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Showing 2 Games Is Giving Networks Splitting Headache

Both ABC and CBS will be televising what they call split-national college football games again Saturday.

ABC will show Alabama-LSU to part of the country, including the West Coast, while the rest of the U.S. will get Arkansas-Baylor.

CBS, meanwhile, will show Washington-Arizona State only on the West Coast, while the rest of the country will get Miami-Maryland.

Since the networks always promote both games in a split-national setup, viewers are usually aware of the other game, the one they’re not getting to see.

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The result is often a splitting headache for network executives.

“I got a call from the head of the Baylor alumni in Los Angeles this morning,” Donn Bernstein, ABC’s college football media director, said Thursday. “He said there were 1,000 Baylor alums in Southern California who were furious about not getting the Arkansas-Baylor game.”

How was Alabama-LSU picked over Arkansas-Baylor for the West Coast?

“We asked the West Coast affiliates, such as KABC in Los Angeles and KGO in San Francisco, what game they wanted,” Bernstein said. “Essentially, they said they didn’t care.

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“So it was our (ABC sports’) decision. We had to pick the game we thought had the most appeal on the West Coast. It was a difficult decision.”

For CBS, it was more clear-cut. Washington-Arizona State, naturally, has more appeal in the West. But still there are undoubtedly many Miami and Maryland fans who feel deprived because they’re not getting to see the other game.

It seems the networks could avoid some of these splitting headaches by televising only one game. Then viewers couldn’t complain about not getting the other game.

But more televised games mean TV money for more schools. So the college governing bodies push for regional telecasts.

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“Our deal with the CFA calls for 22 telecasts over a 15-week period,” Bernstein said. “We agreed to it, so you can’t put the onus on the CFA.”

ABC suffered another kind of splitting headache last Saturday. With Notre Dame leading Navy, 27-10, late in the third quarter, the network switched over to the closer Miami-Florida State game.

It appeared to be a good decision, since Notre Dame won, 41-17, while Miami won only 35-27.

But not everyone thought so. “We got 1,986 calls from people who were upset by the decision,” Bernstein said. “There were a lot of priests and admirals who weren’t too pleased.”

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There’ll be some generals upset this weekend. Saturday’s game between Air Force (9-0) and Army (7-1) is not being televised nationally.

Coming up: On Saturday, Nov. 16, ABC will televise the Notre Dame-Penn State game nationally, unless Georgia defeats Florida Saturday. Then it will televise Auburn-Georgia in the South on Nov. 16.

CBS will televise Iowa-Purdue to most of the nation Nov. 16, with some areas getting Maryland-Clemson.

Other games Nov. 16: Boston College-Syracuse on USA at 9 a.m. and Arkansas-Texas A&M; on ESPN at 4:30 p.m. WTBS has not yet announced its lineup for Nov. 16.

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Ratings game: CBS, which televises the Big Ten, the Pacific 10 and the ACC, is so far averaging a 7.0 Nielsen rating nationally for its college football telecasts this season. That’s up from 5.2 at this time last year. Last Saturday’s Iowa-Ohio State game got a healthy 10.0.

ABC, meanwhile, is down from an 8.6 to 6.0.

Add ratings: Pro football ratings continue to improve on all three networks. ABC is up 19%, from 15.1 to 17.9. NBC is up 13%, from 10.6 to 12.0. And CBS is up 8%, from 13.0 to 14.1.

Last add ratings: The Breeders’ Cup on NBC got a national Nielsen rating of only 4.0, down from last year’s 5.1. The L.A. rating was only 3.9.

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NBC officials are saying the earlier starting time had a negative effect on the rating, which is another reason for anchoring the event on the West Coast.

Add Breeders’ Cup: NBC deserves a trip to the winners’ circle for its coverage. Producer John Gonzalez and director Bob Levy made the four hours interesting to both hard-core and casual racing fans with good features, plenty of information and solid camera work.

But no matter how good the coverage is or how good racing is, the rating probably will never be much until they figure out a way for home viewers to place bets.

Without mutuel windows, horse racing isn’t much of a draw.

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Shakeup at ESPN: Greg Wyatt, a solid all-around broadcaster based in Los Angeles, is the latest casualty among ESPN’s “Sports Center” reporters. His contract, due to expire in April, will not be renewed.

Others who have left or reportedly will be leaving the show are Lou Palmer, Tom Mees, Bob Ley and David Sullivan. Roger Twibell has left “Sports Center” to work golf and other events for ESPN.

Wyatt said: “It’s been a good 6 1/2-year run for me. I’ve been with the company since it went on the air in 1979. Maybe it’s time for me to move on anyway.”

Wyatt, who has been doing some Nevada Las Vegas football on radio with David Humm, former Nebraska and Raider quarterback, said he is also hopeful of hooking up with Jerry Buss’ Prime Ticket Network.

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Wyatt, by the way, is married to Channel 4 medical reporter Carol Hutchison.

Notes UCLA’s game against Arizona at Tucson Saturday at 5:30 p.m., PST, will be televised by Prime Ticket Network at 10:30 p.m. The announcers will be Mike Walden and Rob Scribner. . . . KMPC will have to tape-delay its coverage of Saturday night’s Clipper-Atlanta game at the Sports Arena until after the Bruins’ football game. . . . Pro football fans in Los Angeles will get a break Sunday, since both the Rams and Raiders are out of town. They’ll get the Rams and New York Giants on CBS at 10 a.m., then the Raiders and San Diego Chargers on NBC at 1 p.m. and Dallas and Washington on CBS at 1 p.m. . . . The Ram-Giant game, with Jack Buck and Hank Stram announcing, originally was going to be the primary early game, going to 40% of the country. But on Thursday the decision was made to send Detroit-Chicago to 49.8% of the country and send the Ram game to 26.3% of the country. Originally, the Chicago game was scheduled to be shown in only 11% of the country. The reason for the change? Think of an appliance.

Spanish-language station XEGM (950), also known as radio TODO, is now carring Laker games. The play-by-play announcer is Jose Luis Ortiz, whose nickname is El Rapido. Sounds like a good nickname for Chick Hearn, too. . . . Kareem Abdul-Jabbar will be the guest star on ABC’s “Different Strokes,” tonight at 9 as Arnold’s English teacher. They say he’s a teacher Arnold can look up to. . . . Bobby Unser will join Paul Page in the broadcast booth for NBC’s tape-delayed coverage of Saturday’s CART Indy-car race at Miami. On the track, Unser’s brother and nephew, Al and Al Jr., will be battling for the CART Indy-car season national championship. The winner gets $300,000, the runner-up $200,000.

It may have been missed because it was on Channel 4 opposite last Sunday’s Chicago-Green Bay football game on Channel 2, but “NFL Head Coach: a Self-Portrait,” a one-hour show produced by NFL Films, was excellent. The show did not have a narrator, and didn’t need one. Fascinating footage of head coaches and ex-head coaches in the NFL talking about their jobs told the story beautifully. . . . Jane Chastain, who became the first woman network sportscaster when she was hired by CBS in 1973, will be Roy Firestone’s guest on “Sports Look” on ESPN next Thursday at 3 p.m. “Roy was my cameraman when we worked together in Miami,” Chastain said. “I always kid him that it’s a good thing he made it as an announcer because he would have never made it as a cameraman.” . . . Guess who is featured on CBS’ “NFL Today” Sunday at 9:30 a.m. In an interview, his mother talks about what he was like as a little boy. Check that. This person was never little. Think of an appliance.

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