If you're a fan of men's volleyball and you don't have a participating university nearby where you live, you were hard pressed to find a way to watch it in 2012. Short of BYU TV, the sport was virtually nonexistent on the tube with very few matches short of the Final Four appearing on television. Some schools are fortunate enough to have webcasts, but if you're not available to watch it live, you're out of luck because on-demand viewing is mostly not an option. Listening to matches via internet radio or watching GameTracker leave much to be desired.
Into the void steps the Pac-12 Network. Well, sort of.
Though the Pac-12 Conference does not offer men's volleyball, three Pac-12 universities (Stanford, UCLA and USC) compete in the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation (MPSF,) giving the fledgling television network an impetus to carry the games. At least some of them.
While one could complain that there are not enough matches being carried by the Pac-12 Network, long-time volleyball fans know that we shouldn't look a gift horse in the mouth here. The Pac-12 Network has pledged to carry a minimum of 14 matches in the 2013 season, nine of which are regular season matches that are already on the schedule. We can only hope that will lead to more in the coming years. The debut was the Stanford @ USC match on January 18th and the final regular season match is currently scheduled to be USC @ UCLA on April 12th. The rest of the scheduled matches are listed below.
But the broadcasts aren't just limited to Pac-12 schools, a few others will benefit from the new coverage as well. UCI, Pepperdine and Pacific will be included in their matches against Pac-12 Universities. New UCI head coach David Kniffin said that new TV requirements have already made an impact on scheduling. His Anteaters had a whopping 12 matches in January, many on Tuesday and Wednesday, which made it difficult to get the usual early season practice time that they count on for development. The Anteaters won their televised Pac-12 Network match against UCLA this past Tuesday.
Only UCLA suffered a similar fate. John Speraw's Bruins also had 12 matches in January, half taking place on Tuesday and Wednesday, but the other schools involved did not have such vicious schedules. Stanford had eight matches in January, with only one scheduled mid-week. USC had seven matches scheduled for the month (not including the alumni game) and zero were mid-week matches.
Whether the intense schedule had anything to do with the team's success is questionable at best. UCI did lose three matches in a row in January but managed to turn that around before month's end. UCLA lost four of their 12 matches while Stanford and USC lost just two with their less demanding schedules. The MPSF is often volatile at this time of year so it is difficult to place the blame on the scheduling as all of this will likely iron itself out over the next month.
One problem that is significant though is the network's accessibility. DirecTV has gone on record to say they won't carry it, and the Pac-12 Network has yet to broker deals with other popular satellite companies. If your provider doesn't carry the station, you can't view the matches online.
So, fans of men's volleyball, the news is mixed. Yes, this is a great step toward getting more matches on TV. The step isn't big enough, but it is a start.
2013 Pac-12 Network Men's Volleyball Broadcasts
Stanford @ USC 1/18
UCLA @ Stanford 1/22
UCLA @ UCI 1/29
UCLA @ USC 2/18
USC @ Pacific 3/2
USC @ Stanford 3/3
Stanford @ UCLA 3/10
Pepperdine @ USC 3/21
USC @ UCLA 4/12