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Backer Bits: TV Schedule Gives Bonnies Major Visibility

By: Walter Stubbs

As a young buck growing up, there were two places you wanted to see your favorite college basketball team: in person or on television, namely national television.  

I can remember a friend of mine, a Seton Hall fan, excited as he could be when the Pirates finally made it to CBS Television back in the late 80’s, with Brent Musberger and Billy Packer calling the action.  During that era most of the games on CBS featured the Big East Conferences, elite, be it Georgetown, Syracuse, Villanova or St. John’s.  When Seton Hall finally made it to network television, in a semi-final Big East Tournament game against Georgetown, he knew that the Pirates finally made the big time.  

Since that time in the early 90’s, much has changed in college hoops, but being on the national stage still can hold some significance, especially for programs trying to earn national attention and respect.  

While being on CBS might not be realistic, being on ESPN and its family of networks (ESPN2, ESPNU, ESPN NEWS) should, especially coming off a campaign in which you were co-regular season champs, have the reigning Coach of the Year in your conference, and have a top 50 Wooden Finalist returning.  

I am, of course talking about Mark Schmidt, Jay Adams and St. Bonaventure University.

Unfortunately for the Bonnies, the 2015-16 basketball campaign as well as a preseason fifth place forecast for this past season didn’t get them on ESPN the eleven times Atlantic 10 teams got to play on the family of networks.  While the Bonnies airtime on the A-10’s four television partners (NBC SPORTS NETWORK, CBS Sports Network and American Sports Network being the other networks) did increase from four games in 2014-15 to nine games in 2015-16 and 14 games this year, NONE were on ESPN, ESPN2 or ESPNU.  

This begs the question, why?  This past year, the A10 had eleven games on ESPN, which to my math equations, means 22 opportunities to play on ESPN.  Who exactly decides which teams and games go to which networks?   

According to A10 Associate Commissioner Jay DeFruscio, “The A10 makes recommendations, but ESPN has final approval as to who they pick.”  Once those teams and games are picked by ESPN, then NBC Sports Network and CBS Sports Network do the same.  Then the American Sports Network chooses the final games.  

Well, lo and behold, the Atlantic 10 and it’s television partners went through the process the last few months of what teams would be playing on television and how many appearances they would be making for the upcoming 2017-18 season.  Whether it was my influence (doubtful) or the fact the Bonnies should be at least in the preseason Top Three in the Atlantic 10 (likely), St. Bonaventure will be playing the most it ever has on national television.  

With the full schedule released by the Atlantic Ten offices on September 6th, the small Franciscan school in the Village of Alleghany will be shown nationally 12 times.  For the first time ever, they will be on ESPN2 twice in the same season, both Friday night encounters.  The first will be on January 19th when Bonas travels to Charlotte to play Davidson (7:00 pm start). The Reilly Center will then play host to Rhode Island in another Friday night game on February 16th.  

ESPNU will carry three other games, starting with a non conference game on Saturday, December 9th against Yale at home and two away games, starting with St. Joseph’s on Saturday night January 6th and then against Rhode Island on Saturday, January 13th with an early 11:00 am start.  

NBC Sports Network gets into the act starting on Saturday December 30th, a home game against UMass, followed by another home game against George Washington on Sunday, January 28th with a noon tip. The Bonnies then travel to Pittsburgh to take on Duquesne on February 3 at 6:30 pm.

CBS Sports Network will carry four games on its network, starting on Wednesday, January 3rd at Dayton on a yet to be determined time. The Bonnies will be home to St Joseph’s on January 24th as the network visits Olean for the first time for the season.  CBSN will then head to Richmond, Virginia on Saturday February 24th with perennial power VCU and conclude its Bona schedule by visiting Bonas for the last time on Tuesday, February 27th for the last home game of the season.

All in all, not a bad television schedule, with more games possible, ala Syracuse.  

Unfortunately, the A10 lost it’s television partner, Amercian Sports Network, which is no longer in existence.  This will hurt some of the regional broadcasts that the league was able to show.  Also, Time Warner will no longer be broadcasting games locally in the Buffalo, Rochester and Upstate New York area as there is no longer a sports channel.  (Will be off air at the end of this month) The one complaint, if there is one, is that Bonas will only be hosting one conference home game on a Saturday, that being on February 10th against Richmond.  Here is hoping that the 80’s Weekend Committee and the Homecoming committee come up with some resolution as to not have both functions on the same weekend.  

That would be a bad decision economically and aesthetically.  While it may be a bit of an inconvenience, why not have during the weekend of the GW game?  While the game itself is on a Sunday, don’t see any reason why Homecoming couldn’t be on that weekend.  Noon start is early enough for the younger alumni to take in the action, while also partaking in all of the weekend activities Friday and Saturday.  

Just a thought.  


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A member of the class of 2008, Nolan spent four years as a student assistant with the program. He has written professionally for such outlets as espn.com/insider, Athlon Sports Magazines, Cox Sports Online and Blue Ribbon Previews. Ian was named one of the “140 Personalities to Follow in College Basketball” on twitter by The Sporting News.