6/30 Roundtable - The National Title On ESPN?

Posted Jun 30, 2009

6/30 Roundtable - Does it matter that the BCS, including the national title, is moving to ESPN in 2011? It's the Tuesday topic in the CFN Daily Roundtable Discussion.

CFN Daily Roundtables

June 30

Does it matter that the BCS will move to ESPN in 2011?

Over the next several weeks, as part of the CFN 2009 Preview, we'll examine some of the key questions going into the year with a daily discussion of the big topics.

Past Roundtables
June 29 What's the best non-BCS program?
June 26
What rule would you like to see changed?

June 25
What is wrong with the Big Ten?

June 24 The 3 big non-conference games

June 23 The Coach On The Biggest Hot Seat Is ... ?
June 22 The No. 5 team will be ... ?

June 19
The most underrated team will be ... ?

June 18 The most overrated team will be ... ?
June 17 The sleeper national title teams
June 16 Do 40 Times Really Matter?
June 15 Does college football need a Rooney Rule?
June 12 Should Alabama vacate wins?
June 11 Should college football players be paid?
June 10 Is the recruiting hype too much?
June 9 If you were starting an NFL team ...
June 8 Where would you take over as head coach?
June 5 Who does the least with the most?
June 4 Who does the most with the least?
June 3 The star players of September
June 2 The star teams of September
June 1 The coach you'd want for one game
May 28 Should the Big Ten expand, and if so, then what team should be added?
May 27 Should the Pac 10 expand? If so, then what two teams should be added?
May 26 Chizik, Kiffin or Mullen?
May 25 Heisman race sleepers 
May 22 2009's most interesting teams

May 21 Is Tebow the best QB ever?
May 20 When should preseason polls come out?
May 19 Does 2008 Utah have a beef?
May 18
No BCS, No Weis?

Pete Fiutak, CFN

Yes, I'm part of the problem. You can check me out at twitter.com/CFN_Fiu and find out future roundtable topics and other random musings.

Q: Does it matter that all the BCS games, including the BCS Championship, will be on ESPN in 2011?

Technically, no. ESPN is fantastic at doing college football with a pregame show that continues to be the best in the business, and an end of the day wrap up with Rece Davis, Lou Holtz, and Mark May that's second only to TNT's NBA coverage when it comes to being both interesting and entertaining. But from a prestige factor, the move of our beloved national championship to cable has put it, and college football, on the fast track to second-tier status.

ESPN has claimed that there's no difference anymore in the minds of sports fans between network television and ESPN. Forgetting that roughly 20 million more households have Fox than have ESPN, the logic is flawed as far as the prestige value. Would the Super Bowl ever go to ESPN? No, but why not? If there's no difference between ABC and ESPN, then why not put the NFL's championship on cable? Because it's the Super Bowl. The BCS Championship isn't the Super Bowl, but it's the third most important sporting event in America with the entirety of the NCAA men's basketball tournament No. 2 (although not the Final Four), and it deserves the biggest spotlight possible.

Monday Night Football used to be a weekly event, but now it's just another game blurred into the mass of ESPN programming, while the Sunday night game on NBC has become the NFL's new showcase event. Part of the reason is that NBC gets the biggest games with the flex scheduling, but part of the reason is the feeling that it's important enough to have a primetime network slot to go up against Desperate Housewives, HBO, and the rest of the prime programming. What's ABC going to put on in place of the BCS Championship? Wipeout? Some show where they give more houses to needy families? Who cares?

On ESPN, the game is self-contained. Only sports fans will watch ESPN, and for those of us who love the sport, we'll get all day coverage of the event geared towards the die-hards. If it's on ABC, the national championship is part of the culture. On ESPN, the game will be on, there will be post-game coverage, and then yet another poker tournament will be on. If the national title game is on ABC, it'll get casual fans to tune in who don't know what channel ESPN is on the dial, or don't have the expanded cable package, and it'll have the feel of something important. That's more important for a sport than it might appear from a straight business aspect. If it's not important enough to be on network TV, it's going to eventually be pigeon-holed as a niche even and will be ignored by the same casual sports fans who stay away from other big sports on cable in droves.

Really, it doesn't matter too much to anyone other than really silly people like me. To me, this is the jump-the-shark moment that baseball took when the playoffs went on TBS, or TNT, or whichever one of the two isn't showing Shawshank Redemption that night, but it's not as massive a move as the one made by the NHL when it sold out to wilderness of Versus. ESPN will do a great job, and the more Chris Fowler, the better. However, if there's a Stuart Scott sighting of any kind, I'm going to break something tasteful.

Richard Cirminiello, CFN

Q: Does it matter that all the BCS games, including the BCS Championship, will be on ESPN in 2011?

Sure it does. It should matter to anyone, who enjoys watching college football in January.

To me, Fox just didn’t measure up to the magnitude of these games, so I’m one who’ll be happy to see them go after this regular season. It was a bad fit from the outset.

ESPN, whether you love it or hate it, will make sure that the BCS games are in good hands. No one does college football better. Period. Heck, it covers the sport for 12 months, providing a year-long connection to the fans, and has the best stable of announcers. Fox fumbled this opportunity badly. ESPN will pick up the loose ball, take it back for a score, and then probably get flagged for excessive celebration. Yeah, some of its on-air staff can be more annoying than the ShamWow guy, but nobody on the planet does a better job of covering college sports. And for that reason, the change in network coverage from Fox to ESPN will wind up being a resounding win for the viewing audience.

Matthew Zemek, CFN

Q: Does it matter that all the BCS games, including the BCS Championship, will be on ESPN in 2011?

In the sense that our media landscape will be incredibly different just two or three (let alone eight or nine) years from now, no—it won’t. But from the standpoint of the low-income individual who cannot afford cable channels on top of free broadcast networks, yeah, this definitely matters. Any showcase sporting event—you don’t need to be a rocket scientist to make the relevant identifications—should be on a regular network, a channel one doesn’t have to pay for. At least, that’s the situation as it currently stands.

The Obama Administration was supposed to have pressured the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) about re-doing cable packages so that they could be arranged a la carte, thereby saving the consumer a lot of dough and giving Mr. and Mrs. Remote Control real leverage in deciding just how many stations they want to pull into their living room. But since Mr. President has been unresponsive and/or beholden to moneyed interests on this issue (one hopes it’s the former, but suspects it’s the latter), a struggling or impoverished football fan deserves to have ABC or some other non-cable outlet televise the BCS title game and the other showcase bowls. You can always give the FCC a call—it would be recommended that you do so. In the meantime, lament ESPN’s premature takeover of the BCS franchise.

Hunter Ansley, Publisher, DraftZoo.com

Q: Does it matter that all the BCS games, including the BCS Championship, will be on ESPN in 2011?

A: I’ve already suffered through one bowl season without cable television in my lifetime.  And it was awful.  But the saving grace was the fact that the big bowls were still within range of my rabbit ears.  Now, I know that all the channels have switched over to digital broadcasts and yada yada yada, but this is an injustice.

What’s next?  The NFL Playoffs?  The World Series?  ESPN is great for those slightly smaller Saturday matchups, and for hardcore fans you can catch a random Purdue-Central Michigan matchup on occasion.  But for the BCS Bowls this makes no sense.  You’re taking a great, primetime, network event and moving it to a smaller channel.  ABC, FOX, and even CBS are all fine places to host these games, but now that ESPN has gotten a hold of them, it’s minimizing the sport.  College football is not table tennis or dachshund racing or a spelling bee.  It’s a huge sport.  It belongs on a big channel that is available to everyone. 

Pretty soon these games will be a pay-per-view event sandwiched between amateur boxing and whatever Ron Jeremy’s up to these days.