Winthrop contest to air on WMYT

It won't be in high definition, but live coverage of the Winthrop Eagles' NCAA tournament game against Washington State Thursday will be on local cable television.

The game in Denver was in danger of a local blackout when two local channels opted for another game, but WMYT (Comporium cable Channel 12, Channel 55 over the air) has arranged to broadcast the 7:20 p.m. game live, a station official said Tuesday afternoon.

CBS has exclusive rights to broadcast all NCAA tournament games, but Charlotte affiliate WBTV, the local home of all other tournament broadcasts, said it will not carry the game. A station official said WBTV will instead broadcast the Duke vs. Belmont game, which begins at 7:10 p.m. Thursday.

Spartanburg CBS affiliate WSPA (Comporium cable Channel 7) originally scheduled the Winthrop vs. Washington State game, but said Tuesday it, too, dropped the Eagles in favor of Duke, a team that commands excellent regional and national TV ratings.

Because WBTV and WSPA are the only two local CBS affiliates, Eagle basketball fans were in jeopardy of missing the big game.

But WMYT on Tuesday morning finalized an agreement to carry the game in its entirety, including pre- and post-game coverage, station general manager Will Davis said. Davis said WMYT, whose parent company, Capitol Broadcasting, owns two CBS affiliates in other markets, should be accessible to most fans in the region because it reaches 2.5 million viewers in 22 counties surrounding Charlotte.

"Anybody who would have watched Winthrop on WBTV will be able to watch with us," he said. "We have the same electronic footprint."

Viewers with DirectTV or DISH Network satellite service can watch the game by tuning in to WMYT (Channel 55 in most areas) or purchasing the tournament package, which includes all the games. Tournament games also will be carried online through the Web site CBSsportsline.com.

While Winthrop has taken a back seat to Duke on Charlotte's CBS affiliate, the Eagles have found a fan in Columbia. WLTX, the CBS affiliate in the Midlands, said it will carry all Winthrop games during the tournament.

"We plan to follow the Eagles to the Final Four," general manager Rich O'Dell said in an e-mail to The Herald.

O'Dell said WLTX will broadcast Winthrop games on its flagship channel 19 and other games on its digital channels.

A local broadcast of Winthrop was a big victory for local bars and restaurants planning to show the game.

"That's awesome. We're expecting a huge crowd," said Sam Cantu, owner of Sammy's Sports Bar and Grille on Cherry Road.

Cantu, who purchased the former Beef O'Brady's in December, said he relies on local cable for his television service and a Duke game instead of the Eagles wouldn't have flown with his customers.

"We would have been sitting here empty," he said.