and the fond memories of a game winning kick last season on ESPNU have all but faded as students and alumni ask: when is basketball season?

A possible opportunity to raise the visibility of Hoya football appears to have fallen short, however.

It’s no secret that broadcast coverage of Georgetown football does not exist. No local TV. No local radio. Occasional home games online through an online feed from WGTB, but not consistent enough over the years to be completely dependable. But earlier this summer, the Patriot League announced a somewhat innovative approach: a state of the art video feed for hundreds of league events across all PL sponsored sports to raise the PL’s visibility outside its campuses.

“The Patriot League Network (“PLN”) debuted over the weekend with three women's soccer contests, and has its first full weekend ahead on the way to at least 246 telecasts during the fall sports season” reads a release. “There are already more than 50 regular-season games on the schedule in volleyball and men's soccer, nearly 50 in women's soccer, more than 30 in field hockey and 27 in football.

Continuing: “Each Patriot League sport will feature the majority of its League contests on PLN, with more than 55% of League games shown for the five fall team sports. The entirety of the Patriot League tournament will be broadcast for men and women's soccer, field hockey and volleyball, adding 16 postseason games to the fall broadcast slate.”

Well, this should make out of town Hoyas feel good right? A weekly kickoff right around the corner on their PC or iPad?

Here is the Patriot League network broadcast schedule. See if you can spot the problem:

Patriot League Network Coverage, Football

Holy Cross: 5 home games, 8 overall (plus one game on cable's CBS Sports Network)
Lehigh: 5 home games, 7 overall (plus one game on CBS SN)
Colgate: 5 home games broadcast, 7 overall (plus one game on CBS SN)
Bucknell: 5 home games, 7 overall
Fordham: 5 home games, 6 overall (plus one game on CBS SN)
Georgetown: 0 home games, 3 overall
(*Lafayette has two PLN broadcasts but will likely broadcast most of its season on its own local network.)

So, for nothing other than sheer emphasis, home games on PLN:

Holy Cross: 5
Lehigh: 5
Colgate: 5
Bucknell: 5
Fordham: 5
Georgetown: 0

No home games. Not one. Two of the three road games come at the end of the season: Nov. 16 at Bucknell, Nov. 23 at Holy Cross. Fans won’t be asking “when is basketball season”, it will be here by then.

(A fourth game may find its way online of the Lafayette sports network opts to pick up the Leopards’ Nov. 2 game with the Hoyas, but it is not listed on the PL network carriage list.)

At the very least, can someone in the PL headquarters explain this one? Why would one school be all but ignored in this scheduling setup--are affiliate members not welcome in the PLN? Is the MSF equipment not good enough for their video? Or do they simply don't feel like setting up cameras for a Georgetown game?

Or should we look to Georgetown?

This can’t be one of those Fox Sports One exclusivity clauses, or that the long since cancelled Verizon FiOS contract is still out there. There was Internet chatter a few weeks back that two schools were not part of the network, and you could have probably placed a friendly wager that Georgetown was one of the two. Maybe the cost was prohibitiv. Maybe the MSF lacked the minimum facility requirements or whatever, but still…how exactly does this benefit the Hoyas?

After all, this is a program that continues to fly under the radar media-wise (one of just four schools in all of Division I with no broadcast radio coverage) and who relies on people paying as much as $9.99 a game for what amounts to a video camera perched atop the MSF roof. And aside from the dedicated work of Chuck Timanus, fans get no graphics with time and distance, no instant replay, no slow motion, and if the broadband feed isn’t just right, you get a fair amount of video buffering to fight through, too.

How do you better recruit kids that aren’t getting a full ride without leveraging the best media tools at your disposal, assuming, of course, it is at their disposal. And what about out of town parents, alumni, or casual fans? The MSF is nominally sold out very game. If you can’t bring any more fans to the game,  bring the game to more fans.

This week’s game at Wagner is broadcast on the NEC’s own free video network. They get it, too. Otherwise, if you want to see the Hoyas on TV without a credit card after this week, see you in basketball season.