By Harry Minium
The Virginian-Pilot ©
June 16, 2015
Since it was created 11 months ago, the American Sports Network has become the primary television outlet for Old Dominion football and basketball. That role became even more pronounced Monday, when the network announced that seven of the 30 Conference USA football games it will televise this fall will involve ODU.
The schedule includes prime time, Saturday telecasts of ODU’s first two home games – Sept. 12 against Norfolk State and Sept. 19 against North Carolina State. Ten of ODU’s 12 games are slated for TV, one short of last year’s total.
Without ASN, the school’s football and basketball TV presence would be far less pronounced. Last basketball season, after Conference USA’s other TV networks announced they would televise just one ODU men’s basketball game, ASN picked up 13 Monarch contests.
Fox Sports picked up just two ODU football contests – home games with C-USA preseason favorite Western Kentucky on Oct. 31 and Texas-El Paso on Nov. 14 – during the initial round of TV selections on June 1. The CBS Sports Network did not pick up an ODU football game for the second year in a row. CBS wanted to do the N.C. State-ODU game on a Friday night for a national broadcast, but the Wolfpack declined.
That left ODU with just two TV games, the fewest in the 13-team league. However, thanks to ASN, the school’s TV profile is comparable with its C-USA rivals.
In addition to the N.C. State and NSU games, ASN will broadcast ODU’s contest at defending C-USA champion Marshall on Oct. 3 (3:30 p.m.), a home game with UNC Charlotte on Oct. 17 (3:30 p.m.), road games against Texas-San Antonio on Nov. 7 (7 p.m.) and Southern Mississippi on Nov. 21 (3:30 p.m.) and the home finale against Florida Atlantic on Nov. 28 (noon).
ESPN3, which broadcasts on the internet and over streaming devices, announced last week it will carry the opener on Sept. 5 at Eastern Michigan.
Norfolk State also picked up an additional broadcast – a Sept. 19 contest at Marshall at 3:30 p.m. will precede the N.C. State-ODU contest.
Athletic director Wood Selig acknowledged that without ASN, his school’s TV schedule “would not be a pretty picture.”
“I love ASN,” he said. “That’s the beauty of having a league that goes three tiers deep with television partners. It’s not like ASN is the minor leagues. They’re every bit as good as our Fox and CBS partners.”
ASN was created last summer by the Sinclair Broadcast Group, which has affiliates that reach nearly 40 percent of American TV homes. Conference USA was the first league to sign an agreement with the network, which has more of a national profile than Fox’s regional sports networks.
ASN’s broadcasts are syndicated onto regional cable TV networks that reach Boston, Philadelphia, and Chicago. ASN broadcasts in markets with the largest concentrations of ODU alumni, including Richmond, Washington, Roanoke-Lynchburg and Raleigh-Durham. It also reaches key recruiting markets for ODU with stations in Atlanta, Pittsburgh and Rochester, N.Y., as well as four in South Carolina.
Locally, ASN games are carried on WTVZ-TV. Station general manager Jeff McCallister said he’s excited to begin selling ads for the seven games, especially the N.C. State contest.
The station televised ACC football and basketball for years, but gave it up four years ago over rights fees. ASN games last season were also televised locally by Cox Communications and Comcast Sports. This fall, WTVZ will have exclusive rights to ODU and C-USA football and basketball games.
“This deal was put together pretty quickly last year,” McCallister said. “This year we have more time to sell it and more time to promote it properly.”
ODU officials were surprised the Sept. 26 home game against Appalachian State wasn’t chosen for broadcast. Appalachian State is a three-time Football Championship Subdivision national champion and has a large fan base. Both ODU and Appalachian made their FBS debut in 2014. Appalachian, which returns 20 starters, finished 7-5 and third in the Sun Belt Conference. ODU was 6-6 and tied for third in the C-USA East Division.
Having most of ODU’s road games on TV was critical this season, coach Bobby Wilder said. For the first time in seven seasons, the Monarchs won’t play a road game within an easy drive of Norfolk. Marshall, a seven-hour trip from Hampton Roads, is the closest.
“It’s a major challenge for our fans to travel with us this season,” Wilder said. “So it’s really important that four of our five road games will be televised.
“I think things worked out well. We have a great TV schedule.”