With the news last Thursday that the Mtn. is closing down last Thursday that the Mtn. is closing down it is time to take a look at reasons why the channel was great for the league and then in a latter post reasons why it was not a good thing for the league.
The vast majority of Mountain West fans did not like the Mtn. one bit due to lack of HD, announcers, coverage and mostly it not being ESPN. However, I will provide an argument to why the Mtn. was extremely helpful for the Mountain West.
First off, the reason the channel was set up was because the Mountain West was not getting what they thought was a fair deal for their league with ESPN. ESPN offered less money and wanted to play games on Tuesday through Friday and maybe a rare Saturday time slot. The Thursday night games were not a big deal and really it was at the end of the 16-team WAC and early years in the Mountain West who made Thursday a college football night. Once that was figured out, the Big East, Pac-12 and ACC wanted in on those nights.
What was done instead was to sign a deal with CSTV (now CBS Sports Network) to broadcast the rights to the Mountain West and the announcement of a conference-only network. This was a big deal since teams would be on television more than they were with ESPN and the promise of the vast majority of the games to be on Saturday and of course more money.
In college sports money is king and teams outside of the major conferences need everything they can get to try to stay competitive or at least break even in the arms race for football.
The network did what it promised as it showed basically every football game on the Mtn., CBS Sports Network and now NBC Sports Network with the exception of some FCS games.
Distribution was a pain for those out of state fans, especially those from BYU, early on until the DirecTV deal kicked in the fall of 2008. Once the DirecTV deal was in place the complaints decreased and made the channel available to basically anyone who wanted it.
With football games now available in the schools footprint at no extra cost on DirecTV and to those outside on the sports package is when the fan bases should have been excited. DirecTV helped people like myself in Utah who did not have Comcast able to watch the games at home instead of trying to find a place to watch the game somewhere else.
The nationwide coverage allowed for the first time for Wyoming fans in Florida or BYU fans on the East Coast able to see their team play. Prior to this deal unless your game was on ESPN you were in the dark, or had to shell out cash to order the game on pay-per-view if that was even available.
This is a key point and is something that Pac-10 fans would have died for before they expanded and are starting a good television deal with ESPN, FOX and their own regional networks. The Pac-10 deal was focused on regional sports networks or even worse no television at all, well there was the few ESPN/ABC games if you were USC or Oregon. 2011 was the last deal of their crappy television deal, and as someone who still follows Utah the games were either on local television (with Mtn.-esque bad announcers), not at all or on a pay tier to buy the sports package. So, for me it was tougher to find Utah play football who is now in the Pac-12 than it was for me to find New Mexico vs. UNLV football.
For basketball, Utah was terrible but half of their conference games were not on television and some were shown online only, and then you look at the Mountain West and every conference game was shown on television, not in HD but still on TV. If one wanted to watch a Mountain West basketball game for conference play it could be found; non-conference was a different story and underwhelming to me, but all conference games could be had nationwide. Outside of the Big 10 Network seeing out of market games was not available even for all of the major basketball conferences.
As for people blaming the television contract on why TCU, Utah, BYU, San Diego State and Boise State leaving the league, they are wrong. Out of that group only BYU left because of the television contract, but that event hat was more of what Utah was doing by getting an invitation to the Pac-12 that will pay them over $20 million per year than the Mountain West's television deal. All of the other schools left for a better conference and for the television money and BCS bowl access. However there could be a small argument that Boise State and San Diego State are leaving to a situation that is not as good since the Big East status as a power league is uncertain for football.
Then there is the argument that is not true where fans say that it held back the league from improving or getting national access. It did not hurt Utah or TCU (twice) getting into BCS bowl games with this television deal, and TCU was extremely close to making it to the BCS title game during the 2010 season. All of that was accomplished with games on The Mtn., CBS Sports and Versus.
One other complaint that fans toss out is that people who are to vote in the AP poll, Harris poll or are part of the national media can not find the games is a complete joke. If one of your jobs is to vote to see who can earn a chance at a BCS bowl with the Harris poll or the AP who is a well respected outlet, then they should know where to find every college football game that is of importance on television.
Hearing that Harris poll voters never saw Utah play in their 2008 Sugar Bowl season should have had their vote taken away since it was their job to know where to find the game. Most of them did find the game with it being available on DirecTV, so that is not a good excuse.
I would so love to hear from the fans of Colorado State, New Mexico or UNLV about how crappy the television deal was when their games are not on television this fall, or one can not watch the games because they live in California or Texas. Because in my experience listening to a football game on the radio is not all that exciting. If I am wrong about how the television setup works for 2012 I will surely admit I was wrong, but I doubt the lower tiered games will all be available nationwide as they were with the Mtn.
It almost always comes back to that fact that those who disliked the Mtn. will not realize what they had until it's gone.