MJ: Is TV That Important for D-II/III?
When the news came out numerous months ago that neither the NCAA Division II nor Division III finals would be available on television this year, I was disappointed. There's just no arguing that having your championship on the big screen provides a sense of legitimacy, and it's nice reward for the student-athletes that make the title game.
As I've thought more about the current setup, which has both of the championships webcast live by the NCAA.com starting at 4 p.m. with D-II and 7 p.m. for D-III, the less I have a problem with it.
First, let's start with the bottom line. As much as we who like to follow the lower rungs of lacrosse like to talk about its excitement and storylines, it's still a niche event. Heck, the Division I women needed an 11th-hour reprieve to get their game on television, and it was just a feed of the webcast. Neither of the men's lower level championship games would draw enough eyeballs to drive any kind of worthwhile ad revenue and make the contests viable for a network.
Second, it is important for the sport that the Division I semifinals and finals are broadcast, because names like Duke, Virginia, Maryland and, to some degree, Denver, can lure in a casual or new fan. As much as we, the more plugged in small college fans, know the backstory of Sunday's games, Tufts is best known as the alma mater of Elaine Benes (of Seinfeld) and Salisbury is known as chicken magnate Frank Perdue's school. The editor of Lacrosse Magazine's wife admitted she had never heard of Mercyhurst.
Third, having a webcast isn't the end of the world. While it would be nice to kick back on the couch and watch the game, the technologically savvy person can supposedly still make that a reality with a cord of some kind (I'm not one of those technologically savvy individuals).
Fourth, having a laptop open for the game also allows for interaction among the D-II and D-III community members. They can open up one browser for the game, and another for the live blog that will be run on LaxMagazine.com. LMO's Joel Censer will be the main moderator of the blog, but the numerous members of the USL staff will be in the press box giving their thoughts while those watching at home can chime in with theirs.
So while the webcast won't attract any new fans, it could strengthen the current community – assuming Censer doesn't make too make obscure pop culture references and ruins it for everybody. Back in the dial-up age or the painfully-slow-laptop age, the webcast only reality would have been a bring down. These days, what's the big deal?
Hope to hear from you Sunday.