Bobcat and Griz games to be televised on ESPN GamePlan

Billings Gazette

by Greg Rachac

The pleading paid off.

ESPN, it was announced Tuesday, has backed off its original broadcast plans and will televise the second-round FCS playoff games for Montana and Montana State after all.

A joint press release from Sens. Max Baucus and Jon Tester said ESPN has agreed to release its Internet broadcasts of Saturday's Bobcats and Grizzlies games to a broad TV audience — for a fee of just under $25 on the ESPN GamePlan package.

ESPN's suggested retail price for GamePlan is $24.60 to subscribe for the day. The price will allow viewers to watch any and all of the games scheduled for GamePlan Saturday, including all eight FCS contests.

Montana will host Central Arkansas at noon, while Montana State will host New Hampshire in a 1 p.m. start.

"The Cats and the Griz bring such a strong tradition to our communities," Baucus said in the release. "I'm thrilled ESPN understands this is the right thing for Montana, and am proud of all the Montanans who came together in support of our Montana teams."

"ESPN made the right call for Montana, and I appreciate them listening to the thousands of fans who rallied in support of Montana football," Tester added. "This is a victory that belongs to all Montanans, and it's a testament to the power of uniting for a common goal."

ESPN, the exclusive broadcast rights-holder for the NCAA Division I Football Championship, had originally planned to air the Montana and Montana State playoff games on ESPN3 only.

The decision would have left many Montanans in the cold, as ESPN3 is not readily available unless it's through 3 Rivers Communications, which is headquartered in Fairfield, Range Telephone Cooperative out of Forsyth, or Triangle Communications out of Havre.

As a result, Montana's congressional delegation, including Rep. Denny Rehberg, urged ESPN to reconsider. The statewide outcry was loudest, though, from fans who inundated ESPN with countless phone calls and emails, and an online petition that reached more than 90,000 Facebook users.

Saturday's games will still be available on ESPN3. In addition to its broadcast announcement, ESPN said it will air the entire second round of FCS tournament on GamePlan along with the previously announced broadcasts on ESPN3.

Cable and satellite TV customers who do not have ESPN GamePlan as part of their regular package must call their provider to have it added.

Customers are urged to call their cable or satellite provider as early as possible this week to have ESPN GamePlan added to their package. Waiting until Saturday is not advised.