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Love them or hate them, TV timeouts worth millions

[ 0 ] September 27, 2013 |
Television liaison Joel Oswald waits on the sideline during the Hawkeyes' game against Western Michigan at Kinnick Stadium on Saturday, Sept. 21, 2013. David Scrivner / Iowa City Press-Citizen

Television liaison Joel Oswald waits on the sideline during the Hawkeyes’ game against Western Michigan at Kinnick Stadium on Saturday, Sept. 21, 2013. David Scrivner / Iowa City Press-Citizen

Joel Oswald might be the most despised person at Kinnick Stadium.

“I’m the most hated man out there, I recognize that,” Oswald said.

Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz even gets annoyed by Oswald’s presence, but just like the Iowa fans, it’s nothing personal.

Oswald became the subject of ridicule and scorn when he took over this season as the new television liaison for Iowa football games.

He’s the guy in the red hat who signals on the field when to stop and resume play for television timeouts. He’s the guy who brings the game to a halt, which some fans say sucks the life out of the viewing experience.

“Television timeouts, especially early in the game, they really take the mojo out of the crowd for both teams,” said Scott Christophersen, who has been attending Iowa football games at Kinnick Stadium on a regular basis since the late 1970s. “I understand advertising and all that stuff. But between video replay and TV timeouts, it’s kind of ridiculous.”

Combine each of the quarter breaks, which last 3 minutes, 15 seconds, with the three breaks per quarter that last at least two minutes and it adds up to about 30 minutes of television timeouts. All four of Iowa’s games this season have lasted at least three hours, topped by the season opener against Northern Illinois at Kinnick Stadium, which took three hours and 37 minutes to complete.

“Yeah, they’re not a lot of fun,” Ferentz said of television timeouts. “I don’t think anybody on the field enjoys those, unless it just comes at one of those rare, opportune moments, but it’s probably like everybody else, here we go, one of those deals.”

That’s not entirely true.

For Iowa senior linebacker Christian Kirksey, television timeouts always come at opportune times. In addition to starting on defense, Kirksey also plays on special teams.

“Every time you can get a little a break, you obviously want to take advantage of that and try to get your wind back, so TV timeouts are great for us,” Kirksey said. “Whenever you want a break and they give you a break, that’s love.”

That love is worth millions of dollars in advertising revenue, which the Big Ten schools share.

According to a report in May by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, each Big Ten school will receive $25.7 million from the conference for the past fiscal year, which ended June 30. The Big Ten Network will contribute $7.6 million to that record-high figure, and another $10.9 million apiece will come from television deals with ABC and ESPN.

The Post-Dispatch cited figures obtained by the University of Illinois.

“That’s what is paying the bills,” Oswald said. “At the end of the day, if we want to have sports on TV and if you want to have college football on television, you have to have TV timeouts. That’s what is paying to get it on the air. And that gets into the revenue sharing of the conference and the conference gives that money back to the institutions.”

Oswald sympathizes with fans because he has attended Iowa games and sat through all the television timeouts.

“It’s probably not the most fan friendly thing out there,” Oswald said. “When I’m not doing this, I’m sitting in the stands. Yeah, it gets annoying I suppose. But it’s a necessary evil. We have to have it.

“The heat has been brutal. And I feel for the fans. It’s hot standing on the sideline. It’s hot for the guys on the field.”

Oswald said television producers, with whom he communicates throughout a game, try with each broadcast to establish a flow to the game. Producers also take into account what’s happening on the field before deciding when to break for a commercial.

“Fans talk about flow, and each producer is different and each network is different, but we try to maintain a flow out there,” Oswald said. “It’s a combination of the referee, the white hat on the field, a little bit of my job as the red hat, but mainly the TV producer.

“If there is a turnover inside the 40-yard line, a change of possession, we don’t want to take a break there. That’s a momentum killer. If somebody runs the opening kick back for a touchdown, we don’t want a break there. It’s about finding a little bit of a balance to where those breaks occur so that there is more flow to the game.”

Oswald had put the word out that he was looking to get involved with the gameday experience and learned through friends that the television liaison job was available.

“This is kind of a first step,” Oswald said.

Oswald appreciates wearing a headset during games because it spares him from hearing verbal abuse — at least most of time. Oswald heard a fan call him out during the Missouri State game Sept. 7.

“He just screamed, ‘Red hat get off the field,’” Oswald said. “The best part of it is you have a headset on so you can’t hear most of what the people are saying.”

Reach Pat Harty at 339-7370 or pharty@press-citizen.com.

Category: Iowa Hawkeyes Football

About Pat Harty: Columnist Pat Harty has been covering the Iowa Hawkeyes for the Press-Citizen since 1991. Originally from Des Moines, he currently writes columns and covers Hawkeye men's basketball for Hawk Central. View author profile.

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