Go, tell it on the mtn.

By By Natalie Dicou

By Natalie Dicou

Remember that quaint time not long ago-just last season, actually-when the average Utah football fan could plop down in front of his TV on a fall Saturday and be assured that, with a little creative manipulation of the remote control, he might actually find the Ute game somewhere, on some channel?

It was a time when the Mountain West Conference seemed to be calling out to the football fans of the world, “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to watch sports.” And so we tuned in, and without having to pay, we watched.

But then along came “the mtn.” (pronounced “the mountain”), a joint venture of the Mountain West Conference, CSTV and Comcast, and now many fans have been turned away. Among those left out are DirecTV and DISH Network customers who can flip through the channels all day long if they want, searching desperately for the game, but if it’s on the mtn., it’ll all be in vain.

Five of the remaining eight U football games will be broadcast on the mtn., while the other three will be on Versus (the new name of OLN, a channel you probably have). But as for the mtn. games, well, you’re out of luck.

The mtn.’s Web site offers false hope. Clicking on “How to get” doesn’t actually set you on a path to “getting” anything. You are, however, given instructions on how to do the grunt work for the mtn.’s distributor.

“We encourage fans to call both satellite operators and request the mtn. be added,” says the Web site.

The timeline on when that might actually occur is, of course, unknown.

The mtn. claims on its Web site to be “the first-ever 24-hour sports network devoted exclusively to a single collegiate athletic conference” and that “the mtn. will feature more Mountain West Conference games and sports than ever before.” This may be a hard chunk of irony to swallow for people who live in the San Diego and Las Vegas markets, which have no access to the mtn. whatsoever, according to U athletic director Chris Hill. Which begs the question: Who exactly is watching the mtn. show titled “Game Time with UNLV”?

Don’t get me wrong, the mtn. is a great idea in theory.

If you’re sick of hearing about how the SEC is God’s gift to college football, and you feel like national analysts are patronizing you when they finally get to their one-minute segment on the lowly “mid-majors,” the mtn. may be a welcome alternative.

Imagine the joy of listening to discussion about college football-related topics without having to hear announcers swoon about Notre Dame and Ohio State.

The mtn.’s coverage is indeed in-depth, and features an often-neglected region of the country (especially when it comes to sports). Though it’s not always fresh.

Yesterday on the mtn. was the replay of the Utah vs. San Diego State game, followed by the reshowing of Utah State at BYU. Replaying the Utah/San Diego State shellacking may be difficult for Aztec fans to endure, but if you remember, they have no idea their butt-kicking is being showed again and again, because they can’t get the channel.

So what went wrong? Well, it got all screwed up when it came to distributing the new channel.

Blame CSTV (a CBS company) for that. Basically, the reason you are huddled by the radio straining to hear if Utah made the fourth-down attempt instead of lounging in your recliner, watching it unfold before your very eyes, is because corporate negotiations are still in the works. And there’s nothing the U can do about it.

“We sold our rights to CSTV, and then CSTV had the right to go out and get distribution,” Hill said. “Once you sell your home, you’re not allowed to tell them how to remodel it.”

According to Hill, it’s in Comcast’s best interest to get the mtn. into the homes of satellite TV customers. Those advertised products don’t buy themselves. They need you, the hungry viewer, to see the Carl’s Jr. commercial and dash to the nearest location. That’s where most of the money comes from.

It can’t be denied that the situation is incredibly frustrating now.

Not making sure all fans in all MWC markets have access to their teams is a blatant disregard for the feelings of genuine fans, many of whom have been following their teams for decades.

But with the mtn., ESPN won’t be able to push around the Mountain West Conference anymore, forcing it to play games on weekdays at 10 p.m. They’ll be able to play on Saturdays, when college football was meant to be played-and when fans, according to the mtn., prefer it to be played.

Who knows? Maybe in the long run, it’ll be better. That’s what the individual schools of the MWC are banking on.

So listen up, fans. This thing is bigger than any of us. The deal has been made.

And if you’re not proud, it may be time to grovel. Sure, calling up your satellite company and begging for the mtn. is exactly what they want you to do. But how much do you love your Utes?

Lennie Mahler

Running back Derrek Richards rushes the ball with help from offensive lineman Jason Boone at SDSU on Saturday.