Media Sportswatch: December 2017

Joel Bulkley

Any one doubt that SE weather is changing?  Snowfall is shrinking bigtime in WNC.Any one doubt that SE weather is changing?  Snowfall is shrinking bigtime in WNC.

Tar Heel ski resorts haven’t seen their “average annual snowfall” in years. Sure, they can make lots of snow weather permitting. But it’s good to have cold weather and natural snow. Last season’s shortfall in snow, for example, ranged from 7 to 35 inches at the state’s six ski resorts. And the previous year wasn’t that great.

Here are some examples. Appalachian Mountain got 19 inches of snow for 2016-17, down seven inches from the previous season. Their average snowfall is 50 inches. Beech Moun­tain got 47.8 inches last season, down 21 inches from previous year. Their average snowfall is 80 inches. Sugar Mountain got 41.3 inches, down 16 inches. Their average is 78. Aren’t you glad you don’t operate a ski resort?

Things I don’t like: USA Today is no longer a decent value at $2.00. They’re using bigger type, have fewer stories and pages. It may be easier to read, but there’s considerably less to read.

Area dailies continue to shrink timely sports coverage both online and in print. Good luck finding local stories on non-revenue sports like NCAA soccer championships (men/ women), even with their College Team News section. Readers are better off going to school sports websites for scores, up­dates, box scores.

Chapel Hill ranked third among small cities for sports in latest Wallet Hub survey. Clemson was first, West Point, second, Cullowhee, NC, seventh. Boston was the best large city (over 300,000) for sports based on their 50 metrics involving five sports (football, baseball, basketball, hockey soccer). Ral­eigh was 55. Green Bay was first in midsize cities (100,000 to 300,000). Durham was 39 and somehow ranked above Chapel Hill by one spot (27) in separate basketball category.

UNC plans to spend $10M for production facilities for UNC coverage of 28 varsity sports for the new ACC Network that starts in fall 2019. They’ve allocated $2M for construction of a new production center, $4M for equipment, $2M for staffing. The money will be borrowed and repaid from increased ESPN revenue.

GRA Associates of Chapel Hill, the firm that designed the Smith Center, is developing plans for a new two-story building near the Smith Center to house control room, studios, technical ops and audio mixing, etc. for the network. Construction is expected to start in the spring. At the moment, UNC has small control rooms at Carmichael and South Campus, according to UNC announcement, for live programs now being produced. The number of programs is expected to skyrocket when the network starts. ACC Commissioner John Swofford indicated in a radio interview last week ACC schools are on schedule in their prep work. The network will be owned jointly by the ACC and ESPN.

Ever wonder how CBS decides who gets what NFL games? The New York Times had an interesting story about it. It’s easier to figure out Fox Sports because we usually get Panther/Redskin games and NFC teams most of the time.

“The Case for Lefty Driesell” by Dave Kindred at the provides the best argument I’ve read for Lefty to be in the Naismith Basketball HOF. Andy Katz, formerly of ESPN, is now with the Big Ten Network, operated by Fox.

The latest layoffs at ESPN (150 behind-the-scenes workers) reminded me of a visit I made to the Bristol headquarters years ago. I was invited for a tour by a friend who was out of town on assignment for the network. It was the day after Christmas and most everyone was off but I found a tech willing to show me around. He took his time and gave me a wonderful tour, answering lots of questions. When I asked one he couldn’t answer, he picked up a phone and got the answer. I hope he’s still working there.