Scott Rabalais: LSU-Furman game marks end of TigerVision

LSU’s game against Furman on Saturday night will for many take on the trappings of a necessary but unsatisfying ritual.

The game must be played Saturday night, likely the last night game in Tiger Stadium for LSU this season. It will be homecoming, and the band will belt out tunes (albeit a censored list) and the newly crowned homecoming queen will cry. Mike VI will climb into his mobile cage and growl his way around the field through the sharpening October air — if he feels like it, that is.

There will be a palpable sense of “let’s get it over with” hovering over the entire proceeding. Record the score, sing the alma mater, count the gate and take a week off before a still stirring, if less meaningful, LSU-Alabama game on Nov. 9, a matchup dulled by the Tigers’ 27-24 loss at Ole Miss last week.

Up in the press box, tucked into the high-rent district of Tiger Stadium’s upper west side, and in the production truck out in the parking lot, there will be folks crafting the telecast of Saturday’s game who won’t be sharing in the pervading “by the numbers” sentiment of the day.

That’s because LSU-Furman will be the last game for TigerVision, LSU’s in-house pay-per-view network.

After 31 years it ends for TigerVision not with a bang but with an acquisition. The SEC Network is coming to a high-definition flat screen near you next season, and part of the deal is the Southeastern Conference’s 14 member schools have to give up their rights for pay-per-view telecasts. All broadcast rights for football games will go to the SEC office, which in turn will shell out what some expect will be an additional $20-25 million per school per fiscal year once the SEC Network reaches its full distribution reach.

In the face of such riches, sentiment stands about as much chance as a trembling blade of grass on a levee at flood stage. But for men like color analyst Rene Nadeau, who has called TigerVision games for 15 years alongside play-by-play man Doug Greengard, sentiment still abides.

“Without a doubt it’s going to be a bittersweet game,” said Nadeau, who calls about 20 college and high school games per year all told.

“People think so much of LSU football. I’ve been so blessed to do it all these years.

“It’s been a great ride. I think of all the fans who let us come into their living rooms and to their barbecues. And we’re one of them.”

It’s hard to remember now, but back when it came on the air back in 1982, TigerVision was a pioneer on the college broadcasting landscape.

The brainchild of then-athletic director Bob Brodhead, TigerVision’s first football telecast was Oct. 23, 1982, a 14-6 victory over South Carolina which was also LSU’s homecoming game. Pro Football Hall of Famers and former Green Bay Packers teammates Paul Hornung and Jimmy Taylor (himself an All-American at LSU) called the game.

Back then, TigerVision did as many as seven LSU football games a year. There were LSU basketball telecasts, too, and a first-ever channel that carried other taped and live LSU minor sporting events, an early ancestor of the Longhorn Network, if you will. The TigerVision channel lived less than a year but the pay-per-view games endured, even if the vision that led to their creation ended up being a little short-sighted.

“If you have your choice of seeing it in person or on TV, you will go to the game every time,” Brodhead said in 1982. After 15,000 no shows opted for their TVs instead of showing up for the Florida game earlier this month, that’s no longer necessarily the case.

Next season, instead of TigerVision, a game like LSU-Furman would likely wind up on the SEC Network. SEC and former LSU spokesman Herb Vincent said the conference’s weekly TV package will continue to include a CBS game, games on the ESPN networks and three games on the SEC Network with early, afternoon and evening kickoff slots.

Nadeau said he and Greengard will reflect on the final broadcast at some point, but not so much that it detracts from the game itself.

“I’m not going to make it too personal,” he said. “Hopefully what Doug is going to say is what I can say, which is how special it was. It’s sad going out, but it’s better to have done it than to not.”

And TigerVision did it before anyone.