Brigham Young University and the University of Utah received backing Monday from the Mountain West Conference Board of Directors in their efforts to have the conference's television network viewed in more homes.
In its annual meeting Tuesday, the MWC board voted unanimously to retain Kelly Crabb, the lawyer originally hired and retained last week by BYU and Utah, in efforts to clarify the nature of the TV contract and delineate distribution strategies of The mtn. network.
Crabb will work with Commissioner Craig Thompson and an ad hoc committee made up of three board members - BYU president Cecil Samuelson, Texas Christian University chancellor Victor Boschini and Colorado State University president Larry Edward Penley. The conference presidents spearheaded the TV deal that the MWC settled on a year ago with the network co-owned by Comcast Cable and CBS' College Sports Television.
However, there is widespread displeasure because of the troubles in getting The mtn. distributed. In Utah, the network isn't carried by major satellite companies such as DirecTV and the Dish Network. In Texas, the network can't be seen at all, according to TCU officials, who applauded the decision.
"Today's announcement by the league's Board of Directors is another step forward in our efforts to increase distribution," TCU athletic director Danny Morrison said. "There is a keen sense of urgency, and such an emphasis by the board is especially critical to TCU fans in the state of Texas."
What legal action can be taken isn't known. Crabb isn't talking to the media, and Utah president Michael K. Young and Samuelson have stopped short of saying there was an effort to get out of the 10-year plan, hoping to force companies to carry the channel.
"We look forward to having our representative work with CSTV and Comcast to accelerate distribution in the best interest of the Conference," said Dr. Penley, current chair of the MWC Board of Directors, in a statement.
"Feedback regarding The Mtn. programming for those who have access has been very positive, but the Board believes it is critical to expand the availability of the network to all MWC constituents."
How much clout the league has to be successful is a big question. After all, the league didn't do well enough in the ratings to keep ESPN from downsizing its offer to the MWC when it came time to extend the broadcasting contract a year ago.
Each school received about $800,000 under it's former deal with ESPN, which offered an extension that would have reduced that figure to $500,000. The contract with The Mtn. is worth $1.1 million per school.
Among the board's other decisions Tuesday:
* Moved the men's No. 8 and No. 9 seeded basketball game to Wednesday instead of Tuesday, packaging it with the women's quarterfinals.
* Established a one-game suspension for a second ejection in contests.
* Supported the concept of a fifth season of eligibility in football and opposed the creation of an early signing period in football.