Athletic broadcast agreement not typical of other LSC schools: Tarleton faces unique spending habits in wake of unprecedented budget cuts

By Micah D. Moore – 

Tarleton State University pays a Stephenville radio station $33,750 to broadcast its athletic events – almost twice the amount any other public school in the Lone Star Conference pays to broadcast its sporting events, records show.

Tarleton’s payment to KSTV-FM 93.1 comes as the university is trying to cut $9.3 million from its budget by the end of August 2013, according to a university spokesperson.

A Texan TV News investigation, based on contracts and documents obtained under the Texas Public Information Act from Tarleton and other schools across the state, found that the most any other state school in the Lone Star Conference paid a radio station to broadcast athletic events is $18,305, records show. That payment came from Texas A&M University-Kingsville.

One other school, Texas A&M University-Commerce, uses its university-owned station KETR-FM 88.9 to broadcast its athletic events. The only expenses that the university incurs are fees totaling about $10,000 for sports announcers to do play-by-play and color commentating for all sports throughout the year, according to records obtained under the Texas Public Information Act.

One public institution in the Lone Star Conference doesn’t spend any money to broadcast any of their athletic events. Angelo State University Vice President of Communication and Marketing Preston Lewis said, “There is no exchange of money between Angelo State University and Foster Communication.”

Foster Communication owns four radio stations including KKCL-FM 100.1 which broadcasts Angelo State University athletic events.

“They broadcast these games in return for the commercial revenues, “Lewis said.

Texan TV News attempted to interview top administrators at Tarleton about the KSTV contract. The office of Vice President for Institutional Advancement Rick Richardson, who oversees media relations, declined a request for an interview. The Division of Finance and Administration, which oversees contract administration, referred questions to Athletic Director Lonn Reisman.

Reisman initially agreed to an in-person interview with a Texan TV News reporter, but cancelled that meeting and subsequently agreed to only answer questions by email.

Reisman said that Tarleton Radio was not considered to broadcast university athletic, as TAMU-Commerce uses its own station, events because “at the time of the bid, KTRL’s broadcast range barely exceeded the Stephenville city limits.”

In 2009, KTRL operated as a low power station at FM frequency 100.7. That summer, Gary Moss, a Cleburne broadcaster, donated to the university a much larger, non-commercial station that operated at the 90.5 frequency.

The university gave the new, larger station KTRL’s call letters and assigned new call letters, KURT, to the smaller, student-operated frequency of 100.7 FM. Tarleton Radio General Manager Eric Truax over sees both stations.

Truax said the university-owned KTRL-FM 90.5 has “the largest signal coverage of any station based in Erath County and is certainly able to broadcast Tarleton’s athletic events.” KTRL can now be heard as far as Weatherford, Abilene and southwest Fort Worth.

“If the Athletic Department were to ask about broadcasting on KTRL, we could definitely do it for less than they are paying now,” Truax said.

Tarleton has owned KTRL for more than a year. The station is now an affiliate of National Public Radio.

In past meetings and correspondence with Truax and student staff, Tarleton officials have questioned whether the staff of its radio station was capable of broadcasting athletic events.

Beginning this fall, KTRL began broadcasting athletic events of the nearby Glen Rose Independent School District – to the satisfaction of the school district and KTRL.

“We’ve had great success broadcasting Glen Rose football. We put out a consistent good quality signal each week and have a trained staff of sports broadcasters,” said Truax.

Glen Rose Athletic Director Tommy Dunn has received positive feedback from the community regarding the broadcast of their games. People are now able to hear Glen Rose football games where they previously could not.

“I think KTRL has done a good job broadcasting Glen Rose Tigers games,” Dunn said. “The staff at KTRL has been professional and I hope this has been a positive experience for the students at [Tarleton].”

Glen Rose ISD allows Tarleton to broadcast the football games for free and Tarleton charges the school district nothing for the service.

“It shouldn’t be about money. It’s about the love of the sport itself and about giving students real-world sports broadcasting experience in a professional environment,” said Truax.

While Tarleton pays tens of thousands of dollars to the privately-owned KSTV, that same station is paying thousands of dollars to the Stephenville Independent School District to broadcast athletic events, records show.

KSTV pays Stephenville Independent School District $8,000 each year for the exclusive broadcast rights to Stephenville High School athletic events.

KSTV’s contract with SISD provides that KSTV is the only media outlet of any kind with permission to broadcast any of the games and pre- and post-game activities.

KSTV General Manager Robert “Boots” Elliot says he has a tight relationship with Reisman but Tarleton retains control over its broadcast rights. By comparison, Elliot said he has complete control of every media outlet at Stephenville games.

Other universities sometimes receive generous amounts of advertising as part of their contract agreement. Records show that TAMU-Kingsville receives 30, 60-second commercials per week during the season.

Additionally, TAMU-Kingsville’s broadcaster retains six minutes of the entire commercial inventory during each game.

Midwestern State University receives half of all the proceeds from available commercial air time from the broadcast of its games.

In contrast, hand written notes in the contract between Tarleton and KSTV states that the university gets two minutes of free advertising during Tarleton Thursday programming.

Reisman said the contract between Tarleton and KSTV was approved and recommended by Tarleton’s purchasing department.

Purchasing Director Beth Chandler confirmed that the athletic department did not make any recommendations on the contract nor were they consulted in the bidding process. Athletics submitted their specific broadcast needs to the Purchasing Department, then purchasing oversaw the process until a vendor was selected.

Tarleton is currently in the third year of a potential five year contract with KSTV. Records show that the contract can be renewed annually at the recommendation of the university and KSTV. If renewed, Tarleton continues under the same contract with the same specifications.

The university, however, can opt to not renew the contract. At that time, Tarleton would begin the search for another station to broadcast the athletic events or continue with KSTV under a new contract.

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