Fri, May 16: Illini opener gains place on ESPN2
Sometimes, television can peacefully coexist with the sports it covers.
The University of Illinois wanted to move its football opener with Southern Mississippi to a 6 p.m. start. The holdup was television, with ESPN expressing interest in a late-morning game.
The school's insistence on opening the Ron Turner era at night apparently swayed ESPN to leave the time alone. Instead, ESPN2 will telecast the game at 6 p.m. Everybody's happy.
"I think by having this game at 6 o'clock it's going to be a lot more appealing than an 11:30 start," UI associate athletic director Dana Brenner said. "It also helps our kids by playing the game at 6 p.m. vs. the heat of the day. That's something to be concerned about at that time of the year."
The fans will also benefit, Brenner said.
"It gives us an opportunity to experiment and do some things in the afternoon," Brenner said.
The Southern Miss game will almost mark the 10-year anniversary of Illinois' last home night game. In Mike White's last season as head coach, the Illini lost 21-7 to Arizona State on Sept. 12, 1987.
College football television schedules are still being set for the Big Ten. But a few of the games have already been picked.
ABC will telecast Wisconsin vs. Syracuse in the Kickoff Classic on Aug. 24 and the Aug. 23 Pigskin Classic between Northwestern and Oklahoma. The Ohio State-Wyoming game on Aug. 30 is being considered by ESPN.
ABC has picked Pittsburgh at Penn State on Sept. 6. On Sept. 13, ABC will show Notre Dame at Purdue.
On Sept. 20, ESPN will have Baylor at Michigan, ABC broadcasts Arizona at Ohio State and NBC shows Michigan State at Notre Dame.
The Oct. 4 game between Wisconsin and Northwestern will be seen on ESPN at 6 p.m. By scheduling the game at night, ESPN hopes to avoid conflicts with the major league baseball playoffs.
On Oct. 25, ESPN takes Michigan at Michigan State and ABC broadcasts Northwestern at Ohio State. The annual Ohio State-Michigan game is on ABC Nov. 22 and the Penn State-Michigan State game is scheduled for ABC on Nov. 29.
The television schedule is far from complete. Each week, ABC picks its game, followed by a selection for ESPN, ESPN2 and Creative Sports. When the conference games start, some weeks will have all five games on television. In the last few seasons, 85 percent of the conference games have been televised.
– The UI hosted a meeting of Big Ten sports information directors last week. During the two days of talks, the SIDs discussed the internet, statistics packages and the upcoming men's and women's basketball tournaments. The SIDs will next meet in late July during the Big Ten football kickoff at Chicago.
– WDWS will broadcast all of Illinois' Big Ten tournament baseball games this weekend. Dave Loane handles the play-by-play with former UI coach Lee Eilbracht serving as analyst.
– This week's Saturday Sportsline on WDWS will again run just 90 minutes. The show will go back to its two-hour format on May 24.
Bob's best bets
Pro basketball, NBA playoffs, Miami at New York, today, 7 p.m., TNT – The Chicago Bulls patiently await the winner of this ugly series. Nobody has broken 100. The Knicks haven't even hit 90. This is New York's last chance to take the series.
Horse racing, Preakness Stakes, Saturday, 3:30 p.m., ABC – The second jewel of racing's Triple Crown is also the shortest of the three races. ABC will be rooting for Kentucky Derby winner Silver Charm, which would give people a reason to watch the Belmont in June. News-Gazette horse racing guru Tony Bleill's early pick is Silver Charm. As usual, Bleill retains the right to change his mind.
Hockey, NHL playoffs, Detroit at Colorado, Saturday, 6:30 p.m., ESPN – The defending Stanley Cup champion Avalanche won't have an easy time with the Red Wings. Detroit pounded Anaheim in the second round, while Colorado struggled against Edmonton. Here's a prediction: The winner of this series rolls to the title.
Bob Asmussen is a News-Gazette staff writer. He writes a weekly column on television and radio.