CHARLESTON, W.Va. — West Virginia University fans who traveled to this year’s home football opener might have noticed problems if they tried to listen to the radio broadcast.
“Unfortunately, it was an equipment issue that reared its head on game day,” said Matt Wells, senior associate athletic director for external affairs.
Equipment that receives the satellite signal for broadcasts on WZST-FM, where Mountaineer games are heard in the Morgantown area, checked out fine in the days leading up to the game, Wells said.
But when it was time for WVU’s home opener against James Madison, the signal started cutting in and out.
The broadcast crew addressed the problem with a workaround, Wells said. That meant taking the stream meant for internet users and using it for the radio broadcast.
But that came with a side effect — a delay of several seconds that might have been noticed by fans who were watching the game in person while also listening to the radio broadcast.
“Once we determined it couldn’t be solved, Plan B was to switch to the internet feed, which explains the delay fans in the stadium experienced,” Wells said.
Wells said the internet feed is always a bit delayed.
He said he received some messages from fans — mostly friends and acquaintances in his own contacts list — about the issues. He also received some emails after the game.
“We did hear what I’ll call a small number of complaints,” he said.
He said there is a routine equipment test with WVU and its broadcast partners prior to games for affiliates. Last week, he said, everything worked fine for the weekly coaches show.
Wells said equipment that affected receiving the satellite signal was replaced for the WZST broadcast in time for this week’s coaches show and prior to this weekend’s away game versus Missouri.
“I feel necessary steps have been taken by our partners at Learfield IMG College to get new equipment in place for the coaches show and satellite broadcast for the game,” Wells said. “So we encourage fans to tune in.”
Learfield IMG is the multimedia rights holder for West Virginia University and most of the big college sports programs across the country.
“We are aware of the technical issue related to the radio broadcast in Saturday’s game against JMU,” stated Todd Knisley, general manager for Mountaineer Sports Properties.
“Like everything we do, we are completely aligned with the university and are working together with our team and the flagship station to address the situation.”
There are 40 radio stations across the Mountaineer Sports Network broadcasting football games. Wells believes only fans listening in Morgantown experienced last weekend’s issues. But with sellout attendance of more than 60,000 that could have been a significant number trying to listen.
“I am not aware of this as a widespread network issue,” Wells said. “It was an individual affiliate equipment issue.”
WZST, also known as JackFM, is a 3,000-watt station branded as the flagship of West Virginia University.
The station, which is located in Fairmont, is run by Laurel Highland Total Communications and its local subsidiary, LHTC Media. It was bought in 2017 from Spectrum Radio.
West Virginia Radio Corporation, parent company of MetroNews, broadcast WVU games for decades until the university reached a 12-year, $86 million partnership agreement with IMG in 2013.
West Virginia Radio Corporation legally challenged the way that partnership agreement was reached, settling the matter out of court in 2015.
When MetroNews reached out to LHTC Media, General Manager Brandon Kail made reference to that history.
“As your e-mail address indicates, you obviously work for our competitors,” Kail replied. “It appears to me that there might be a conflict of interest in your inquiry.”
MetroNews acknowledged the broadcast history and competitive situation in the radio market, but then suggested fans would like to know what steps are being taken to ensure consistent broadcast quality.
Kail replied, “Our obligation to the fans is duly noted. We have and will continue to take measures to ensure that we are providing them with the best possible listening experience. Thank you for your interest.”