Oct. 1, 2003
LARAMIE, Wyo. -
President Philip L. Dubois today announced that a decision by the Executive Committee of the Mountain West Conference Board of Directors requires that the starting time of the University of Wyoming's Homecoming game against Brigham Young University be changed from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m.
To accommodate fans who are unable to travel to Laramie for a 4 p.m. game, UW has arranged for a tape-delayed broadcast on KTWO-TV, beginning at 6 p.m. BYU and SportsWest, which holds the contract for airing BYU and UW games not selected for the MWC television package, asked UW to change the 1 p.m. start time for the Cowboys Homecoming game on Oct. 18 to either 10 a.m. or 4 p.m. so the game could be broadcast back to the Provo area outside the 1-4 p.m. window for ESPN football telecasts. Dubois declined and offered to make the broadcast available to BYU on a tape-delayed basis, an offer that BYU refused.
Citing a variety of adverse impacts that a 10 a.m. or 4 p.m. start would have on UW and its Homecoming activities, Dubois, in a letter dated Sept. 10, asked MWC Commissioner Craig Thompson to grant an exception to the conference policy requiring institutions to reschedule home games to accommodate local television broadcast packages to be aired at times that would not conflict with national and regional ESPN telecasts. The policy was adopted when the MWC was founded to accommodate revenue losses for institutions that had lucrative local television packages.
However, Dubois noted, the conference policy and rules clearly provide for exceptions when the home institution can demonstrate "serious negative financial considerations" or that rescheduling will have a "serious negative impact on the institution."
Although sympathetic to Wyoming's concerns, Thompson replied that no request for a game to be rescheduled has ever been refused, and that setting such a precedent with the Wyoming-BYU game would be unwise. The conference Executive Committee, composed of presidents from other MWC institutions, agreed with Thompson, but indicated that Dubois' concerns deserve a full airing at next June's meeting of the Board of Directors and as the conference approaches renegotiation of its television package with ESPN.
"We adopted this policy in good faith at the time the conference was founded," says Dubois, hoping institutions would work together to minimize adverse impacts when they could be demonstrated. "What has evolved over time, however, is that any request for rescheduling a home game must be honored, regardless of the circumstances," he continues. "The tail is now really wagging the dog.
"In my letter, I told Commissioner Thompson that rescheduling the start of our Oct. 18 game would disrupt Homecoming; would have an adverse impact on our attendance; would hurt our efforts to comply with 2004 NCAA attendance requirements by stalling momentum that we're trying to build for the program; and would result in significant revenue losses from ticket sales, concessions, merchandising, and parking revenues," says Dubois. "Here we have a new coach generating excitement for our football program and we're doing our very best to regenerate fan interest in a Cowboy program that's suffered during the past three years. First we get hit with three home games in November and now this."
Dubois advised the MWC that, according to his analysis, UW will typically lose more than 4,000 paying customers when games are scheduled at a non-standard kick-off time, such as 10 a.m. or 4 p.m.
Calling the 4 p.m. start for the Homecoming game the better of two bad choices imposed by the conference rules, Dubois encourages fans to turn out in record numbers to show their support for the Cowboys and UW.
"We know that some fans simply can't get to Laramie for a 4 p.m. start," says Dubois, "and in recognition of that we've arranged for a tape-delay broadcast. While details still need to be finalized, we expect to have the game broadcast at 6 p.m. on KTWO-TV. I hope fans won't use this as an excuse not to come to War Memorial Stadium to cheer for the Cowboys on Homecoming. That would be a real disservice to Joe Glenn and the kids who've played their hearts out this season."
Dubois notes that the new NCAA Division I-A requirement that will go into effect next season requiring a minimum average home attendance of 15,000 may even make tape-delayed broadcasts less likely in the future.
"Our fans just flat out need to show up," noted Dubois, or UW's status as a I-A institution could be endangered as could future bowl invitations.
"Over the years, the Wyoming-BYU game has become a very spirited rivalry," Dubois concludes. "BYU's decision to force a change in the starting time for our Homecoming game has simply ratcheted up that spirit another notch."