Tramel's ScissorTales: BYU glad to help with Big 12 Conference's football TV contract

·10 min read

College football fan bases have their preferences, on a variety of issues. But those preferences are not always alike.

Kickoff times, for example. In Oklahoma, the fans in Norman and Stillwater like night games. They like many things about the night games, though tops on the list probably is that night games offer assurance that the game won’t kick off at 11 a.m.

But out in Utah, Brigham Young fans would prefer to play in the light of day. They have grown weary of 8:15 p.m. (Utah) kickoff times, courtesy of an ESPN contract, and 8:15 p.m. in Provo for October and November games can get quite chilly.

Meanwhile, day games in the mountains at that time of year can bring exquisite weather.

But BYU officials know that their location gives the Big 12 a unique status when the Cougars join conference in 2023. The Big 12 will become the only Power 5 Conference with members in three time zones.

That gives the Big 12, the chance at four television windows on Saturdays when BYU is at home. The Big 12 could have games at 11 a.m., 2:30 p.m., 6 p.m. and 9:30 p.m. The former would be noon for Eastern Time Zone schools Cincinnati, West Virginia and Central Florida. The latter would be 8:30 p.m. in Utah.

Late, but doable.

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LaVell Edwards Stadium pictured on Oct. 31, 2020, in Provo, Utah, before an college football game between BYU and Western Kentucky.
LaVell Edwards Stadium pictured on Oct. 31, 2020, in Provo, Utah, before an college football game between BYU and Western Kentucky.

“For the last 11 years, in independence, that was the deal,” BYU athletic director Tom Holmoe said of late starts. The Cougars left the Mountain West Conference in 2010 and went independent in football.

“We gave ESPN a very unique window, a Mountain Time Zone window, which they could use to their advantage,” Holmoe said.

Holmoe knows why his fans aren’t crazy about it. But he’s quick to point out the benefits.

“We get it,” Holmoe said. “I get all kinds of complaints when we have another 8 or 8:15 kick time. But we’re on TV nationally. And when we’re on TV nationally, on the big game, we want those games. That’s one of our pillars. We want those exposures. We understand that could be a factor.”

Holmoe said he thinks it’s unlikely every BYU home game will be late night as part of some Big 12 package, “but we’ll have more than our share, because it’s a valuable slot for the Big 12.”

That value should help the Big 12 in television negotiations with networks. Courtesy of BYU, whoever has the future Big 12 football contract can compete with the Pac-12 for late-night football on Saturday nights.

Holmoe said he has “opinions” about potential Big 12 divisional alignment, “but they’re not based on a lot of great knowledge. I’m in this learning mode. Go north or south or east or west? It’s very difficult to say which would be better.

“However they do it, we’re going to jump in. You do what’s best for the conference.”

Just getting BYU was what’s best for the conference.

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Could Big 12 basketball return to Sunday play?

OU and OSU have played few conference basketball games on Sundays in the last two decades.

Let’s see. OSU’s most recent Sunday home Big 12 game was in 2006. The Cowboys also hosted Baylor on a Sunday in 2000. Those are the only two Sunday league games at Gallagher-Iba Arena in 23 seasons.

OU has hosted just one Sunday Big 12 game in the 2000s, in 2003 against Kansas.

But that could be changing. When the league ostensibly goes to 14 schools, likely in 2023-24, Sunday play could return, due to a lack of television windows.

Of course, OU and Texas soon enough will depart for the Southeastern Conference, dropping the Big 12 back to 12 schools. And Sunday play could be tempered by the Big 12’s contract with ESPN to stream games on ESPN Plus, which does not require particular windows.

But we could see more Sunday games.

“When we go to 14 teams, we’ve been talking to ESPN about the idea we might have to play some games on Sundays,” said John Williams, the Big 12’s associate commissioner for basketball. “But also move some games to Thursday, just because there’s not enough windows to put all those games on.

“That’s what the ACC does now, and Big Ten.”

Sunday play never has been a Big 12 staple. But in the 1980s and 1990s, particularly in Big Eight days, conference games occasionally were played on Sundays. Some of Eddie Sutton’s great Cowboy teams in the ‘90s played some Sunday conference games, and Billy Tubbs’ high-flying Sooners played the famous Georgia Tech showdown in 1985 on a Sunday.

Williams pointed out that a 14-game Big 12/SEC Challenge, contractually owned by ESPN, almost surely will be split between Saturday and Sunday, for simple space reasons. There aren’t enough spots for the entire schedule to go on a Saturday.

Both OU and OSU routinely play Sunday home games in December. The first Saturday in December is a college football weekend, and moving to Sunday in December can also avoid a variety of scheduling conflicts.

But the revamped Big 12 could return Sunday conference play to either OSU or OU.

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NBA drama lacking

The NBA Playoffs have reached the 75-game mark. They have provided some riveting series. Boston-Brooklyn. Dallas-Phoenix. Boston-Milwaukee. Now Boston-Miami.

But these playoffs have not been a series of closely-contested games. Out of 75 games, less than half (37) have been determine by single digits. And only 24 of the 75, 32 percent, have been by six points or less.

What gives? Why so little drama in the NBA post-season?

My best guess: the 3-point shot. What once was the great equalizer now is the great separator. The 3-point shot once allowed overmatched teams to stay in games.

But now, every team shoots a batch of 3-pointers. The only variable is how many you make. And when one team is off, there’s no making up the difference.

In Game 6 of Milwaukee-Boston, the Celtics made 17 of 43 3-point shots, the Bucks made seven of 29 and Boston won 108-95. It’s hard to beat the Celtics when they make 17 of 43 from deep.

Milwaukee justifiably realized it needed to make more 3’s, which meant take more 3’s, and so it did. The Bucks took 33 3-point shots in Game 7. But Boston took 55. Milwaukee made four, the Celtics made 22, and Boston won in a 109-81 rout.

The discrepancy in made 3-pointers, 18, matched the biggest in NBA playoff history, equaling a game you know well: Game 6, 2016 Western Conference Finals. The Klay Thompson game.

That’s the game Golden State beat the Thunder 108-101, a game remarkably close considering the 3-point discrepancy: the Warriors made 21 of 45 from deep; the Thunder made three of 23.

The Thunder led 94-87 midway through the fourth quarter and still led 101-99 with 2:10 left in the game.

These days, it’s virtually impossible to stay that close when getting outscored by more than 50 points from 3-point range. Or more than 20 points. There’s no way to make up for that big a difference in points.

The way the game is played these days, most teams don’t have a low-post presence and don’t rely much on mid-range jumpers. It’s 3-point or bust, and that’s often bust when the opponent is cashing in 3’s.

And so games get lopsided, and while the 3-pointer gives ample ammunition for comebacks, they don’t so often end in last-minute drama.

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Mailbag: Best playoff formats

The NBA Playoffs have reached the conference championship stage, the NCAA softball tournament has reached the Super Regionals and the National Hockey League has reached its conference semifinals. Which seemed like a good time for this question.

Chad: “I was just curious what playoff format in sports do you think is the best? Single-elimination, one-and-done, best-of series, round-robin, etc. Personally, I'd go with the ‘best of’ series. Those are nearly fluke proof for upsets, and a team really earns it if they can beat another squad 3-4 times to advance in the postseason.”

Tramel: I think single-elimination clearly is the best playoff format. Who wants fluke-free sports.

Which playoff formats are America’s favorites? The one-and-dones. The NCAA Tournament and the National Football League playoffs. One and done clearly is the best. Best-of-seven series can be one-sided and dragged out. They usually do indeed determine the better team, but we often know which team is better when the series starts. The drama takes a BIG hit.

I understand why the NBA, NHL and Major League Baseball play series, and they can be great. But do-or-die creates the best theater.

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The List: Golf’s greatest 18th-hole collapses

Mito Pereira came to the 18th hole Sunday in the PGA Championship at Southern Hills with a one-stroke lead. He double-bogeyed the 18th, missing a playoff, which was won by Justin Thomas over Will Zalatoris.

Here are the biggest 18th-hole collapses in golf majors history:

1. Jean Van de Velde: The Frenchman had a three-shot lead on the 72nd hole of the 1999 British Open, needing only a double-bogey to win. But Van de Velde produced one of the biggest collapses in sports history. Van de Velde used his driver off the tee and drove to the right of Barry Burn (creek). Van de Velde – again, needing only double-bogey to win – declined to lay up. He tried to reach the green with his second shot, but the ball bounced off the railing of the grandstands, hit the top of a stone wall along Barry Burn and landed in knee-deep rough. The rough grabbed Van de Velde’s club on the third shot, and his ball sailed into the burn. He took a drop, and his fifth shot fell into a greenside bunker. Then Van de Velde got up-and-down for a triple bogey seven, went into a playoff with Justin Leonard and Paul Lawrie, and Lawrie won.

2. Phil Mickelson: In the 2006 U.S. Open at Winged Foot, Mickelson led by a stroke on the 18th tee. He had hit only two fairways all day but still pulled out his driver. Mickelson hit into the trees, then tried to slice a shot around trees. He hit a branch about 25 yards away, then his third shot found a greenside bunker. Mickelson’s fourth shot, a chip, rolled off the green. He made double bogey, and Geoff Ogilvy won the tournament.

3. Sam Snead: One of golf’s great champions reached the 72nd hole of the 1939 U.S. Open, needing only a par to win at Philadelphia Country Club. But communication in those days was not the best. Snead believed he needed a birdie to win outright; he played aggressively, hit into two bunkers and made triple-bogey eight. In the playoff, Byron Nelson beat Craig Wood and Denny Shute.

4. 1961 Masters: Arnold Palmer led by a stroke on the 18th hole, but his approach shot found the back bunker, then blasted his sand shot off the green and down the slope. Palmer used his putter to get the ball within 15 feet, then missed that 15-footer, settling for a double bogey that handed Gary Player the green jacket.

Berry Tramel: Berry can be reached at 405-760-8080 or at btramel@oklahoman.com. He can be heard Monday through Friday from 4:40-5:20 p.m. on The Sports Animal radio network, including FM-98.1. Support his work and that of other Oklahoman journalists by purchasing a digital subscription today. 

This article originally appeared on Oklahoman: BYU Cougars football will help Big 12 Conference TV contract