TV pulls plug on Stangs

RYAN PYETTE -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 7:26 AM ET

The Western football team is quickly finding out there aren't any perks to an 0-4 record.

Acting on an audible request from The Score television network, Ontario University Athletics has sacked TV coverage for the Western Homecoming game on Saturday and allowed the cameras to shift to Kingston where unbeaten teams Laurier and Queen's will tangle this weekend.

The Score is even paying for the right to avoid London, where Western and Windsor (1-3) will fight for their playoff lives in what will likely be the biggest crowd of the Ontario university football season.

Kingston falls outside of The Score's production corridor so there will be extra costs incurred to air the Golden Hawks-Golden Gaels game at ancient Richardson Stadium.

"It's really unfortunate," Western acting athletic director Chuck Mathies said. "There are still a few questions that I need answered at the end of the day on why the plug was pulled. I realize we're 0-4 (and Windsor is 1-3), but this is still a big rivalry, there will be good atmosphere in the stands, Homecoming always generates a lot of interest and, I believe, viewership."

Western shifted its traditional 2 p.m. Homecoming kickoff to 1 p.m. to accommodate The Score, whose on-air talent includes former Mustangs Duane Forde (colour analyst) and D.J. Bennett (sideline contributor).

Two weeks ago, the Mustangs played against McMaster at Ivor Wynne Stadium in a game that drew impressive ratings for the University Rush program.

"I'm on the OUA marketing committee and there weren't too many dissenting votes (against switching to Laurier-Queen's)," Windsor head coach Mike Morencie said.

"Absolutely, it was all about the records. Western and Windsor looks like it would be a competitive game (the two teams faced off in a memorable Mud Bowl playoff game last year) and I guess we'll find out if that's the case.

"For both teams, it's a playoff game in Week Five. The team that loses is basically out of the playoffs."

The tilt also features an interesting twist: Windsor running back Daryl Stephenson, a Londoner, needs 59 yards to pass former Mac star and current Hamilton Tiger-Cat Jesse Lumsden as Ontario university's career rushing leader.

But the message being sent by the OUA and The Score is simple: if you want your games on TV, don't lose.

"We wanted to showcase two of our three undefeated teams in a head-to-head match," OUA executive director Ward Dilse said. "I think what the committee looked at when making their decision was that they wanted the best teams playing at this time of the season."

Criteria used to determine TV games include competitiveness of teams and atmosphere and attendance. There is an 'X' factor -- trying to feature each school in at least one TV appearance over a couple of years -- a major reason why a York-Toronto matchup aired instead of Western's Homecoming game with Windsor last fall.

There is a precedent to juggling the TV schedule at the last minute. On the final week of the 2002 season, a pair of 1-6 teams -- Laurier and Guelph -- got the boot in favour of McMaster (7-0) and York (5-2) at The Score's request.

As a backup plan, Western is trying to have the Homecoming game televised on Rogers Television. As part of its contract, The Score demands any game starting at the same time as its featured matchup must be shown on tape delay -- unless a live feed with highlights can be delivered.

"That's something we're working on -- there's no extra cost to do it and there's absolutely no effect on the people coming into the stadium to enjoy the game," Mathies said. "We want the game to be on TV. We think there is a lot of interest in our Homecoming."

Ticket sales certainly back him up. There is very limited seating still available for the contest.

WESTERN HOMECOMING

Western (0-4) vs. Windsor (1-3)

When: Saturday, 1 p.m. at TD Waterhouse Stadium

The matchup: Western head coach Greg Marshall is still looking for his first win at his alma mater . . . Windsor RB Daryl Stephenson (4,080 yards) is 59 yards away from becoming Ontario university's all-time rushing leader.


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