TSN Broadcast Deal With Kansas Underscores Wiggins Hype, Fractures Amateurism ConceptPosted by Brian Goodman (@BSGoodman) on October 29th, 2013
Just when you think the preseason Andrew Wiggins hype machine has plateaued, along comes another development to make the spotlight on him even bigger and brighter. Tuesday afternoon, Canadian sports network TSN announced that it will carry every game Kansas plays this season on its variety of television and online platforms, and will even provide its own coverage on a select number of match-ups. While this move won’t affect the American viewing public all that much — many of KU’s games will already be broadcast nationally and several others will be available on platforms like ESPN3 — the partnership brings an unprecedented level of coverage to an individual player, expands a Kansas fan and recruiting base that already reaches across the United States, and shines yet another light on the NCAA’s decaying concept of amateurism.
Just a few short years ago, ESPN announced The Longhorn Network as one of the biggest efforts yet in segmenting one piece of the sports media pie and marketing it toward a very specific audience. Obviously, Wiggins isn’t getting his own channel here and the dollar figures aren’t readily available, but TSN‘s strategy of making this kind of commitment for the sole purpose of capitalizing on an individual player isn’t something you see very often. It’s great if you’re a KU fan or a friend, family member or former classmate of Wiggins in Ontario, as you’ll be able to catch his games without too much of a hassle. However, the new deal also adds another element of pressure to the phenom’s tenure in Lawrence, as briefly as it’s expected to last.
But if the press release (linked here) is any indication, Kansas head coach Bill Self doesn’t mind. “There are many Canadian basketball fans who can’t wait to watch Andrew and follow the Jayhawks this season,” he said in the announcement. “When we have played in Canada in the preseason, a lot of KU fans have come to see us play. Now they can watch all our games on TSN, which will be great exposure for Kansas basketball.” The program will benefit financially in bringing its games to a new audience and it will open up a new recruiting pipeline for the Jayhawks. Duke and Kentucky, Kansas’ closest rivals on the recruiting trail, won’t be able to match this level of exposure. While they may not be the deciding factors, one of the bigger ways that high-level prospects get to know the schools that court them is by watching their games and getting a feel for the style of play and a close look at how fans pack their home arenas. Wiggins will gain individually from the enhanced visibility, but so will Kansas.
Lastly, for the ever-growing number of NCAA critics, this development is another weapon in their arsenal as they continue to pick away at the NCAA’s eroding concept of amateurism. Again, Kansas is getting a nice windfall from the broadcast distribution rights here, but despite being the primary driver of its existence, Wiggins himself won’t see a dime from it. It’s a perfectly fair angle with which to take issue, and while this development doesn’t have enough cache on its own to force the NCAA to reshape its definition of amateurism, it’s one more piece of evidence that it will need significant overhaul at some point in the near future.