The Mountain West Conference turned down ESPN for a more lucrative broadcast deal with CSTV that has raised the ire of BYU fans from around the country. The CSTV deal also entailed the creation of a new television network known as “The mtn.,” which MWC officials promised would be carried nationally by the beginning of the 2006 college football season. The MWC’s broadcast package of games for BYU have the Cougars scheduled to air over a combination of CSTV, Versus (formerly OLN) and the mtn., in addition to last week’s appearance on TBS versus Arizona and next week’s non-conference contest vs. Boston College on ESPN2.

Unfortunately, the mtn. network has not been able to reach a deal with DISH or DirecTV, or any cable companies outside of Utah, Colorado, Idaho and New Mexico. So, when BYU’s first home game of the year against the Tulsa Golden Hurricane was aired on the mtn network Saturday afternoon, the only Cougar fans on the entire planet that were able to watch a live broadcast of the game were those with cable subscriptions in the four aforementioned states. BYU defeated Tulsa, the defending C-USA champions, 49-24.

Thousands of fans who subscribe to other cable carriers or DISH and DirecTV were left with the only option of listening to the game thru KSL.com’s Internet streamcast of Salt Lake City’s KSL radio game coverage. The fans’ outcry became so intense prior to the game that BYU’s athletic department communications had to post a Q&A on their Web site on Friday urging fans to contact their satellite or cable providers and request them to carry the mtn.

Adding insult to injury, CSTV did not even offer the game over the Internet as a video option on their All Access XXL subscription package, and a replay of the game that was scheduled to air on satellite channel BYU-TV Saturday evening was cancelled just hours before the telecast. A disclaimer note on byutv.org’s programming schedule page stated “Due to a change in broadcast rights, BYU Television will be unable to bring you highlights from the Tulsa versus BYU football game played Sept. 9.”

Two popular BYU fan discussion boards, Cougarboard.com and Cougarfan.com, were buzzing with rage toward CSTV and MWC commissioner Craig Thompson as well as Brigham Young University athletic director, Tom Holmoe. The majority of posts on the two discussion board sites expressed sentiments of feeling cheated, and proclaiming they are being used as pawns in the negotiations between CSTV and cable as well as satellite providers to carry the mtn.

Some Cougarboard members even discussed ways to share the mtn broadcasts via Slingshot and streaming video uploads, prompting the board’s grand guru known as “El Jefe” to post a warning about copyright violations using these technologies. El Jefe’s post banned further discussion of content sharing and indicated that board members who violated the ban would be subject to “lengthy penalty.”

Fan discussions also lamented dramatically lessened exposure on sports news programs that typically used to carry highlights of their games including ESPN Sportscenter.

BYU football games are scheduled to be carried on the mtn four more times this season, but next week Cougar fans can rest easy as their team plays a road game at Boston College that will be carried on ESPN2.

The Mountain West Conference referred calls to CSTV and Comcast regarding their ongoing negotiations with satellite and cable companies to carry the mtn. network. Stay tuned for more information as it becomes available.