The New York Times asks the question: College Football’s Most Dominant Player? No, the answer is not Jadeveon Clowney or Johnny Manziel. It’s ESPN. But as the article points out, the story of the four-letter network and Johnny Football are intertwined.
The Times piece recounts the myriad of ways the network influences and in some respects (e.g. kickoff times) controls the games you watch every week in the fall. And with ESPN spending more than $10 billion in television rights to college football just in the past five years, don’t expect that influence to wane anytime soon.
One way the network dominates is through sheer volume. ESPN networks will televise about 450 football games this season. Fox will show 50. As the Times points out , ESPN has helped transform the sport from regional rivalries to a national spotlight. University of Florida president Bernie Machen describes it this way: “The growth of the exposure to college football is directly related to ESPN’s increased involvement in it.”
Perhaps no other team has benefited more from ESPN in recent years than Texas A&M. As the Aggies discovered when they bolted the Big 12, ESPN has a closer relationship with the SEC. Here’s how A&M A.D. Eric Hyman described it:
“If we were in the Big 12, I don’t know that Johnny Manziel would have won the Heisman.”
In the final week of the regular season, Texas A&M granted ESPN an interview with Manziel. It became a lead story on “GameDay” that Saturday. Said A&M athletics executive Jason Cook:
“We knew that ESPN would provide a great venue for us to continue the conversation about Johnny Manziel that weekend.”
The article also points that when ESPN decided to send its “GameDay” crew to College Station for the SEC opener against Florida, university officials estimated the coverage was worth $6.5 million. Somewhat ironic this story would come out just days after we ran a story with the headline, “Texas A&M Chancellor Not Happy With ESPN’s Rovell,” but then again, honeymoons don’t last forever.