Terrapins are soaring on field, but television still is grounded

Media Watch

September 27, 1995|By Milton Kent

Their surprising early-season play understandably has heightened interest in the Maryland football team, to the point where people are starting to wonder when the Terps will be on television.

And the simple answer, apart from tomorrow night's Georgia Tech game on ESPN, is: Nobody knows.

Though the 1984 Supreme Court ruling that effectively gave schools the right to make their own television deals theoretically made it easier to get on more college games, it also made it more difficult for schools like Maryland that make periodic visits to the upper echelon of the game to get their games televised.

It's simply easier for networks like ABC and ESPN to choose the tried and true, like Florida State, Alabama, Penn State, Nebraska, Notre Dame and the like, than to make plans for teams that are occasionally good, like Duke, Louisville and, yes, Maryland.

There are no plans for either ABC or ESPN to take any of Maryland's three most attractive games, an Oct. 21 contest at home with Clemson, a Nov. 11 game at home with Virginia and the season finale at Florida State Nov. 18, though either network could select a game within a six- to 12-day window.

The Terps could appear on the weekly Atlantic Coast Conference game, which airs on Channel 13, but none of their games is among the top choices in the conference package for that week. For instance, the Maryland-Wake Forest game on Oct. 7 is the third ACC network option after Virginia-North Carolina and Georgia Tech-Duke, and the Clemson game on Oct. 21 is after the Florida State-Georgia Tech contest.

The bottom line is that when Maryland gets consistently good, it'll get consistently televised.

Shaq and Dream's sham

If you ever needed proof of how phony the world of pay-per-view television is, consider Saturday's Shaquille O'Neal-Hakeem Olajuwon one-on-one "showdown."

Three impressive names in basketball broadcasting -- Los Angeles Lakers play-by-play man Chick Hearn, CBS college analyst Billy Packer and NBC's NBA man Bill Walton -- have signed on to announce the event and presumably give it an air of legitimacy.

The three men took turns during a conference call proclaiming the merits of Saturday's card, which also involves former Maryland star Joe Smith, making sure to stress that the three-game event was not a "trash sport" telecast.

Sorry, guys. You can dress up a pig in fancy clothing, but it's still a pig. And like most pay-per-view telecasts, Saturday's event, where willing dupes lay out anywhere from $20 to $30 to watch garbage programming that no network executive would touch, is one hog of a fraud.

Enough already

Here's a point that a lot of broadcasters have missed in their desire to bash in the brains of the Lords of Baseball over the playoff system: Home-field advantage never has applied in baseball.

We've heard much weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth on "SportsCenter" and the Fabulous Sports Babe's radio show that the Cleveland Indians, who have baseball's best record, may not get three home games in the new best-of-five divisional series, which start next week.

Baltimoreans may recall that in both 1969 and 1971, Orioles teams that had better records than their Western Division opponents did not have what we've come to know as home-field advantage, meaning the ability to win a series strictly by winning home games.

Because 10 of 28 major-league teams share their stadiums with NFL clubs who play in October, a rotation of home-field advantage between divisions and leagues for the World Series has been necessary all along. The truly deserving teams, like those Orioles teams that swept those series, find a way to win. If the Indians are deserving, they will too.

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