Bronco Beat

Mountain West made $1 million on first championship game; TV says late kickoffs a 'bonanza'

NOV. 16: Tailgaters keep warm as they get ready for a late start Boise State vs.Wyoming football game at Bronco Stadium in Boise.
NOV. 16: Tailgaters keep warm as they get ready for a late start Boise State vs.Wyoming football game at Bronco Stadium in Boise. doswald@idahostatesman.com

The Mountain West’s first football conference championship game netted about $1,060,000.

Fresno State’s 24-17 defeat of Utah State in Fresno, Calif., attracted 31,362 fans. It was Fresno State’s worst home crowd of the year, but it came a week after the deflating loss to San Jose State and on short notice.

The game aired nationally on CBS. It received a higher TV rating than the Pac-12 championship game.

The game will begin at 8 p.m. MT again this year and air on CBS. CBS has a contract option to carry the 2015 game, too.

The Mountain West game follows the SEC championship game, which airs at 2 p.m.

“We were saying we’d like to have that (game) early,” Mountain West Commissioner Craig Thompson said. “But when they say early, we’d be kicking off at 10 in the morning. The one thing we’ve been trying to noodle is can they maybe squeeze us in there at 7 or something.”

Fresno State coach Tim DeRuyter was impressed with the presentation of the championship game.

“You’ve got to get everything done in one week,” he said. “My hat’s off to our conference putting it all together. For us to be able to win it and do it at home and have our fans, that was big. I still get goose bumps thinking about it. Part of that is because someone drenched me with Gatorade. It was just a numb feeling. It felt like one of those (Big 12, SEC) environments.”

The championship game features the Mountain and West division champions. The higher-ranked team hosts.

“When it’s your home field, it’s a big advantage,” DeRuyter said.

The Bulldogs received the largest share of the profit. The Mountain West pooled all of the revenue from the game, including the TV contract, and distributed the profit to all league members. The host team receives 10 percent off the top. The visiting team receives 5 percent. The rest is split 12 ways.

So last year, Fresno State received about $181,000. Utah State received about $128,000. And the other 10 members received about $75,000.

“(The others) are watching on TV going, ‘Thanks,’ ” Thompson said.

Boise State will play at least two home games this season that kick off after 8 p.m., with one as late as 8:30. Two more home games could fall into that timeframe when ESPN slots them.

Wyoming is the only other Mountain Division team playing that late, with an 8:15 kickoff. Boise State’s game at Wyoming on ESPN also could slide into a late time slot.

Thirteen more Mountain West home games kick off after 8 p.m. MT, but they will be played in the Pacific Time Zone. That means they’re actually 7 or 7:30 starts at those stadiums. That number also could increase as more game times are set.

Last year, Boise State played three home games that started after 8 p.m. Those games ranked third, fourth and sixth in attendance. They likely would have been the three lowest-attended games if Boise State hadn’t played an FCS team.

“We have really pushed back and challenged (the TV networks) the best we can,” Thompson said. “ They call it late prime. They say that 10:30 Eastern Time (slot) is a bonanza. I say, ‘Well, if it’s a bonanza, pay us more.’ Because it’s not a bonanza when it’s 12 degrees and it’s Saturday night and an ice storm is coming in. That’s one of the challenges.”

However, the problem is not unique to the West Coast.

Boise State’s season opener against Ole Miss begins at 8 p.m. ET. That also is the time of ABC’s weekly prime-time game and ESPN usually has a marquee game kick off shortly before that.

The Duke men’s basketball team played nine games that started at 9 p.m., Mountain West officials said.

Overall, the Boise State football team has three games that kick off after 8 p.m. in the local time zone, two in the 7 p.m. hour, one in the 6 p.m. hour, two in the 5 p.m. hour and one in the afternoon (at Connecticut).

Three games, all owned by ESPN and all in November, have not been assigned times.

The Pac-12 also plays many late games, including games on its own network. Nevada’s game at Arizona kicks at 9 p.m. MT (8 p.m. local time) on the Pac-12 network.

Email me at ccripe@idahostatesman.com.

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