View Full Version : Nationally televised HS games this weekend...

09-14-2007, 04:48 PM
Nation's top two teams face off against each other: Southlake Carroll vs. Miami Northwestern in Dallas, and Euless Trinity vs. Odessa Permian in Odessa. Both games are Saturday night. Here's the link and a copy of the story:


Watching a high school football game live on national television was almost unheard of five years ago. On Saturday night, two local teams Southlake Carroll and Euless Trinity will compete on national telecasts.

High school football is becoming more commonplace on network television. The increase is spurred by new channels craving more programming. The Internet also has increased interest by turning college recruiting into a nationwide obsession.

More high school football
Both ESPNU, a college-focused branch of ESPN, and Fox Sports Net, also known as FSN, are showing live games every week this season.

ESPNU is carrying the Southlake Carroll vs. Miami Northwestern game from SMU's Ford Stadium at 6 p.m. Saturday. A mere 30 minutes later, FSN begins its coverage of Euless Trinity's game at Odessa Permian.

For now, the main appeal of high school football on national television is limited to a few well-known teams and high-profile recruits. The Carroll-Northwestern game is a matchup of top-ranked state champions from Florida and Texas, while Permian is the inspiration for the Friday Night Lights book, movie and television show.

As interest and sponsorship grows, high school football could become a major television commodity. Whether that's a good or bad thing remains to be seen.

"I think within five years you're going to see two to three additional networks that will each offer a national game of the week," said Dave Stephenson of TITUS Sports Marketing, which put together the Carroll-Northwestern matchup.

"Right now, the rights fees for college football are so expensive," Stephenson said. "I think all of the networks are looking at doing a national high school game of the week. It's football. It's the stars of tomorrow."

Demand fuels supply

Sports television consultant Neal Pilson, the former president of CBS Sports, says audience research indicates there is a market for high school sports.

"I remember 25 years ago, CBS Sports had an opportunity to cover a high school basketball all-star game," Pilson said. "We made the decision it would put undue pressure on high school athletes on a national stage. We've long since passed that benchmark.

"I'm not saying whether this is right or wrong. The fact of the matter is the public is voting."

The Ohio vs. USA Challenge III, an 11-game showcase which pitted top high school football teams from the state against national powers on Sept. 1-2, had one game broadcast live on both ESPN and ESPNU. Four more games were broadcast on tape delay by the NFL Network.

Another four games from the event were shown live on the Internet by ESPN360.

"Fans have increasingly expressed an interest in watching high school games," Charles Coplin, the VP of programming for the NFL Network, said in a statement. "We aired six games this year [including two all-star games] and could potentially increase that."

The first Texas high school football games telecast live to a national audience were on Oct. 14, 2004, during the NHL lockout. ESPN2 brought its cameras and extra lights to Carroll's Dragon Stadium to televise the game against Denton Ryan. That same night, FSN telecast the Odessa Permian-Midland Lee game.

For FSN, a four-game experiment in 2004 morphed the following year into a full season of telecasts now known as the Nike National High School Football Game of the Week. FSN Southwest has its own 10-game package of Texas games called the Dodge High School Football Game of the Week. The Trinity-Permian game is part of both packages.

After broadcasting the Carroll-Ryan game in 2004, ESPN carried three games in 2005. This season, ESPN's networks will carry 16 games three more than last year. Could an ESPNHS channel be far behind?

Not very profitable, yet

One of the driving forces for ESPN's increased coverage is college recruiting. Not only are top prospects becoming more easily identified, but the increasing number of oral commitments before a player's senior year makes programming easier.

Last year, Notre Dame fans were able to watch future quarterback Jimmy Clausen play on national television.

"It really supports our college football when you begin to think about the recruiting efforts from some of these top teams across the country," said James Brown, ESPN's senior VP for new program development.

ESPN's highest-rated high school football telecast was a matchup between Hoover (Ala.) against Ponte Vedra Beach Nease (Fla.) in August 2005 that drew a 1.0 rating, or approximately one million households. Hoover was the subject of the MTV reality show Two-A-Days that debuted a year later.

Even the best ratings for high school football lag far behind colleges and NFL games. That's the one thing holding back more telecasts: It's hard to make money off high school football.

In fact, if ticket sales are poor, Stephenson said Saturday's game could be a financial loss.

Carroll will keep 10 percent of the ticket sales for Saturday's game on ESPNU, and Northwestern's travel expenses are being paid. Unlike college teams appearing in national telecasts, neither high school is being paid a rights fee.

If high school football isn't a high-profit venture, why are promoters interested in it?

"One, it's growing; Two, we think there's a future in it," said Rashid Ghazi, a partner with Paragon Marketing Group, which puts together high school matchups for ESPN.

Ghazi said Paragon makes most of its money from corporate consulting and has actually lost money on some of its high school telecasts. Still, because people are watching, Paragon remains committed.

No harm, for now

Mixing business with high school athletics is always a tricky thing. Add national television exposure to the mix, and fears of exploitation grow exponentially.

"The big question is if we begin to follow high school football the way we did college football," said Robert Thompson, the director of the Bleier Center for Television and Popular Culture at Syracuse University. "The question becomes, how does one deal with being the center of national attention? And that becomes a lot harder at a high school age than a college age."

09-22-2007, 11:48 AM
On Oct 20th or 27th you will see two of the premier Catholic High School Sports programs in the Nation when the Eagles of Lakewood (OH) St. Edwards take on Cincinnatti (OH) Archbishop Moellor. The only thing that irks me is that Cleveland St. Ignatius Wildcats are not playing the Eagles. Ignatius Men vs St. Eds boys is always a great game. lol.