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Comcast's Stubbornness Is Ultimately Why BYU Left The Mountain West

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Russ Isabella-USA TODAY Sports

There is more information to come out about why BYU left the Mountain West and it came down to broken promises that would allow BYU to rebroadcast games on BYUtv if those games were not on The Mtn. Dave Checketts who is the owner of Real Salt Lake and the St. Louis Blues was part of the negotiations with then-CSTV about a new Mountain West television deal said that this deal was full of lies:

The current owners of The Mtn., Comcast and CBS, "didn't live up to any of the promises they made to BYU. ... In my view, they couldn't have messed this up any worse."

Part of that has to do with the change of ownership which was three-fold. First it was CSTV who sold the channel to CBS Sports and then Comcast got involved as well by becoming a 50 percent partner. Prior to all of the change of hands there was a verbal agreement for BYU to rebroadcast games, but it was never put into writing within the contract:

"Basically, we had the understanding that we'd be having what we have (beginning in 2011) with ESPN," said BYU athletic director Tom Holmoe. Games not telecast by The Mtn. would be available for BYUtv. And BYU would be able to rebroadcast games.

Checketts said Comcast did, indeed, promise BYU those rights.

"I was in the room when they told them this, but they didn't want to put it in writing," he said.

"And that is not how it turned out," Holmoe said.

I can understand BYU's frustration on this but in a legal contract they should have insisted it be in writing and then they would have been able to enforce this. The first time this issue came up was when BYU tried to rebroadcast the 49-24 win over Tulsa in September of 2006.

Comcast stepped in and would not allow a rebroadcast that game on BYUtv because Comcast owned regional rights and felt that by allowing BYU to rebroadcast games -- and too a larger audience -- was not the best way to increase Comcast's own distribution.

BYU was assured that they would be able to rebroadcast games that were not on The Mtn. when Checketts arranged a meeting in New York between CBS and Comcast executives with BYU's top athletic administration, including BYU President Cecil O. Samuelson.

"President Samuelson made just an impassioned plea [for them] to live up to the promises they'd made to BYU once upon a time. And he was assured that they were going to do it," Checketts said. "They apologized to him."

But a few months later, CBS C's Tony Petitti left to run The Baseball Network. "And the Comcast guy just didn't live up to one thing that he said he'd do," Checketts said.

I wonder if Petitti gave BYU that promise while fully knowing that his intentions were to leave and go run The Baseball Network (I think that is the MLB Network) and just said yes to get BYU off of their back.

This meeting was after the regular season so this request would not have to be honored until next September in 2007 and by then Petitti was long gone. This is possibly what lead BYU to play games at Energy Solutions arena and exempt tournaments at home for basketball to be able to air them on BYUtv.

The one big gripe I have had about the television deal is when games are passed on by the league. This past year Utah's football game against San Jose State and TCU's game against Tennessee Tech were not shown on any three of the leagues television partners. The television contract has loosened some (perhaps just for basketball) and has allowed New Mexico to show games on a local channel.

However, BYU wants to show games on BYUtv which has six times the reach of The Mtn., but Comcast said they could show games on local channel for KBYU, because Comcast says that by putting a game on BYUtv is a threat to their distribution plan.

The most recent attempt was when Fresno State traveled to BYU to open the season in basketball and BYU was told KBYU or nothing, so BYU chose nothing. Maybe if Comcast put The Mtn. on at least their own cable networks across the country the distribution would be much better.

I am fairly confident now that BYU was willing to work with the Mountain West and stay in the league if they could rebroadcast football and basketball games that were not shown on The Mtn. and to show those games on BYUtv. The money would probably not be the same with their ESPN deal, but if the Mountain West were to gain BCS status the additional money from that might have put the amount on par with their ESPN deal and without the headache of having to schedule 12 games each year.

Either way, Comcast screwed up and ultimately lost its best asset in BYU who is a strong television grab now is in the hands of ESPN.

Had Comcast went through a verbal agreement with BYU they might have stayed in the Mountain West at least a little bit longer, but  I still think BYU finally made the move because Utah up and left to go to the Pac-12.

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