Written by Matt Wixon
FOX Sports deal with UIL does not mean schools receive financial compensation
Texas weather can change quickly, but as of Tuesday evening, an arctic blast was in the weekend forecast. By 7:30 Friday night, when Allen and Mesquite Horn are kicking off their playoff game at the Cotton Bowl, temperatures could be dipping into the 40s.
Combined with the potential of wind and rain, Mesquite ISD athletic director Steve Bragg is already feeling the chill. Not because he’ll be at the game, but because the matchup will be televised live on KTXA (Channel 21).
“We would prefer that they don’t televise it,” Bragg said. “The weather could be bad, and people might just stay home and watch it.”
That’s the potential downside of the amendment to the University Interscholastic League’s television rights deal with Fox Sports Southwest, which allows high school football playoff games to be broadcast live on Friday nights. FSSW owns all rights but can sublicense rights to stations such as KTXA, which aired a live broadcast of Friday’s matchup of Southlake Carroll and Arlington Bowie.
Carroll ISD athletic director Kevin Ozee hasn’t received an attendance figure for the game, but he said turnout was lower than expected. Ozee said Carroll presold 2,600 tickets to last year’s first-round game against Arlington Martin, which wasn’t televised, and 1,100 for the Bowie game.
Bowie was an injury-plagued team that limped into the playoffs, so it’s not an apples-to-apples comparison. But it was reason for Ozee to be concerned.
“I think it definitely impacted attendance,” he said.
Under previous rules, both schools had to agree to a broadcast and the game needed to be a sellout 48 hours in advance. UIL deputy director Jamey Harrison said schools must have a specific reason for how a televised game will hurt them, and that it cannot be a fear of a drop in attendance.
“There is no evidence right now to suggest that televising games will reduce attendance,” he said.
If attendance does drop Friday, the financial hit will be taken by the Mesquite and Allen ISDs, who are renting the Cotton Bowl along with four other schools: Skyline, Sachse, Jesuit and Rockwall. As a group, Bragg said, the schools expect to pay about $36,000 in expenses for stadium.
Schools offset those costs through ticket revenues, 15 percent of which go to the UIL. As of now, schools get no compensation from the UIL or the station broadcasting the game.
“This is the first year, and we’re going through the season collecting information,” Harrison said. “We expect to compensate schools in some way, and we expect to come up with a package for revenue sharing. How we go about that, we don’t know yet.”
Harrison emphasized that the broadcasts will help promote the sport and draw more fans to the state championships at AT&T Stadium, where ticket revenue is split among the participating schools. FSSW general manager Jon Heidtke echoed that sentiment, saying that televised games, “in most cases, are a very positive thing in the community.”
And there’s no doubt that the broadcasts are a positive for fans. With the rights to all the playoff games, FSSW can now pepper its Football Friday Blitz show with live action from around the state. FSSW expects to also sublicense games this week in Dallas, Houston, Austin, Harlingen and other areas.
“We want to start building the storylines early and drive the crescendo up,” Heidtke said. “By being able to do this for six weeks, we think we can stimulate extra traffic and interest.”
But for now, the broadcasts aren’t stimulating money for the schools involved in the early round playoff games. And although this weekend’s potential chill might be referred to as “football weather,” it’s the kind of weather that might convince fans to just watch on TV.
And what would the Mesquite and Allen ISD’s get from that?
“We get nothing,” Bragg said.
Follow Matt Wixon on Twitter @mattwixon