The Times West Virginian

Bob Herzel

July 8, 2008

TV drives college football, basketball

Exposure key to MSN’s current efforts in television

MORGANTOWN — To the surprise of no one, television has become the single most important driving force within the college football and basketball industries, and don’t ever let anyone tell you it’s a sport and not an industry on the Division 1 level.

It had tremendous power through the broadcast networks before ESPN came along, but the cable sports network let a revolution that took sports out of the stadium and brought it into the living room.

West Virginia has benefited from it in both sports.

Football, of course, remains at the top of the heap. WVU earned nearly $3 million in football television money through the Big East revenue sharing plan, including $880,445 in appearance fees, according to Mike Parsons, deputy athletic director who handles the broadcasting for the athletic department.

But the Golden Age of Television really begins in basketball.

When Parsons arrived in 1979, WVU was producing four or five games a year on its own.

“That was a big undertaking at the time,” Parsons said. “Television was much more difficult to do than it is today. You had the big ol’ cameras on the sidelines. And it was done by phone lines, not satellites. It was just a lot of different things.”

The school, a member of the Eastern Eight, which did not have a strong TV contract, began increasing the number of games until it reached 13 or 14 independently done games.

“We were doing these statewide games,” Parsons recalled. “But we also could put them in other places. We had them on in Arizona, for example, because they had a statewide network and were dying for programming.

“We even did a game for ESPN. We televised it, and ESPN carried it live. This was like back in the 1980s, and they were looking for any programming they could get. You’d never see that today.”

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