The College Football Network Is Coming?
By Joseph Lisi-GOFORTHE2
When will television executives finally get it right? Over the past 7 years, college football fans have witnessed the birth of many new sports stations. The Big 10 Network, the Longhorn Network, the former Mountain West Network, CBS College Sports Network and the PAC-12 Network. On August 17th, 2013, Fox Sports launched 2 brand new stations in Fox Sports 1 and Fox Sports 2. These new channels have many business analysts stating that these stations can compete with ESPN for viewership. Both stations will carry an array of sports ranging from NASCAR to college athletics. Coming in 2014, the birth of the SEC Network will be born. The SEC has won 7 straight BCS National Championships and will partner with ESPN to carry the network. College football is a billion dollar a year industry and The SEC Conference raked in an amazing $289.4 million in the fiscal year 2012-2013. A huge portion of the league’s profits are due to the football programs of each school and the league’s television contracts to broadcast college football. When looking at these figures and watching the programming on these respective stations, it leaves the college football fan scratching their heads. The television executives and the conferences are on the right path, however, they are failing when delivering the goods.
For me it all started with ESPN Classic, back in 1995 (formerly Classic Sports Network), old classic college football games back on your television. All-time great players like Bo Jackson, Hershcel Walker, Doug Flutie and Johnny Rodgers playing right before your eyes. These games brought back great memories and filled the void left during the offseason of college football. It was a taste of what could have been. Then for some reason, the programming changed. During the offseason, instead of watching old college football matchups like Georgia vs. Tennessee-fans were treated to billiards, boxing, bowling , home run derby and basketball games. How could this be? The concept of showing classic games in the offseason, is to give fans a life line. Any true football fan knows that the time between February to August is as brutal as climbing Mount Everest. Symptoms of the withdrawal include irritability, palpitations and confusion. These quickly subside when the 1st Thursday night game kicks off each year. However, ESPN executives and programming wizards decided they wanted to capture every sports audience. I mean the audience of the professional billiards tour is staggering, haven’t you heard. Like ground hog day, ESPN Classic quickly became regurgitated programming. The same old games played every year, over and over again, until it made one want to puke.
In 2006, along came the Big 10 Network. Finally, I thought, this was the answer to my prayers. They would get it right. The station started out with fire, the 1985 Michigan vs. Iowa matchup was playing on my television. The game, in which Haden Fry’s team prevailed at home and knocked off the #2 ranked Wolverines. Now that is what I am talking about. The next game I watched was the 1989 Ohio State vs. Minnesota game, played in the Metrodome. The Gophers jumped out to a 31-0 lead in the 2nd quarter, before OSU QB Greg Frey led the comeback and OSU prevailed 41-37. My thoughts, “now that is how a college football fan should be spending their offseason”. However, fast forward the clock to 2013 and this offseason. It is March and I chomping at the bit. I decide to put on the Big 10 Network, and what do I see on my screen-swimming! The other stations of the PAC 12, the Longhorn Network and the CBS College Sports Network have all followed suit. Swimming, water polo, wrestling, baseball, and basketball are all great sports , however, I do not want to see them on my television screen during the offseason.
Here is my solution to this problem. The birth of the the College Football Network. College Football -24 hours a day and 7 days a week. Classic matchups of the Big 8 conference, the SEC , the Big 10, Big 12, ACC , Big East would flood your television set. Players like Major Harris, Chris Speilman, Keith Byars, Zebbie Lethridge, Terrance Flagler, David Palmer, Harvey Williams, and Andy Kelly racing across your HD television in the month of March. How does that sound? My suggestion may seem crazy, but I have a strong foundation for my defense. The revenue brought in by college football, is the most of any sport in college athletics by far. The numbers are not even close. Many schools would not even have athletic programs, if it was not for their college football teams. When looking at the professional leagues, there is the NFL Network, the MLB Network , the NHL Network and NBA TV. Those stations are sport specific, not league or conference specific. That is the difference. While in my opinion, I feel that the SEC Network will do its best to meet this expectation, they will miss the mark as well. There needs to be a station that the college football fan can tune into any time ,day and month to see the best sport around-college football! Until the fans get that ‘fix”, television executives and league presidents will be failing to accomplish the ultimate goal. It is time to give the fans what they deserve- the opportunity to watch their favorite sport around the clock.
Joseph Lisi is a former ABC Sports college football researcher. He is the owner of www.NCAABLITZ.com and www.GOFORTHE2.COM. You can follow him on youtube at: Mrjal2230 or on Twitter @goforthe2