MPBN has 3-year deal to air hoop tourneys; WM Classes A, B not part of broadcast plan

This story was published on Sept. 22, 2005 on Page C4 in all editions of the Bangor Daily News

The Maine Principals’ Association and the Maine Public Broadcasting Network have reached agreement on a new three-year deal for television rights to the state high school basketball regional semifinals and finals and state championship games to be played in Bangor and Augusta.

But at present, there is no television coverage set for the Western A and B tournaments and the 2006 Class A state championship games to be played at the Cumberland County Civic Center in Portland.

“As of right now there are no plans to televise the Class A state finals in Portland,” said MPA executive director Dick Durost. “No. 1, there were no proposals, and No. 2 ,they occur on the same weekend the B, C and D state games are being carried in Bangor and Augusta.”

The most recent TV contract between the MPA and MPBN expired after the 2005 tournaments. Durost said the MPA put out a request for proposals to local network television affiliates as well as “most major cable companies” in the state seeking bidders for the television rights, but only MPBN responded, and its proposal involved only tournament games at the Bangor Auditorium and the Augusta Civic Center.

“We’re still open to talking with people,” said Durost, “but it was out there for two or three months and the only proposal we received was from MPBN.”

The primary change since the end of the last contract involves the timing and locations for future high school basketball tournaments in the state.

Last November the MPA’s general membership voted to move the Eastern A tournament from Bangor to Augusta and the Western B tournament from Augusta to Portland. That leaves the Eastern B, C and D tournament in Bangor, the Eastern A and Western C and D tournaments in Augusta, and the Western A and B tournaments in Portland.

In addition, the MPA general membership approved moving the Class A regionals from early March to February vacation week to coincide with the B, C and D regionals.

That means that the A, B, C and D regionals will be held simultaneously at three sites for the first time. That’s one more site than MPBN can cover, which is why its proposal only covered two locations.

“We have enough people and equipment to do two sites, and there’s also a cost element because it’s less expensive for us to cover Bangor and Augusta than to take a crew and a truck to Portland, said Ed Fowler, MPBN’s television production services manager.

Fowler said when MPBN began formalizing its proposal, the network’s history with covering high school basketball tournaments was at the forefront of the discussions.

“Our first decision was to continue with the B, C and D tournaments, because MPBN has the tradition of covering those games and people in the area really expect them,” Fowler said.

“We have done B, C and D since we first started doing the tournaments in 1979, and with Augusta, the A East is there now, as well as the [Western] C and D which we also have a tradition of doing.”

MPBN only recently began broadcasting Class A games, having televised the regional and state finals since 2003 and from the regional semifinals through the state championship games since 2004.

The state finals for each class rotate each year between the Eastern and Western Maine regional sites. Class A will now rotate between Portland and Augusta, Class B will rotate between Portland and Bangor, and Classes C and D will rotate between Bangor and Augusta.

Since the 2005 Class A finals were played in the division’s former Eastern Maine host site in Bangor, the 2006 Class A state championship games will be held in Portland.

Fowler said MPBN will air all the state finals played at Bangor and Augusta for the duration of the new contract, which means it will broadcast the 2006 and 2008 Class B state finals, the 2007 Class A state championship games, and all the state finals in Classes C and D.

Under the 2006 state championship game schedule, the Class B finals will be held Friday, March 3, at the Bangor Auditorium, the Class D finals are set for Saturday afternoon, March 4, at Augusta, followed by the Class C finals that night, also at Augusta.

The 2006 Class A state finals are set for Saturday night, March 4, in Portland at approximately the same times as the Class C finals, which will be aired on MPBN.

“As of right now there are no plans to televise the games in Portland unless someone comes up with a proposal comparable to MPBN’s,” said Durost.