ESPN3 to air Wildcat doubleheader


Jack Lambert

Marc Rodgers looks to the basket during the Oct. 31 game vs. Northwest University

Jack Belcher, Staff Reporter

Jack Lambert
Marc Rodgers looks to the basket during the Oct. 31 game vs. Northwest University

The basketball doubleheader on Feb. 1 will be livestreamed on ESPN3. The first of the two games will be the women’s team against Seattle Pacific University (SPU) and the second will be men’s basketball versus Western Washington University (WWU).

“It’s a big deal, especially for Central, both mens and womens programs to be highlighted on a national stage,” women’s head coach Randi Richardson-Thornley said.

This will be the first time CWU women’s basketball will have a game livestreamed nationwide. It will also be the first time that basketball at CWU has streamed a game through ESPN.

For the last three years, men’s basketball has had a deal with Root Sports that ended due to costs to the university. ESPN, on the other hand, has a partnership with the NCAA, so there is no cost to the university.

With that in mind, ESPN has partnered with NCAA DII and will show over 20 games this year across the division.

“Division II has really done a great job of partnering with ESPN and it has grown every year. We are seeing that right now with football,” CWU Athletic Director Dennis Francois said. “They went from really a select few games that they were doing this for a few years ago, to opening it up this year.”

Francois sees basketball following football in this aspect, this year there is only going to be two basketball games streamed, one for men’s and the other for women’s. Next year there could be more.

“You start looking across the country at how many [football] games are streamed across ESPN3, they’ve really picked up a lot,” Francois said. “It has become a much more affordable option. It’s at more people’s’ fingertips as cable TV and everything else is going away.”

The specific games that were chosen for both teams are important ones. The women’s team plays against SPU, a team that Richardson-Thornley believes is going to be one of the top teams in the conference.

“There is also a little extra incentive for our coaching staff, with two of the three of us with SPU ties,” Richardson-Thornley said.

Richardson-Thornley was an assistant coach at SPU for two years, and Graduate Assistant Stacey Lukasiewicz played on the team. She graduated last year and is very familiar with everyone on that team.

The men’s game starts at 7:30 p.m. and is against division rival, WWU.

“I think it’s great for the school and it’s great for the rivalry,” senior forward Jerome Bryant said. “It will make players from both teams work harder to prepare for this game.”

Bryant said that because the game is going to be streamed, his family that lives in Los Angeles can watch.

If there is one thing that everyone is agreeing on, it’s that this is going to be very good publicity for the school. Men’s head coach Greg Sparling is looking forward to the game after seeing how livestreaming has been benefiting the football team.

“I think it is going to be huge for recruiting for our program, other programs in the athletic department and the university. It puts you on the national stage,” Sparling said. “It is not too often that ESPN comes to Ellensburg and we have got to make the most of it.”

Richardson-Thornley was also excited about how the coverage is going to be good for CWU exposure on a national level. She believed that it will be great for not just the team’s recruitment, but will also give the entire athletic department of CWU a boost.

Francois compares this event to the football game that was livestreamed on Oct. 28, which had various shots of the Ellensburg community and the mountain ranges.

“[The announcers] talked about the region that we’re in and how important we are in terms of the hay export business, which probably a lot of people don’t know,” Francois said. “They talked about the growth on our campus.”