Regardless of whether you liked the teams or the outcome of last night’s BCS National Championship game, you have to admit how much better the championship is now that it’s back on ABC’s family of networks. During the three years that Fox carried the title game, the coverage was dreadful. The production was bad, the audio was bad, and worst of all was the play-by-play coverage of Thom Brennaman.
Brennaman is a baseball guy, the son of long-time Cincinnati Reds announcer Marty Brennaman. Thom also went to Ohio University, which is almost an anti-football college. At some point he started dabbling in NFL games, after Fox picked those up in the late ’90s. And then out of the blue, Fox hired him to be the voice of the BCS in 2006. What business did Thom Brennaman have calling bigtime college football games?! Furthermore, what experience did Fox have broadcasting them, and why did they appoint a college football outsider to such a crucial role in broadcasting?
I thought maybe it was just me—that Brennaman rubbed me the wrong way—but apparently not. In the 2009 title game in which #2 Florida beat #1 Oklahoma, 24–14, Brennaman’s bias toward Florida QB Tim Tebow was so obnoxious that it drew criticism from the media at-large: “Brennaman was so far over the top in his pro-Tebow hyperbole on Thursday that the game became darn-near unwatchable unless the volume was off,” wrote FanHouse’s Chris Burke.
In 2009, we were reminded by Thom Brennaman how great a person Tim Tebow was. He took every opportunity to gloss Tebow as the second coming.
I can only imagine that if Fox had the rights this season, Thom Brennaman would pick a new favorite. We would then be forced to hear how great Cam Newton is or what LaMichael James might be thinking while playing with such talent.
I grew up watching college football on ABC. Dick Enberg, Brad Nessler, Brent Musberger, and of course, Keith Jackson. Jackson’s iconic delivery will forever resonate in my ears as the voice of college football. But Jackson notwithstanding, my perception of ABC’s sports productions is that they always presented the college game in a dignified manner. Fox, not so much.
Fortunately, Disney (parent company of ESPN, ABC) is doing pretty well, because they were able to pony up half a billion dollars to reclaim college football’s January finale ($125M/yr., 2011–14). Fox had been paying about $82M annually for the 4 games it broadcast in each of the 2006–09 seasons. Fox balked at ESPN’s offer, and didn’t feel they needed to match it because of the fact that ESPN is a cable network, which reaches 16 million fewer viewers than broadcast networks. Being on cable apparently didn’t hurt the BCS last night: Its 16.1 Neilsen rating was the highest in the history of cable television, and higher than the 2005 (USC def. Okla., ABC) and 2008 (LSU def. Ohio St., Fox) title games.
Rest assured, beginning with the upcoming college football season, through 2014, ESPN will carry all of the BCS games. Maybe Thom Brennaman can take over Ted Williams’ post collecting donations along I-71. On second thought, Williams has a better voice.