On Saturday afternoon, along with plenty of local high school football fans, I’ll be in Rockford, watching Prairie Ridge take on Boylan in what should be a close high school football game.
I won’t, as I have done all year, be calling the game on our McHenryCountySports.com webcast.
That is not by choice. That is because, when the IHSA has someone in its network webcasting a game, we cannot. A monopoly, if you will.
If you aren’t in Rockford to watch either Harvard or Prairie Ridge play, expect to pay $10 to even catch a glimpse, unless you have an Xfinity password. If I had one, I’d share it with you here. The same applies to the Crystal Lake South volleyball team’s matches in Normal.
The IHSA continues to believe it owns high school football (and now other sports) in Illinois. Your kids, your tax dollars, its payday.
But the money aspect is new, and you should expect it to only get worse. We certainly did.
Last year, before the third round of the high school football playoffs, the IHSA decided it would change the rules. It began charging local media outlets to webcast playoff games and, more importantly, asserted that it could monopolize any game it chose.
If the IHSA chose to webcast the game, no one else could. And it was enforced immediately, with little warning, with a bullying mentality to the point of scaring one local athletic director so much that he was fearful his team would be kicked out of the playoffs if we were allowed to webcast.
The Northwest Herald saw through this plan. We believed the IHSA had a plan that ran deeper. Now, that has come to fruition through high school sports pay-per-view.
That’s why we decided to fight it last year, with help from the Illinois Press Association.
We felt the IHSA’s claims violated a previous agreement the IHSA and IPA had. That agreement had come into place when the IHSA attempted to monopolize photography at the state finals for its own gain.
In last year’s court case, we did not win. The judge felt the webcast technology was new and not included in the previous agreement regarding photography and video.
The IHSA touted its victory with a news release, its first comments during the ordeal.
Now, it has decided to change the rules again.
Now, it will impact you directly.
Last year, the IHSA blocked us from webcasting the Montini-Marian Central football game. This year, we’re blocked out of the quarterfinals and beyond.
The IHSA has continued to act like this was an issue of the news media profiting off games. That simply is not true.
Our local sponsors this season, and every season, have made Friday Night Live possible. But we are certainly not getting rich off those games. Most weeks, we are lucky to break even with the staffing involved.
But we continue to webcast games, and local fans continue to watch.
The reality is that the IHSA has been plotting to slowly, and (it must have hoped) quietly profit off these games. And do it at your expense.
Now, that has begun.
Last year, the IHSA stuck it to us.
Now, it’s sticking it to you.
We responded. Will you?
• Northwest Herald sports editor Jon Styf can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @JonStyf.