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Air ball: Bronco hoops could use more TV time

Want to watch Boise State play Utah State in its first conference road game of the year tonight?

Good luck. Or better, God speed.

The men's basketball game will not be televised in Idaho. It won't be televised in Utah. It won't be available through satellite dishes or at your local sports pub.

Your only way to see the game: Gas up the SUV and make the four-hour drive to Logan.

Or you can do what Richard Bauscher of Caldwell is planning to do — listen on the radio. Bauscher, the father of Broncos' sophomore guard Matt Bauscher, will turn off the television and turn up the new radio he bought for these occasions.

For two hours, he'll hang on every word, envisioning the game. It's the best he can do without taking two days off work.

"We bought a radio for the living room that can pick it up with speakers, so we can hear it well," Bauscher said.

The Bauscher's radio has gotten plenty of use. Boise State has played five road games this season and none were televised in Boise.

"It hurts not being on TV because people can't access the game. They get it on the radio, which is great, but if you can get it on TV, you have more access," said basketball coach Greg Graham, eager to expose his program to as many potential fans and recruits as possible.

But Bauscher's abandoned television will be getting some work soon. Of the Broncos' eight remaining regular season road games, all conference contests, four will be televised — Nevada (Saturday), Hawaii (Jan. 23), Louisiana Tech (Feb. 8) and Fresno State (Feb. 27).

It's a start. But just that.

" If we had our preference, we'd like to televise more away games," athletic director Gene Bleymaier said.

The Broncos could have their preference.

But as usual in the world of college athletics, it comes down to money. Big money.

It would involve cutting a big check — and losing a bunch of money. That's something neither Bleymaier nor KTVB, the school's broadcast partner for the next three years after signing a four-year contract in 2005, is willing to do.

"The market is telling us that's not feasible," Bleymaier said. "The cost involved is prohibitive."

So the parties are looking for other ways to get games on TV. KTVB will pick up games broadcast by Sports West (Nevada, Louisiana Tech) and air them on 24/7, its cable affiliate. The station will also carry the Hawaii game, which is being produced by the Warriors' local broadcast partner. ESPN will televise the Fresno State game.

"We're doing everything we can to get the Broncos back here without somebody hemorrhaging on the cost of it," said Doug Armstrong, the president and general manager of KTVB.

The cost to broadcast road basketball games is not much different than it costs to broadcast road football games, Armstrong said, though he declined to give an exact figure because of the variables involved.

But football games last almost twice as long, thus providing more opportunities for commercials. And because of the popularity of the Broncos' football team, more advertisers are willing to become involved, thus giving the station a better chance to recoup its investment.

As evidenced by the Broncos' home attendance this winter, there is far less demand for the basketball team.

Boise State ranks sixth in the nine-team WAC in home attendance at 3,446 per game. The five teams ahead of the Broncos, however, average between 7,174 (New Mexico State) and 10,186 (Fresno State).

As part of its agreement with the school, KTVB is obligated to broadcast one home men's basketball game each week of the season. If there are no men's games at home, the station is to broadcast a women's game.

Some, Richard Bauscher included, believe televising home games is holding down attendance at Taco Bell Arena.

"The people that are watching them locally, a majority of them would come to the actual game if it was not broadcast," said Bauscher, who as the superintendent of the Middleton School District, experienced a similar phenomenon when the district began broadcasting home high school football games on the radio.

Armstrong and Bleymaier disagree, claiming that any exposure is good for the program. What is holding down attendance, both conclude, is the Broncos' won-loss record. Boise State is 8-5 overall and 1-1 in the WAC.

"It's a pretty simple formula. If you win, people will support you," Bleymaier said, pointing to the surge in attendance late in the 2003-04 season when the Broncos went 23-10 and advanced to the third round of the NIT.

"At some point, if we've got the thing rolling and we're a top-25 team, there would probably be a better chance of us getting some of those away games on television because they'd be able to sell the spots for enough money to offset the cost of production."

And if that day comes soon, the Bauschers might be in the market for a nice new television.