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CBS Makes Tough Calls

Leaving Stanford off the first-round NCAA TV schedule illustrates the network's bind.

March 17, 2004|Larry Stewart | Times Staff Writer

Arizona, Washington, Eastern Washington, Gonzaga and Pacific all made CBS' first-round NCAA tournament telecast schedule for Los Angeles.

The odd team out is Stanford, whose first-round game is not one of the four scheduled to be shown on Channel 2 on Thursday.

The only way Stanford fans here will get to see much of the Cardinal's midday game is if somehow Texas San Antonio hangs tough and CBS opts to switch off Syracuse-Brigham Young.

It's the price of being a No. 1-seeded team facing a No. 16-seeded team.

Expecting Stanford-Texas San Antonio to be a blowout, CBS chose to go with fifth-seeded Syracuse against 12th-seeded BYU in the Los Angeles and San Diego markets.

Syracuse-BYU, to be played at Denver and scheduled to begin around noon, is the second game on CBS' schedule Thursday. The first one, beginning at 9:40 a.m., is Maryland against Texas El Paso, also at Denver. Jim Nantz and Billy Packer will be the announcers for both games.

Tournament games not on CBS' schedule through the first three rounds are available via DirecTV's Mega March Madness package, which costs $59.

After CBS set its complete first-round schedule Tuesday, Sean McManus, the president of CBS Sports, talked about the difficulty of televising the early rounds of the NCAA tournament and keeping everybody happy.

"It's an incredibly complex challenge, the most difficult thing we do in this business," he said.

The main concern this year is making sure a majority of viewers are getting the game they want.

A No. 1-seeded team has never lost to a No. 16, but if that were about to happen, CBS probably would show that game to the entire nation.

"It would be a great story, and 99.999% of the viewers would be thrilled to see the biggest upset in the history of the tournament," McManus said. "But you would still have a few fans complaining."

McManus admitted the war of words between commentator Packer, who has been vocal in his belief that Saint Joseph's doesn't deserve a No. 1 seed, and Saint Joseph's Coach Phil Martelli has helped generate interest in the tournament.

McManus said CBS hopes to have Packer interview Martelli.

"I think we could have some fun with that, and it would be enjoyable for the viewers," McManus said.

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