Sports: Pulling the Plug on the Mtn.

May 2012

I can't turn on College Gameday on a fall Saturday morning to find my alma mater Wyoming Cowboys' pre-game show. In fact, the big networks rarely show a game (unless it is against Texas or Nebraska). I get it, the team isn't Alabama, Florida, or Georgia, but I'm not alone. Air Force and Colorado State are rarely on a national broadcast either.

But, in 2006, the up-and-coming Mountain West Conference boasted that games would become the spine of programming for the nation's first television network devoted to a specific collegiate athletic conference. The Mtn. (the MountainWest Sports Network) was created as a 24/7 exclusive source for MWC athletics, from news and analytic programming to live and tape-delayed games. Mountain West Conference alum, and 15 million households nationwide, had unabbreviated access to full athletic contests instead to relying of two-and-half second ESPN highlights. 

But the Mtn. has just one week left on air. As of next Thursday, May 31, it will go dark. The Centennial-based network and its 36 employees including Ted Sundquist (former general manager of the Denver Broncos), Todd Christensen (two-time Super Bowl champion tight end), and Andrea Lloyd (gold medal Olympic basketball player) have been offered severance packages. Where does that leave MWC fans? Back to the ever-so-entertaining Gametracker. 

It's hard to not think big changes were on the way, but a complete disbanding of the network is unfortunate. When the Mtn. first hit the air, the MWC included Colorado State, Air Force Academy, New Mexico, San Diego State, Utah, BYU, TCU, UNLV, and Wyoming. In the recent years, the MWC lost top-tier teams like BYU, TCU, and Utah to larger, more lucrative conferences around the nation. The shuffling of conference realignment continues (the Big East Conference courted Air Force in the past and is currently flirting with the MWC's top squad in Boise State). All the upheaval along with an ongoing battle with Dish Network left the Mtn., co-owned by the CBS Sports Network and NBCUniversal, with an ever-changing viewership and an unknown scope of what the future held for the conference it covered. 

"The uncertainty with the conference alignment was the last straw," says Hayne Ellis, director of communication and affiliate relations. "The viewers get hurt the most. The network was designed to serve a fan base that was underserved. Now we are returning back to that situation. The hardcore fans will miss out."

Photo courtesy of the Mtn., the MountainWest Sports Network