Since 1979, ESPN has been the benchmark that all sports television programming has had to try to stack up to.
Back then, no one thought that an all-sports channel would catch on and become popular. However, we we all know, the network has become a cultural icon. It's been the host of thousands upon thousands of the best moments in sports for the past 29 years. It's the channel that gave us The Big Show, Bodyshaping, the ESPYs and plenty of other indelible marks on sports society.
However, I have a serious problem with the news that came out today that ESPN (not ABC, it's parent company) put in a bid to get the BCS television contract after the 2009 season, when their contract with Fox mercifully ends.
Let's be realistic here, first off. There is no network that provides better coverage of college football than ESPN. Save Pam Ward, they've got the best group of announcers and anaylists, the best in-game presentation and easily the best studio shows in the business. They especially kick it up during bowl season and, god forbid, actually make people like me care about the Meineke Car Care Bowl; usually a match-up between Joe's Plumber College and Wossamatta U.
Having those second-tier bowls on cable is just fine with me; however, I feel like the major championships of major sports in the United States belong on network TV. Even with the switchover to DTV this coming February (and we all know about it, those PSA's never end!), cable TV only penetrates just under 66% of homes in America.
I'm pretty sure that a good percentage of those 34% probably still like college football, too. If the BCS games, including the National Championship, make the jump exclusively to cable, it'll potentially leave millions of fans in the dark.
It only makes sense. The World Series is on Fox, the NBA Finals are on ABC, the Super Bowl rotates among the three networks that carry the NFL (Fox, NBC and CBS) and, god forbid, even the Stanley Cup Finals are on NBC. This allows even the casual fan who may just be flipping channels on their local networks to stumble across these pivotal games.
Why should college football, which easily outrates most NBA and NHL games, be any different?
I really enjoyed watching BCS games on ABC over the first several years of their agreement with the NCAA and if this were to happen, I'd be very interested to see if heads of the BCS suggest that the games be carried there again.