One of the nation’s oldest and most storied athletic teams had managed to miss the mass media revolution that carried college sports into a new era of commercialism and exposure. But Yale grew restless.
Deciding not to rest on its laurels, the Yale football team, having completed a remarkable turnaround over the past five seasons, has taken the next step on the airwaves, one more substantial than its current broadcasts on AM radio.
The New England Sports Network, flagship station of the Boston Red Sox, has agreed to an eight-game contract with the Eastern College Athletic Conference — with Yale as the marquee team. The Elis will be involved in at least three of these contests.
These games will be broadcast to 3.1 million households in the New England area, which receive NESN over basic cable, and countless others around the country that can access NESN through satellite television. This raises Yale’s television exposure from non-existent to one of the broadest coverage packages of any squad in the Ivy League.
The Sept. 29 game against Holy Cross will mark the first time in five seasons that the Bulldogs will be broadcast over a cable television channel. The exposure is tremendous for a school playing Division I-AA football.
Alumni in the New England region will be able to follow the team’s progress on a more regular basis. But more importantly, the NESN package offers a highly effective medium through which Yale head coach Jack Siedlecki can reach potential recruits. Coaches in all college sports often talk about the value of TV exposure in the recruiting process, and teams are often desperate to have their games televised.
Recruits, often tugged in many different directions, have hectic schedules, and with this new television contract, they will be able to see the Bulldogs in action without having to travel to Yale on a weekend. The impact that it will have on recruiting is potentially immense. A television package adds legitimacy to the program, raising it up a notch in the eyes of future college gridiron stars. In the long run, it will only serve to increase the amount of talent coming to the Elis and keep Yale competitive in a sport it dominated for decades.
But it will not come without a cost. Unlike most college teams for which TV coverage is also a financial boon, Yale will actually pay an undisclosed fee to appear on cable. While the University may not recover the cost with advertising contracts, the money spent can still be seen as a justified expense for the significance of the exposure.
It’s about time Bulldog athletics, representative of the healthy spirit of competition that exemplifies the Yale community, be displayed to its home region. The team will benefit undoubtedly, but the entire University stands to gain. In our 300th year, tradition and excellence are two values that Yale is not ashamed to celebrate. Nor should they be.