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The Future For Ed Orgeron Is On ESPN

“The network can take a damaged product with tremendous upside, refurbish it exactly as it needs, and ensure a bright future for one of its best-known studio franchises.”

Demetri Ravanos

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There is a topic college football fans and the media around the sport don’t want to talk about. We know that it is a conversation that has to be had sooner rather than later. If you love this sport, there is a soft spot in your heart for Lee Corso and it makes sense that you would want him to stay on College GameDay forever. The reality though is that the man just turned 86 and has already survived multiple health scares. The discussion of what comes next needs to happen sooner rather than later.

If ESPN brass is ready to have that conversation, even if just behind closed doors, this week, they got a gift from Louisiana State University. Plenty of names have been bandied about as the next potential former coach at the GameDay dais before. Ed Orgeron is the first guy since Steve Spurrier that struck me as an undeniably perfect fit.

Ed Orgeron college football

LSU announced on Sunday that it was done with Orgeron less than two years after the man coached the Bayou Bengals to a national championship. When you read Brody Miller’s story for The Athletic about his increasingly erratic behavior since that title, it makes sense why it was a move that had to be made. It also is pretty clear that no college athletic director is going to be eager to tie their future to Ed Orgeron any time soon.

ESPN has been given a gift – the kind of gift that you don’t get very often. The network can take a damaged product with tremendous upside, refurbish it exactly as it needs, and ensure a bright future for one of its best-known studio franchises.

College football fans can just look at a picture of Ed Orgeron and hear his distinct “geaux tiguhs” in their head. People that aren’t college football fans are more likely to be able to identify the coach if you played a clip of his voice than if you showed them a picture of his face. He has been around the sport for a long time. He was the head coach of one of the very best teams ever assembled. For a guy whose time in the spotlight was brief, he got really close to icon status.

That is the kind of guy that ESPN is going to need when it is time to say goodbye to the Sunshine Scooter. Orgeron is fun, he’s got a big personality, and he has enough Louisiana in him to feel obligated to turn every room he is in into the center of the party.

I can hear your objections through the computer screen. “Demetri, one of the problems LSU had with the coach is his short, volatile temper. Won’t that be a problem for ESPN too?” Do you mean the same ESPN that hired Bobby Knight and Lou Holtz? No, something tells me that isn’t a dealbreaker. “But Demetri, what about the strange behavior around women? He has a sort of icky reputation right now.” True, but just because you hire him doesn’t mean you have to put him on TV right away. Plus, all of us in this business know stories or have heard rumors about well-known names and faces in the broadcast world that betray the family man reputation so many of them have cultivated. Grow up.

Ed Orgeron is absolutely damaged goods right now. But the reality of college sports is, at best, they are an amoral enterprise. No one ever got fired for being a creep. They got fired for being a creep that didn’t win.

Very few people that are objectionable right now remain untouchable forever. I have written before about Orgeron’s former boss Les Miles. He created a really toxic culture at LSU. He probably isn’t getting another shot to be on national TV, but as I have it isn’t because of the sexual harassment allegations against him. It is because he is awful on TV.

Time heals a lot, and on top of that, America loves a redemption story. Urban Meyer left Ohio State as an absolute pariah amongst college football fans outside the state of Ohio and walked immediately onto the set of FOX’s Big Noon Kickoff. The national narrative wasn’t about how anyone could give this guy another chance for very long. It was mostly “he’s a lot better on TV than I thought he’d be.”

That was Urban Meyer, who is as interesting as a bag of sticks. Imagine how ready to forgive and move on we will be when our redemption candidate is a pudgy man whose eyes disappear when he smiles and sounds like Cookie Monster! The guy said that when he got his $17 million buyout from LSU he was going to “buy a few Sonic cheeseburgers”. How can you not smile at something like that?

Even before he suffered his first stroke, Lee Corso’s strength has always been his charm. He absolutely knows football and is entertaining as hell when he is handed a mascot head or is given a gun to fire wildly above a crowd of 20-somethings. But what makes Lee so special on TV is that he always seems to be having so much damn fun!

Ed Orgeron can be that type of guy. No one is banging the door down to get Corso off the College GameDay set any time soon. No one is banging the door down to put Orgeron in charge of their football team. Take advantage of that. The guy has the natural gifts you cannot teach. ESPN can take a couple of years to work on his presence and presentation before thrusting him into the spotlight, and he could become the same kind of cornerstone for the network’s college football coverage that Corso has been for nearly 35 years.

BSM Writers

Dish Network Played With Fire Dropping ESPN and Almost Got Burnt

When it comes to entertainment choices, we have never had more power as a consumer.

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Watching college football Saturday was never more difficult for some of you. No, I’m not talking about ESPN shoving the square Aaron Judge peg in the round college football hole, I’m finished with that. I’m talking about the poor souls among us that awoke to DISH Network versus Disney/ESPN. 

Imagine waking up to the first day of October, the greatest sports month on the calendar, only to find 80% of college football wasn’t going to be available to you. That’s what happened to DISH Network customers when the satellite company pulled the Disney properties at 3 A.M. ET Saturday.

This type of dispute is nothing new. Providers and networks have been embroiled in contemptuous contract negotiations many times and they have often led to programming being removed by the provider. This normally comes after numerous warnings from both the provider and the network. That, apparently, didn’t happen in this case.

I’ve lived through enough of these to realize the majority of it is sabre rattling on the part of both parties. That said, the sabre rattling gives me the opportunity to make plans in case of the emergency of missing my games. I can’t imagine climbing out of bed with my normal college football Saturday excitement, flipping to ESPN to watch GameDay and seeing the screen telling me failed contract negotiations are giving me a blank screen instead.

What I can’t imagine is how badly I would’ve choked on my Frosted Mini Wheats when I also realized this was no mistake and I was going to spend a college football Saturday without ESPN, ESPN2, ESPNU and the SEC Network. It never seems these contracts end and force me to miss the Westminster Dog Show, it’s always during critical events.

Of course, the loser is the consumer. I have also lived through enough of these to know the consumer normally blames the cable or satellite provider. It is the natural reaction; ESPN didn’t stop showing games, or Aaron Judge cut-ins (I swear, I’m almost over it). No, your neighbor is watching ESPN just fine. It’s greedy DISH Network’s fault. As is normally the case, the actual truth falls somewhere in the middle.

I don’t know that it matters who is ultimately at fault, or if they both are, you end up feeling powerless in these situations. You are beyond frustrated but, what can you do? Pro tip: I’ve made DirectTV prorate my bill for the days I was without channels due to carriage disputes. I’m sure I blew the pennies saved but it gave me a small victory in a lost war. Also, never be afraid to try to parlay it into free HBO for a year. All they can do is say no.

You can also do what several people I know did, enjoy a free Saturday trial of YouTube TV. And that’s why providers are now playing with fire now when they can’t reach an agreement with the broadcast companies; changing providers has never been easier.

In fact, last Saturday I found myself in the untenable situation of having no PAC 12 Network while USC and Oregon State were facing off in a key conference tilt. I signed myself right up for a seven day free trial of FUBO TV and watched every play. When I canceled immediately after the game, FUBO asked me why I was shutting it down. One of the choices was, literally, “I just wanted to watch one game.” I was honest with them, I appreciate their self-awareness.

When it comes to entertainment choices, we have never had more power as a consumer. There are more providers than ever before and our ease of access has never been greater. A decade ago, had Dish Network dropped ESPN overnight, your options would’ve been bleak. You would’ve called DIRECTV or your local cable company on a Saturday morning and prayed an actual human would’ve answered. In the event you actually spoke with someone, they would’ve told you they would be out sometime between 10 AM Monday and December. Now, you just press a few buttons, enter a credit card and email address and the entertainment world is your oyster.

A little discomfort for both parties is all it took. Like clockwork, the Disney properties returned to DISH Network Monday, just in time for the most watched window of the week for ESPN – Monday Night Football. It is also very likely ESPN has the added anxiety of airing the MLB Postseason while missing a slice of their subscribers.

Make no mistake, it wasn’t the concern for the viewer in Des Moines that ended this. What ended it was two of the most expensive properties ESPN has, NFL and MLB Postseason, on the horizon that returned your DISH Network. I just hope you got your free HBO before it was too late.

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BSM Writers

790 The Ticket Was Something Special And Stugotz Knows It

“I had programmers calling me saying this is the best local lineup that they’ve ever seen, that they’ve ever heard.”

Demetri Ravanos

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When I was making the transition from the rock world to talk radio, there was one show I looked at as a guide. I got laid off from 96 Rock in Raleigh, NC in the summer of 2011. That was the beginning of my flirtations with streaming and podcasts, which is how I stumbled onto The Dan Le Batard Show with Stugotz on 790 The Ticket out of Miami.

Coming from a format that I felt out of place in at times, I instantly latched onto a show that reveled in pointing out how out of place it was in its own format. It became a daily listen for me, which opened me up to hearing other voices on the station like Jonathan Zaslow, Joy Taylor, Brian London, Brendan Tobin, Brett Romberg and others.

There were unique thinkers and passionate sports fans in every day part on 790 The Ticket. What set the station apart though is that I never heard anyone that sounded uncomfortable when the conversation turned to something that wasn’t a Dolphins’ loss or LeBron’s stat line. They talked sports the way normal human beings talk about sports. It was part of their lives, not the only thing they paid attention to.

Look at the outpouring of love for the station on Thursday. Hosts, producers and programmers from across the country took to social media to eulogize the station when the news broke that it would cease to exist the following week.

I can’t say for sure that all of those people felt the same way I did about the station and I cannot say whether or not it was for the same reasons. What I can say is 790 The Ticket had an influence that stretched far beyond South Florida.

Jon Weiner, better known as “Stugotz” to fans of the The Dan Le Batard Show, helped start the station in 2004. He told me that it didn’t take long for him to learn just how much The Ticket’s approach was making an impression on everyone in sports radio.

“I had programmers calling me saying this is the best local lineup that they’ve ever seen or heard,” he said in a phone call on Sunday. “I had people from out of market who had secure jobs at places that weren’t startups sending resumes and tapes because they wanted to be part of it. So yeah, we were aware and it is what we were going for. We got there pretty quickly and we were aware of the impact, not just in South Florida, but throughout the country.”

Last week, Brian “The Beast” London said his internal alarm bells first went off when he heard the Miami Heat were giving up their relationship with 790 the Ticket. The station and the team had been partners since 2008. He said in a YouTube video that it was hard to imagine the team’s games being heard anywhere else.

I asked Stugotz if he had the same feeling when he heard that news. He said in hindsight, he realized it was the beginning of the end, but he didn’t really get a sense something was up until Jonathan Zaslow was let go.

“[Zaslow] had been there since basically day one with us. And so I just kind of figured, yeah, between the Heat and then that I felt, okay, you don’t make a move like that unless there’s going to be some sort of seismic change. Otherwise, there’d be no reason to let him go. That was the moment I was like ‘okay, 790 is likely going away.'”

His feelings are no secret. He took to social media immediately on Thursday and said that the news that 790 The Ticket would soon be going away filled him with both sadness and pride. What Stugotz told me in our phone call was that he realizes that the station lasted about 15 years longer than it should have.

When the station was sold to Lincoln Financial Media, he was not expecting that company to want to keep a sports station. Senior Vice President Dennis Collins surprised him.

“The company saw so much potential in what we had built, both from a lineup and a sales perspective that they kept it going and that’s why it lasted all the way to 2022. We got it up and going and were responsible for the first three or four years, but Dennis saw the growth potential with the lineup we put together. That made me feel great because I had a pit in my stomach like ‘Oh, man, this thing we started is going to go away. It’s going to be three, four years and gone.’ And he said, ‘No, we love it. We want to keep it going’. So that was a huge compliment to everyone.”

Stugotz described the original owner of 790 The Ticket as a “young, good looking real estate mogul driving around in Lamborghinis.” That certainly helped the image of the station when it launched, but it is also a phenomenon that was very of the moment. It’s not 2004 anymore. Lamborghini-owning real estate moguls aren’t chomping at the bit to pour money into radio stations.

The conditions may be similar to what Stugotz and his partners saw in 2004. You could look at the radio landscape in Miami and see a way that a new challenger could fit in the sports radio scene. But what are the chances it actually happens?

It’s a great question,” Stugotz said. “So just to go back to that time, two sports radio stations were popping up in every market. I’m not certain if that’s still the case anymore just because of podcasting and the way the way younger people are consuming media through Tik Tok, Snapchat, and other things that aren’t AM radio.”

He is quick to commend Audacy, the current owners of the 790 AM frequency. Dan Le Batard and Jorge Sedano were part of his early lineups at 790 The Ticket because Stugotz recognized the Cuban-American community in Miami was not being served in the sports space in 2004, just like it isn’t being properly served in the news/talk space right now. That’s why there’s room for the conservative-leaning brand Radio Libre in Miami and other markets are likely paying attention.

“It seems like a good plan, and I know it’s something that the Spanish population should have and deserves to have and probably was not being catered to correctly. So, yeah, I could see there’s a warning sign to some other sports radio stations or news stations in other markets where the Hispanic population is great. Absolutely!”

It is a shame that 790 The Ticket is no more and it is concerning that a station with its legacy and influence can simply disappear. But if we are being real, it isn’t the first station of its kind to suffer that fate and it won’t be the last.

As the media business changes and leaves sports stations vulnerable to something cheaper and with broader appeal, 790 The Ticket and stations like it should be touted as examples of how to rise above the noise and make an impact. Stugotz and his partners looked around in 2004 and said “we can be different and we can do this better” and that’s exactly what they did.

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BSM Writers

Chris Simms And His Self-Professed ‘Big Mouth’ Enjoying Life At NBC

“One of the things that I worried about was that I came from Bleacher Report and is NBC going to try to curtail my personality a little bit…sometimes I like to swear on my podcast and do stuff like that and they’ve really allowed me to be me which I really appreciate.”

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To be a good football analyst, one certainly has to know and love the sport but you also can’t be afraid to use the most important tool that you have to do the job. Chris Simms has all of those attributes and NBC lets him use them to the best of his abilities.

“I love football and I love X’s and O’s and I got a big mouth so it’s a great combination,” said Simms. “Between my podcast, Pro Football Talk with Mike Florio, and Sunday Night Football, I get plenty of time to talk and get my studies out there.”

There’s no doubt that Chris inherited that self-professed big mouth from his father, former NFL quarterback and longtime NFL on CBS analyst, Phil Simms.

So, the question had to be asked…does Chris have a bigger mouth than his father?

“Yeah, I probably do,” admitted the younger Simms. “That’s a big mouth to overcome, but I think I probably got him beat in that department.”

Chris Simms set out to follow in his father’s footsteps on the field and played quarterback for Ramapo High School in New Jersey where he earned a pair of All-State honors. After graduating high school in 1999, Simms moved on to play quarterback at the University of Texas where he posted a 26-6 career record as a starter and was the team MVP during his senior season in 2002.

Simms was drafted by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the third round of the 2002 NFL Draft and he would guide the Bucs to a playoff berth in 2005.  He would also go on to play for the Tennessee Titans and Denver Broncos completing a seven-year NFL playing career. He spent one season as an assistant coach with the New England Patriots before taking his talents to the world of broadcasting.

He started with FOX Sports as a college football announcer in 2013 and then joined Bleacher Report in 2014 while also serving as a color commentator for the NFL on CBS.

And then in 2017, Simms joined NBC Sports where he has certainly found a home.

“I couldn’t be happier,” said Simms. “It’s a great company to work for. Just good people all around. They’ve given me the platform to be me. One of the things that I worried about was that I came from Bleacher Report and is NBC going to try to curtail my personality a little bit…sometimes I like to swear on my podcast and do stuff like that and they’ve really allowed me to be me which I really appreciate.”

Simms wears many different suits at NBC Sports, most notably his role as a studio analyst on Football Night in America leading into Sunday Night Football. He’s also a part of the SNF post-game show Sunday Night Football Final on Peacock, Pro Football Talk with Mike Florio, and Chris Simms Unbuttoned, a streaming/digital show that is also a podcast multiple days a week.

But the most eyeballs are on him during Football Night in America, the most watched studio show in sports.

“I grew up wanting to play in these games more than be the guy in the studio but this is like the second-best thing,” said Simms. “I was kind of that kid at 4 or 5 (years old) who could tell you every player in the NFL, their number and all that type of stuff. It’s the NFL on the biggest stage. It’s such a well-done show. I get to be there with Maria Taylor along with Tony Dungy, and Jason Garrett, and Mike Florio, and Matthew Berry. We got a great team and it makes Sunday fun.”

From the “it takes one to know one” category, Simms has also made a name for himself with his ranking of NFL quarterbacks. He’s very diligent when it comes to watching the live action and also in his film study and his top-40 rankings have become a hot topic within the business and around the office coolers.

Simms is well aware that his rankings have become a lightning rod of discussion.

“It all kind of started organically just because I would make statements,” said Simms. “People were like ‘Why don’t you start making a list?’ It’s a really hard thing to do. It offends a lot of people and I hate that. I root for all of these guys and I say on my podcast all the time I hope this guy proves me wrong. I hope he shits on me and shows me that I was wrong. It’s certainly not personal. One of the things I pride myself on is studying and immersing myself in the game all of the time.”

Simms became a full-time employee of NBC Sports in 2019, but his first role with the network came in 2017 when he became a studio analyst for Notre Dame Football.

Here’s a kid that grew up in North Jersey where there’s a ton of Notre Dame alumni and he’s standing on the sidelines at South Bend as part of Fighting Irish telecasts.

“Another special entity,” said Simms. “I used to get chills being out on the field every Saturday there. It gave me great experience in a different way with the halftime show and the pre-game show. One of the years I was kind of the third man in the booth but I was on the sideline. It gave me some reps on in-game stuff as well. I think most importantly what that did for me more than anything is that it opened up more eyes at NBC about me.”

And now Simms’ work has him in the discussion for a new potential opportunity down the road. 

NBC, alongside FOX and CBS, has secured a seven-year media rights deal with the Big Ten Conference that will commence next season. NBC will air Big Ten Saturday Night, the first time that Big Ten Football will have a dedicated primetime broadcast on a national broadcast network. Peacock will stream an additional eight Big Ten games each season and NBC/Peacock will air the 2026 Big Ten Championship Game.

There have been rumblings that Simms could be involved in the coverage. Is he interested?

“I’m intrigued by it,” admitted Simms. “I’m very all NFL right now but broadcasting game is fun. It’s definitely something on my radar for sure. I do have some producers here in the building that are like ‘I’m going to tell the boss I want you to do some of the Big 10 games this year and what do you think about announcing?’ I’ve already had some people in my ear talking about it. It’s awesome for the company regardless. It just expands our football world. As far as me being involved, we’ll see.” 

In a relatively short amount of time, Chris Simms has built up quite the broadcasting portfolio. From FOX to Bleacher Report and CBS to his current expanded role with NBC, Simms has established himself as one of the premier NFL analysts in the business and his podcast has given him the freedom to do something that he loves to do. Including putting his money where his mouth is. 

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