Why Isn't the ESPN College Gameday Crew at the LSU/Auburn Game This Weekend?
It would not be acceptable BY ANY STRETCH OF THE IMAGINATION if "NBC Nightly News" decided that its top story tonight would be Meredith Viera's first day as host of the "Today" show. NBC would be torn a new one, and rightfully so.
So why does America allow ESPN to make decisions like this EVERY SINGLE NIGHT? And don't say "it's just sports." Sports are an extension of the news, and many people in this country take sports as seriously as they take the news. You can debate whether it's appropriate, but it's hard to deny.
Which brings me to Reason 543,527,853 that I hate ESPN.
For those of you who don't know, ESPN College Gameday is a huge program for college football fans. Every week, Gameday picks the college campus that will host the biggest game of the weekend (or one of the biggest), and it does a live broadcast on that campus. For college football fans, having your campus chosen as the Gameday site is the equivalent of having your city chosen to host the Olympics or a presidential convention. Fans of both teams are encouraged to stand behind the Gameday set, wear their colors, hold up signs, cheer for their teams, and shout at the hosts. Having been to a Gameday set when it came to LSU years ago, I've seen firsthand that people think it's a big deal.
That's why I just assumed that Gameday would be at the LSU/Auburn game this weekend. Outside of last week's Ohio State/Texas game, it doesn't get any bigger than this this year. Both teams are in the top 6. It is THE GAME in the SEC this year. The winner will not only be the favorite to win the SEC West, but it will also be the favorite to win the entire SEC. LSU won the BCS National Championship in '03. Auburn had a perfect season in '04. Two great teams. One intense early-season rivalry with possible national championship implications.
But ESPN, for some reason, has chosen not to send Gameday to Auburn this weekend.
So I figure, that's okay. There are other huge games this weekend. Take, for example, the Tennessee/Florida game. Before LSU/Auburn was THE GAME, this was THE GAME in the SEC. Both teams have won national championships in the last 10 years. We're talking Spurrier, Fulmer, Peyton, Wuerffel, The Swamp, and Neyland Stadium. We're talking history and tradition.
ESPN College Gameday will not be there either.
Then I figure, of course! They're going to Notre Dame. The Irish are playing Michigan this weekend. ESPN loves both of these schools. And they're both pretty good this year. You can say they're overrated, but you can't deny history, tradition, national championships and Heisman Trophies.
Nope. No Gameday crew in South Bend either.
So, where in the hell is ESPN sending the Gameday crew this weekend?
Yep. You guessed it. USC.
College Gameday will be at USC this weekend to cover the USC/Nebraska game.
So why in the hell did ESPN choose USC? Especially when it's playing, at best, the 4th most important game this weekend? I have a theory:
- LSU/Auburn is on CBS this weekend
- Florida/Tennessee is on CBS this weekend
- Notre Dame/Michigan is on NBC this weekend
- USC/Nebraska is ABC's primetime game this weekend. Oops. I meant ESPN on ABC
So LSU and Auburn are getting screwed because ESPN would rather shamelessly engage in blatant self-promotion, and, by association, give more publicity to USC. Again.
As Morrissey once said: Stop Me if You Think That You've Heard This One Before.
And if you don't understand why I'm so angry about this, Scott Rabalais from The Advocate probably explains it better than me:
ESPN, like it or not, shapes public sports opinion the way the big three networks and Sports Illustrated — for the dot.com crowd, that’s the magazine which actually gave birth to the Web site — used to do. If the average casual college football fan sees College GameDay in L.A., they will at first glance assume that is the biggest game of the day.
All of this has to make an impact on a team’s national ranking in the short term, and recruiting in the long run. All of it should make ESPN and CBS think bigger picture about where to throw their primary assets.
And, in case you were wondering, Auburn doesn't like it either.
But you wonder why LSU and Auburn have a complex about ESPN and USC. You wonder why SEC fans say that ESPN plays favorites?
Should ESPN continue to blow off SEC teams and promote USC and Notre Dame? Basically because there are no major television markets in the Southeast? And because the other two teams are popular and/or come from the #2 television market in America?
If you don't like it either, ESPN's Ombudsman can be reached here. I can tell you from experience though that your comments will probably be ignored, except for some form response from an ESPN bigwig.