27.4.13

THE SPORTS BUBBLE BEGINS TO DEFLATE?

Northern Illinois University sends a football team to the Orange Bowl.  A 50,000 watt Chicago sports station drops Northern Illinois to pick up the Illini.
However you rationalize this latest news, it’s not good for the best and most productive football program in the state for the past decade (82 wins, seven bowl berths, two Mid-American Conference titles).

After four-plus decades of talking about being big-time, NIU football finally can market BCS victories, a Top 25 national ranking, NFL talent, a legitimate Heisman Trophy candidate, plus state-of-the-art on-campus athletics facilities.
And yet, not much by way of a fan following among residents in Greater DeKalb, plus this habit of scheduling weeknight games (often when the Witch of November comes stealing) at the behest of ESPN, despite the utter inconvenience of the schedule for anybody with a day job.

In addition, going on the big-time radio station did not sit well with some of the local-market radio stations that had carried Northern Illinois games live for years.
Finding additional stations that ring the Chicago perimeter might be difficult, too. Several Huskie Radio Network affiliates and local outlets got some ruffled feathers when "big boy" WSCR-AM arrived – including DeKalb’s WLBK-AM, which enters its 25th year as the NIU flagship station this season. Some of those relationships must be repaired. Local and long-time partnerships are vital.
I have to stress the live because on occasion Northern Illinois games would go on the radio with a tape delay, in one instance to honor a contract to carry a high school game!

Perhaps, though, the market for sports programming is becoming saturated more generally.  Last Tuesday, I observed the prime-time broadcast on ESPN-U of ... wait for it ... the Texas A&M spring game.  You mean there wasn't a live baseball game or lacrosse match or even a track meet going on that Tuesday of possibly greater import?

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