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SPORTS GUY: Webcast vote gets it right

The Wyoming High School Activities Association reversed its course on Tuesday evening and voted to allow the live webcasting of this year’s state basketball championship games and the semifinal and championship rounds of the state wrestling tournament later this month.

The decision reverses a ban on such webcasts that prevented folks from logging on to the Internet and watching such broadcasts of last fall’s state volleyball and state football championships until at least 24 hours had passed. It was the right decision.

Arguments against live webcasts had been specious at best. Members of the WHSAA had voiced concerns that such broadcasts were hurting gate revenue at state tournaments as people opted to sit at home rather than travel to watch the championship games.

I’m sure that probably was the case. If you offer people the option of watching something from the comfort of their home, some will ultimately take you up on that offer. The same could also be said of radio broadcasts that have occurred for decades — some will opt to listen rather than travel.

As for the effects on gate revenue, it really is hard to say how much — if at all — webcasting actually harms ticket sales. WHSAA commissioner Ron Laird estimated revenue at last year’s state basketball tournaments was off roughly $20,000 in the first year of live web streaming for all 44 basketball games.

It’s hard to say though, whether all that lost revenue can be attributed to webcasts as opposed to factors such as poor travel conditions, distance, the general economic climate or a myriad of other factors that could influence a person’s decision to jump in their vehicle and drive to Casper. Without an extremely detailed and defined study, the true impact of webcasting on attendance cannot be ascertained.

What can be determined, though, is that whatever attendance was lost due to those webcasts was a mere fraction of the overall number of hits those webcasts received. Live webcasts get the best of Wyoming high school sports out to a broader audience. It provides exposure to high school athletes and the WHSAA that otherwise would not be there and provides a way for friends and family members from well outside the boundaries of Wyoming to live vicariously through the competitive exploits of our high school students. They provide a means for the elderly or those otherwise encumbered and unable to travel to still experience the thrill of state championship competition.

Nobody’s saying the WHSAA shouldn’t be able to guard its interests and charge a reasonable fee for the privilege of putting on such Internet broadcasts. That’s a far more preferable alternative than not having the webcasts available at all.

Hats off to the WHSAA for recognizing that, and here’s hoping the decision to allow such broadcasts is a permanent one.

• • • • •

When life gives you lemons, make lemonade. Or, if you’re Northwest College, when you strike out on a coaching hire, deliver a home run with the replacement.

With the Ryan Vander Pluym coaching era done after barely half a year, Northwest College delivered nothing short of a coup by enticing six-time world champion and Pro Rodeo Hall of Famer Dan Mortensen to step in and guide the Trapper rodeo team through the last half of its season.

I don’t know how many other schools — if any — can lay claim to having a Hall of Fame member in house. Suffice to say, it’s a fair bet that Northwest currently finds itself on an extremely short list.

With recruiting and the program’s largest fundraiser coming up in the spring semester, having Mortensen’s name attached to the team can’t be seen as anything but a plus. I’m not an aspiring young rodeo star, but if I were, I would have to think the chance to possibly learn from a six-time world champion would be a huge drawing card to lure me to enroll at NWC.

For the moment, Mortensen is only serving in an interim capacity through this spring. At the risk of sounding too bold, here’s hoping the whole coaching thing kind of grows on him in the months ahead.

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