The Washington Interscholastic Activities Association and ROOT Sports Northwest have agreed in principle to an agreement on a live television broadcast of this season’s 2A and 3A Washington high school football state championship games on regional television.
It will be the first year the regional sports network will broadcast the 2A game. ROOT Sports Northwest broadcast the 3A and 4A games live in years past when the games were at the Tacoma Dome.
Both games will be replayed at least twice in the days following the Dec. 7 championships, said Mark Jorgensen, senior vice president and general manager of ROOT Sports Northwest.
The 4A game will not be broadcast on TV in what is believed to be the first time since ROOT began televising the Washington high school football championship more than 20 years ago. ROOT has also historically televised the 3A and 4A Washington high school basketball championships at the Tacoma Dome in early March.
The 3A game is scheduled for Saturday, Dec. 7 at 12 p.m. at Carl Sparks Stadium in Puyallup, with the 2A game to follow at 4 p.m. All six games, including the four state football championships games that will not be broadcast on TV — 1B, 2B, 1A and 4A — will be streamed live on the NFHS Network, which requires a subscription.
The decision is a byproduct of the WIAA’s move away from the Tacoma Dome to three concurrent doubleheaders in three stadiums in the greater Tacoma area, and the decision to put the 2A and 3A games at the same stadium.
The Gridiron Classic was previously played at the Tacoma Dome for 23 years, until the WIAA opted to not renew its contract in June, citing rising rental costs and declining attendance, among other factors.
ROOT wanted to televise two games and preferred the 3A and 4A games, as it has televised in the past, according to WIAA executive director Mick Hoffman. But the WIAA opted not to play 3A and 4A at the same site due to foreseen logistical conflicts with overlaps of the two largest-sized crowds. Hoffman said TV did not factor into that decision.
“If we were trying to figure out that stuff, we felt there are too many balls in the air,” WIAA sports and activities director Casey Johnson said.
Because ROOT Sports has one production truck, it is limited to one site.
“You can’t be two places at two different times or move (the truck),” Jorgensen said. “Once you set it up you sent it up the day before it takes a day to break it down.”
The network, which has broadcast games at Sparks Stadium in the past, said ratings and potential audience did not factor into its decision, and that while attendance may correspond with the size of each classification, that’s not necessarily the case with viewership.
“Quite frankly there isn’t anyone in the country that does high school sports for ratings,” Jorgensen said. “It really is a spectator sport for those families within those schools mostly. Our ratings have really, to be honest, have never been anything you would even write about. It’s community relations-type programming.”
Both parties have agreed to terms, and the contract is expected to be signed in the next week or so, Johnson said.