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Schools Question ESPN’s Control Of College Football

Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith said he believes college football should “press pause” on expanding the playoff.

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To say many in the college football world are worried about the dismantling of the sport’s status quo following Texas and Oklahoma joining the SEC would be like saying a field mouse is worried about a hungry falcon. What was already viewed as the sport’s most-powerful conference only got stronger, crippling a rival conference in the process. It appeared as though a 12-team expanded playoff was all but a done deal, but Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith says given recent developments, he would like for everyone involved to put a pin in that change.

“I think the pause button should be hit,” Smith told Yahoo Sports. “We need to evaluate the landscape and what it’s going to look like. We still need to evaluate the 12-team playoff. We don’t need to rush into that when there’s legitimate concerns that need to be addressed.”

Concerns are rampant for those outside of the SEC regarding television contracts in particular. One unnamed Power Five athletic director was cited in the report as being concerned about ESPN continuing to gobble up premier rights in the game such as the CFP, given its strong relationships with the SEC and ACC, without going to market for other bids. Both conferences hold contracts that include networks for each, and the SEC-ESPN relationship only got stronger after the Worldwide Leader acquired the rights to the top SEC game each week that was previously held by CBS.

That concern of ESPN’s power and influence moved into the spotlight after a cease-and-desist notice was sent from the Big 12 to the network regarding its alleged contact to a member school regarding its future. ESPN finds itself in an interesting place as the leader in broadcast sports journalism while also having strong interests in the success of the SEC.

While Ohio State has found itself to be a regular in the College Football Playoff over the years, ESPN’s ownership over the event may find diminished value for conferences like the Big Ten and PAC-12 moving forward with their upcoming TV deals.

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2021 Most-Watched College Football Season Ever For FOX

“And with the advent of streaming, FOX is seeing gains there too..”

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FOX Sports has been a college football broadcast rights holder for going on 15 years now. In recent years, it seems like the network has really hit its stride in terms of programming, getting fans and viewers ready for its slate of games dubbed “Big Noon Saturday.”

In 2019, the network began an effort to essentially compete with ESPN staple College GameDay by debuting its own pre-game show named Big Noon Kickoff.

FOX Sports on Wednesday reported that the efforts to make its college football pre-game show appointment programming have been paying off.

Big Noon Kickoff averaged 1.383 million viewers in 2021, which the network says is up 15% over its debut season in 2019.

In terms of game viewership, FOX says its broadcast window is also up double digits, 13%, from 2019. The network reports 2021 is its most-watched regular season ever, averaging almost 4 million viewers.

And with the advent of streaming, FOX is seeing gains there too. A sign college football fans everywhere are embracing the product the network is putting together each season.

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Duke and Gonzaga Turn In Big Ratings For ESPN

“An average audience of 2.79 million tuned in to see the game.”

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Conventional wisdom says that it isn’t basketball or hockey season until football is over. That is probably still true, but on Friday night ESPN proved that if you get big name programs with some star power together, college basketball can hang any time of the year.

Duke’s win over Gonzaga brought more eyeballs to ESPN’s coverage of early-season college basketball since 2018. An average audience of 2.79 million tuned in to see the game. That is the largest audience for a college basketball game played before New Year’s Day since the same two teams met in the finals of the Maui Invitational three years ago and drew 2.85 million viewers.

The real win is that the game outrated a college football game on the same night. ESPN’s coverage of NC State’s win over North Carolina only drew 2.68 million viewers. It is an added bonus that Duke can hold over their Tobacco Road rivals.

Before the game, Duke was ranked #5 and Gonzaga was ranked #1. After, Duke rose to #1. Since then, the Blue Devils fell to Ohio State and likely will drop in next week’s rankings. Still, every Duke game this season will come with a little extra attention. This is the final season with the legendary Mike Krzyzewski on the Duke bench.

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Marcus Spears: I Would Put Mike Greenberg In The Hospital

“I love him, he’s my brother, but I would try and saw him in half because he has that stank arrogance of a quarterback.”

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Dan Patrick had ESPN’s Marcus Spears on his show Tuesday and presented him with a topic that was very interesting.

Let’s be real, we all want to hit our co-workers from time to time, and Dan Patrick presented Spears with this hypothetical scenario for three of his fellow co-workers at ESPN.

“If I gave ya a free shot, would it be at Keyshawn Johnson, Ryan Clark, or Dan Orlovsky?” said Patrick.

“Dan Orlovsky, and I would try and saw him in half DP,” Spears replied. “I gotta be honest with you.”

“I love him, he’s my brother, but I would try and saw him in half because he has that stank arrogance of a quarterback. That comes off and sometimes you just want to let him know, you really aren’t an athlete.”

Dan Patrick then took the question up a level by adding a fourth option to the mix.

“What if I threw Greeny (Mike Greenberg) in there, would you choose him?”

Spears replied, “Yeah, I would want to see how long he would be in the hospital.”

The answer caused Patrick to bust out in laughter, which in turn made Marcus Spears laugh.

It will be interesting to see how the challenge and answer play out on the NFL Live and Get Up sets. Marcus Spears is one of the most likable personalities at ESPN. Certainly, there will be no bad blood. It will be curious if anyone has a challenge to throw back at him though.

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