Last week it was revealed that ESPN would be doing some broadcasts from the NCAA Women’s Tournament this year with announcers in the studio and not at the game sites. It’s a trend that has developed in the past 12-24 months as sports networks look to reduce their operating budgets in the face of soaring sports rights. A trend that has been heavily criticized by fans who can tell the difference when the announcers aren’t at the venue for college basketball and football games.
Alas, ESPN’s decision to use remote broadcasters for the NCAA Women’s Tournament was eye-opening because it’s hard to imagine a scenario where any network would do the same for the men’s version.
UConn head coach Geno Auriemma agrees.
Auriemma was quoted via the AP:
“It’s hard, I think, if you’re not right there and you are part of it,” he said. “I don’t imagine that it’s happening on the men’s side at all.”
But, Auriemma said he also remembers a time when it was almost impossible to find an NCAA women’s tournament game on television at all. He says the first time the Huskies were on TV was in the 1991 regional finals.
“We’ve come a long way, but as usual, not far enough and not quick enough and we’ve got a lot further to go.”
In spite of ESPN saying that the quality of production wouldn’t take a hit with announcers far away, at least a few fans noticed the announcers were off-site:
Hey @espn, it's pretty evident that your announcers aren't at the MSU/Miss. St. game right now. They don't know half of what's going on.
— Justin Paluch (@jpaluch) March 20, 2016
How do the @ESPN announcers know the Hump is going crazy? They aren't even there.
— Brent Maze (@bmaze) March 20, 2016
— Dustin Baker (@bakerdr) March 20, 2016
It’s one thing to use remote broadcasters for an exhibition game or even a regular season game, but for the postseason? Like we said last week, it sends a bad message regarding the importance of the event if the announcers can’t even be sent to the arena to broadcast the game.
It’s a practice that’s common for international sports, but it’s a lose-lose scenario for games on domestic soil. ESPN loses because they aren’t able to put on as good of a broadcast and fans lose by having to watch an inferior product. And ultimately in this case, the sport of women’s college basketball loses as well.