How ESPN Controls College Football
Big bucks and big exposure means the network can make or break college teams
By Ruth Brown, Newser Staff
Posted Aug 24, 2013 4:45 PM CDT
Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel.   (AP Photo/The Decatur Daily, Gary Cosby Jr., File)

(Newser) – How did college football go from regional amateur games to one of the biggest sporting competitions in the country? Four letters, says the New York Times: E, S, P, and N. By pumping billions of dollars into the game through purchasing TV rights, ESPN (and others, but overwhelmingly ESPN) has transformed it into a nationwide professionalized sporting empire—and one where ESPN gets to call many of the shots. The network sets the schedules, organizes the games, and has the power to bestow fame on schools, players, and coaches.

Take Texas A&M, which last year moved from the Big 12 to the Southeastern Conference, which has closer ties to ESPN. A visit from ESPN's "GameDay" program at the start of the season netted it an estimated $6.5 million in exposure. Meanwhile, the network started to pay attention to Johnny Manziel, promoting him on various football shows all season. He went on to become the first freshman to win the Heisman Trophy. “If we were in the Big 12, I don’t know that Johnny Manziel would have won the Heisman," says Texas' athletic director. Meanwhile, says the Times, Boise State's rise can be tied to its willingness to let its student athletes play on weeknights. ESPN promoted the team in prime time on its midweek schedule, helping establish the college as a "national brand." And coaching recruiters say they now consider how "telegenic" a prospective coach is in their decisions. There is way more worth reading in the full article.

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Showing 3 of 11 comments
Eat_Eateator
Aug 25, 2013 3:30 PM CDT
Dope 'em, roid 'em, run 'em over w/ a truck. When is there gonna be some action on TV? What can we use our prison population for? These are the questions burning in America's collective anus right now.
flin1
Aug 25, 2013 8:02 AM CDT
Here's what annoys me. We have starving and homeless out there yet people donate big money to college football programs. Wise up folks. If college football disappeared tomorrow, there would be no perceptible change in the world as we know it. It would be as if some cricket league in India disbanded or something. Let's get some priorities here!
right2dave
Aug 25, 2013 6:17 AM CDT
Football has been (though starting slowly) through the pros a TV SPORT. it was just a matter of time before it Disney figured out that it would work it way all the way through the college ranks. Did anyone notice in the mid 2000s That they sold their way out of radio? The only radios and nets they held on to were brand extenstions of their TV product. ESPN and Radio Disney, and News. Their station group sold for over 3 Billion dollars due to the passage of the telecommunication act allowing for radio consolidation.