By Ryan Herrington
Why isn't the NCAA Championship on TV?
It's a question I'd get asked more often than any other from casual golf fans with a curiosity about the college game. It was generally posed more philosophically than literally, where the answer comes down to dollars that didn't make sense for the broadcasting entity.
With the announcement Dec. 17 that the Golf Channel will televise the NCAA men's Division I championship starting in 2014 and the men's and women's championship in 2015, the question of costs remains unclear—there was no reference in the press release detailing the agreement regarding how much the Golf Channel is paying for the rights to broadcast or how it will offset the costs of production.
At this time, however, that doesn't really matter. The more important point is that college golf's biggest event will finally be back on the small screen for the first time since 2000.
"We are committed to covering all facets of the game of golf, and this new partnership with the NCAA will be the centerpiece of our broader commitment to covering the collegiate game," said Golf Channel president Mike McCarley in a press release. "We look forward to introducing our viewers to the future stars of the game and tapping into the tremendous passion collegiate fans have for their schools."
Indeed, in addition to airing the championships—starting with the three days of play from the men's edition at Prairie Dunes CC in Hutchinson, Kan., in 2014—Golf Channel executives say the cable network will provide "comprehensive news coverage on-air and online" about college golf during the school year in a build-up toward the national championship. This is as important to hear as the fact that the championship will be on TV in the first place. That there might be more consistent and regular coverage of college golf from arguably the highest-profile national golf outlet in the country actually might have the bigger impact long term.
While the men will have the sole spotlight in 2014, both the men's and women's D-I tournaments will be aired in 2015, with each championship being held at The Concession GC in Bradenton, Fla. (NCAA officials had not previously announced the site of either championship). It will be the first time that one course will host both D-I championships.
Such a … pardon the pun … concession is one of the ways no doubt that the cost issue is addressed; instead of the expense of setting up cameras at two different courses to cover the two championships, Golf Channel will only have to do it at one.
It's a simple start of a solution to a problem that many in the college golf world weren't certain would ever be solved, including myself. I relish the idea that in the coming years the question "Why isn't the NCAA Championship on TV?" might be replaced with "Can you believe there once was a time when the NCAA Championship wasn't on the Golf Channel?"