Saturday, September 16, 2006


Why no Gameday for UT/Florida?

Several people have wondered why "College Gameday," the hit ESPN show that forecasts that weekend's action from a particular college location every Saturday morning, isn't in Knoxville (or, in the alternative, at Auburn for the visit by LSU). Chris Fowler, one of the three stars of the show, had the following to say in one of his columns on, an interesting perspective that many believed to be the case:


Great memories

Of the 10 regular-season SEC games matching top 10 teams, we've had the privilege of watching seven from ringside, reveling in the drama. The Tennessee-Florida wars of 2000-02; Auburn's pounding of the Vols, with big Tiger-lover Sir Charles standing next to us on the sidelines at Neyland Stadium; and LSU's heart-stopping OT triumph at Tuscaloosa last year … those are memories that will last.

This is why I believe an explanation is needed for why GameDay won't be in Auburn for LSU's visit this Saturday.

For 13 seasons, the locations of the GameDay road shows have been editorial decisions based on the college football landscape. The basic principle was to (almost) always come from the site of the "biggest game," or occasionally, "the best story." Several times, we have visited the edge of the radar screen to pay tribute to the Mid American Conference's rise (at Bowling Green), the service academies (Air Force and West Point) or the tradition of the Bayou Classic.

Now, the philosophy has been rethought by upper management. For the first time, the competitive landscape of football programming is a frequent consideration. Serving the needs of ABC's new prime-time package of games is often a priority. The decision on GameDay's site is less a clear-cut "best game" philosophy now and is more complicated, made on a landscape where terms like "synergy" and "branding" live.

Please know this: Lee, Kirk and I have no say in decisions on GameDay's location. But as host of the show for 17 years, I am mainly concerned with the show's specific legacy, not the global college football landscape.

The first two weeks of the season were no-brainers. It made sense to follow Notre Dame to Georgia Tech and sit ringside for the first 1-vs.-2 regular-season game in 10 years last week in Austin. This week, the decision was made to come from the Los Angeles Coliseum, where ABC will be set up.

Executive vice president Norby Williamson asked me to relay his reasoning: Nebraska and USC, both visible programs with storied pasts, are colliding for the first time in 35 years, and this might be one of the few chances to showcase a Pac-10 location, keeping the show regionally balanced.

The SEC should feature a lot more big ones in the coming months.

This is important: Williamson said fans still can expect to see GameDay return to the SEC or to Notre Dame for games televised on CBS and NBC. That's a relief to me. LSU's visits to Florida and Tennessee loom large, as does Auburn's trip to the Swamp. Georgia versus the winner of the Vols-Gators clash will be huge.

Any of those games could carry national title weight.

So, who knows? I am hopeful. But just in case we don't make it there quite as often, I would truly miss broadcasting from Gainesville, Knoxville, Athens, Tuscaloosa, Auburn, Baton Rouge and Columbia. SEC campuses have consistently provided the most passionate, colorful and, uh … "spirit"-ed backdrops for the show.

Hands down. No other conference is close.

Even if we don't visit you as much, please don't stop visiting us Saturday mornings. We will continue to give teams from America's strongest football conference, and the Fighting Irish, their due any way we can.

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