It was a college football weekend to remember as the 2021 season nears its completion with the playing of the Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic in Arlington, Texas and the Capital One Orange Bowl in Miami. Neither game was particularly close in terms of the final score, as defending national champion Alabama pummeled Cincinnati 27-6 in the Cotton Bowl, while Georgia similarly crushed Michigan 34-11 in the Orange Bowl, making for an intriguing rematch (the two teams met in the 2018 Championship Game) to close out the college football season.
ESPN’s signature program College GameDay was woven throughout Friday’s action, broadcasting live from outside Hard Rock Stadium in Miam. The show, which was also broadcast on the SEC Network, was hosted by Rece Davis, and featured college football analysts Lee Corso, Kirk Herbstreit, Desmond Howard and David Pollack breaking down each matchup and making their predictions as to who would win. The show’s production and advertising have markedly changed since its launch in 1987 with Tim Brando, Beano Cook and Lee Corso, the latter of which is still on the air today.
“GameDay was maybe a 90-minute show,” said Howard, who has been on the program since he joined ESPN in 2005. “Now, we have a three-hour show. It’s changed dramatically from a sponsorship deal and to the extent to which we cover college football. You have more hours to fill [and] more time to fill.”
David Pollack joined College GameDay in 2011 amid the extension of the show’s air-time with the first hour airing on ESPNU and its addition of Erin Andrews to the panel of analysts. As a three-time All-American defensive end at the University of Georgia, Pollack frequently watched GameDay and has been thrilled to be a part of it as an analyst since he made his debut.
“I watched it over the years since I was in college, and [have] seen it evolve and grow bigger and bigger and bigger,” said Pollack. “The audience and the following [have] grown bigger, [and] to be a part of it has been really cool.”
College GameDay started doing broadcasts live from college campuses in 1993, with a multitude of fans congregating around the set to express their zeal towards their team and to be seen on national television. Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic though, protocols to ensure the health and safety of all parties involved have prevented some of the prior congregation and interaction between fans and commentators from taking place.
“Before COVID, we would have fans come up and take pictures after the show was over,” explained Howard. “We had sponsors too, [and] we would have a tent where we would sign autographs. That has pretty much been eliminated because of COVID.”
Pollack added that there is no longer VIP access available backstage, and that anyone going on the set has to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19, consistent with restrictions that have been implemented across several U.S. cities, including New York City and San Francisco.
Following a two-year stretch of empty stadiums and/or restricted capacities, along with stringent protocols, a feeling of pandemic fatigue has become prevalent around the world. Undoubtedly, a sign of progress in reaching an ostensible new normal comes in seeing industries like sports media adapt to continue producing stellar content across multiple platforms to be consumed by its audience. For the commentators on College GameDay, bringing viewers coverage from bowl games and championships is something they are genuinely excited to keep doing as the world looks to cease the pandemic and transition into a new lifestyle.
Derek Futterman is a features reporter for Barrett Sports Media. In addition, he serves as the production manager for the New York Islanders Radio Network and lead sports producer at NY2C. He has also worked on live game broadcasts for the Long Island Nets and New York Riptide. He previously interned for Paramount within Showtime Networks and wrote for The Long Island Herald. To get in touch, find him on Twitter @derekfutterman.
Nick Wright: The Best Version of First Things First is What We’re Doing Now
“I used to approach the TV show with the perspective of I have to prove how smart I am to the audience every single day.”
Nick Wright has been a co-host on First Things First on FS1 for the last five-and-a-half years. The show has evolved over the years and according to Wright, he has evolved as a broadcaster from the time he got cut from doing play-by-play at WAER in Syracuse to now.
Wright was a guest on The Colin Cowherd Podcast this week and he said that when he first appeared on television, he wanted the audience to think he had all the answers, but the mindset has changed for him and he said the new version of the show that he does with Kevin Wildes and Chris Broussard every weekday is the most successful version of the show.
“When I got on TV, I think the first year maybe, I thought the job was to always have all the answers. To have the facts exactly right, to never be wrong. I’ve now done the show for five-and-a-half years. By a country mile, the most successful version of the show is the one I’m doing right now — this moment — with Wildes and Broussard. It’s the funniest and that’s why.
“I used to approach the TV show with the perspective of I have to prove how smart I am to the audience every single day. Now I approach it as our entire goal is to put on a show that people smile while they are watching and have a good time and that has enough meat to it where it is not all empty calories. There’s got to be the information, there’s got to be the analysis, but there’s also got to be a lot of bells and whistles and funny stuff and guys messing with each other and that’s what works. That took me a while to figure out.”
The only time when Wright didn’t think he had to prove how smart he was when he first appeared on TV was when he would appear on The Herd as Cowherd’s guest and he had a goal in mind whenever he would appear on the show.
“Early in our relationship, I was really, really trying to impress you and I wanted to make you laugh. Every time I came on, I was like ‘It’s successful if I made Colin laugh’. I was too stupid to realize I should just be trying to make the audience laugh, too… That was the best version of me at the time. I felt like you knew I was smart, so I wasn’t trying to prove it to you. I could be the best version of myself.”
While Wright knows he is not a traditional broadcaster, he mentioned to Cowherd that there is one skill set he definitely knows he has.
“The point is I’m not a great broadcaster, like a traditional broadcaster. I can’t read off a teleprompter, but there is a specific thing I can do, which is confidently argue, whether it’s 1-on-1 with my wife or in front of a million people.”
Even though Wright got cut from doing play-by-play at Syracuse, he told Cowherd he was doing talk shows at the station still and it led him to where he is today.
“I was fortunate that I was already working on the talk-show staff. Growing up, I thought I wanted to do play-by-play, but what I wanted to do was color commentary. I would watch the NBA on NBC with Bob Costas, Bill Walton, and Steve ‘Snapper’ Jones and what I wanted to do was the color, but I didn’t realize you can’t do that unless you are a former player or a former coach. They aren’t hiring me to do commentary
“I was crushed, but it made me fully pivot to talk shows. Now at WAER, the talk show studio is named after me and my picture is on the wall. I am a Hall of Famer there. Bob Costas, Marv Albert, Nick Wright, those are the three studios there.”
Ricky Keeler is a reporter for BSM with a primary focus on sports media podcasts and national personalities. He is also an active podcaster with an interest in pursuing a career in sports media. You can find him on Twitter @Rickinator555 or reach him by email at RickJKeeler@gmail.com.
Outside the Lines Won’t Return to ESPN Weekend Schedule
The show, which debuted in 1990, aired as a daily show from 2003 to 2019 and aired a Sunday-edition from 2000 to 2017.
ESPN has decided to not return Outside the Lines to its weekend lineup, ending the show’s linear television run.
A report from John Ourand of Sports Business Journal claims ESPN told OTL staffers that the show wouldn’t return to the network after the Super Bowl.
The show, which debuted in 1990, aired as a daily show from 2003 to 2019 and aired a Sunday-edition from 2000 to 2017. Outside the Lines was often regarded as the “moral compass” of ESPN, and was often the source of some of the more investigative reporting employed by the network.
Outside the Lines — which was airing at 9:00 AM on Saturday mornings — averaged 303,000 viewers in the timeslot. Meanwhile, SportsCenter: AM has seen an average audience of 572,000 in the same window.
The Outside the Lines brand will continue being utilized during the Noon ET SportsCenter, as well as ESPN digital platforms, including the network’s YouTube page.
Jeremy Schaap will continue to host the Outside the Lines segments during SportsCenter, but will also be the host of a new iteration of The Sports Reporters that will air on ESPN’s YouTube channel. Schaap’s father, Dick, was the host of the ESPN Sunday morning program from 1988 until his death in 2001. The show aired on ESPN from 1988 to 2017.
CBS: Calling Meeting With Tony Romo ‘Intervention’ is ‘Complete Mischaracterization’
“We meet regularly with our on-air talent.”
An opening question in broadcasting circles is ‘What happened to Tony Romo?’, with even CBS reportedly pondering the issue.
During The Marchand and Ourand Sports Media Podcast earlier this week, The New York Post’s Andrew Marchand claimed CBS attempted “an intervention” with its lead NFL analyst.
The intended mission of several alleged meetings with CBS Sports Chairman Sean McManus and CBS NFL producer Jim Rikhoff was to return Romo to his previous heights, which were widely regarded as the best NFL analyst in the business.
CBS Sports has responded to the insinuation that the meetings would be classified as an “intervention” with a strong denial.
“To call this an intervention is a complete mischaracterization, we meet regularly with our on-air talent,” CBS Sports spokeswoman Jen Sabatelle told Marchand.
Marchand added that CBS Sports officials plan to attempt to rectify the issues it sees with Romo again this offseason. Romo — who signed a 10-year, $180 million contract with CBS Sports in 2020 — is slated to call Super Bowl LVIII in 2024 with Jim Nantz.