At a time when WGN-TV is losing rights to major-league teams to cable, one organization has decided to bring back games to local TV.
As first reported Monday by the Chicago Tribune, the Illinois High School Association – or IHSA for short – has struck a deal with Chicago-based Weigel Broadcasting to air state title games in football in November and title games in boys and girls basketball in February and March.
The games are slated to air on what is known now as “The U Too”, on WCIU Channel 26.2 and WMEU Channel 48.1 and various channel numbers on cable and satellite systems (with the exception of DirecTV who as of this writing, does not carry The U Too at all.
Beginning September 1, The U Too is being re-branded as “The U” – the same brand currently on the main WCIU channel (26.1) but beginning on this date, becomes a CW affiliate branded as “CW 26”.
CW programming currently airs on Fox-owned WPWR, who also doubles as a My Network TV affiliate. Even though the affiliation change has been known for months, WPWR is still being branded as “CW 50” as there is no word on what WPWR would be known as come September 1.
The U Too has aired high school sports for years, and will continue to do so under “The U”.
The move by the IHSA to once again establish an ad-hoc network of stations comes as the organization opted not to renew its deal with NBC Sports Chicago, who’ll take exclusive control of Chicago Bulls, Blackhawks, and White Sox games next year while the Chicago Cubs launch a new regional sports network called Marquee. In the past, IHSA games have aired on WGN, WPWR, and WMAQ’s former Non-Stop Chicago digital subchannel (now known as Cozi TV) not to mention Comcast SportsNet, the forerunner to NBC Sports Chicago. This also comes as the IHSA has revamped its basketball tournament system starting in the 2021-22 season, but paired down to only four days.
The new TV deal run though the 2021-22 season, the first year of the new playoff system.
Among the other broadcast groups to air IHSA tournament games include Quincy Media and Nexstar, whose company is in the process of acquiring WGN owner Tribune Media.
(Editor’s Note: This story was updated on 2019-07-30 to remove now-irrelevant information from the article. Also, the day September 1 lands on was incorrect – it’s Sunday, not Saturday. T Dog Media apologizes for the errors.)