Saturday, January 1, 2011

No TV football this New Year's Day?

(Univ. of Mich. drum major David Hines Jr. by David Guralnick, The Detroit News)

College football is my game. It’s erratic. The moods and moves of young football players never fail to surprise, and there are plenty of upsets. But with a total of three – count ‘em, three – games on broadcast TV, the college bowl system is no longer what it was.

To paraphrase Churchill, this is not the beginning of the end of bowl games as we once knew them. It is the end of the beginning of an all-new college bowl system.

Follow the money. TV execs decided to not bid against ESPN for broadcast rights to the remaining 32 bowl games. I didn’t really notice or care until it interrupted my annual New Year’s Day ritual. For me, New Year’s Day is “pro scouting day.” It’s relaxing. It’s the culmination of the season’s drama, NCAA sanctions, player mishaps and coaching scandals.

But as a committed member of the “Rabbit Ears Coalition” (we who do not have cable/satellite), there is only one bowl game at my house this New Years Day, the totally inconsequential Outback Bowl between 7 and 5’s Penn State (coached by 84-year old Joe Paterno) and Florida (coached by 46 year-old Urban Meyer). Good players, good coaches, should be a decent game. But there’s no Sugar Bowl, no Fiesta Bowl, no Orange Bowl for we broadcast patrons.

NBC opted for the outdoor NHL game. ABC wants to get us hyped up for the sci-fi drama “V,” so they’re showing last season’s closing episodes. CBS chose “48 Hours.” Fox is sticking with “Cops” and “America’s Most Wanted.” The networks have no enthusiasm at all for the college football audience (compared to the cost of buying the TV rights). Are they right? Does the college football fan only want games that “matter” in the form of a college football playoff system?

A word on I had a glimmer of hope that I could go on line to watch a game. I’ve figured out how to cross the “living room divide” and get the internet on my TV (S-video cable from an older laptop or Wii Internet). Alas, my provider (Qwest) does not have access to The good folks in Bristol did provide me a comment page to “ask my provider” to offer access to Does that mean Qwest has to pay ESPN the same way cable/satellite providers pay for content? I’m certain of it.

So that’s the game, and those are the players. I am finally convinced that to get my bowl games back on “Free TV,” a playoff system is required. “Games that matter” will bring back the audiences, and the major networks will pay up. Dang. I understand progress, but I kind of liked things the way they were. stayed up late and wrote the first blog on the dearth of TV bowl games found on my Google search.

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