Eastern Washington and Sam Houston State Do Not Disappoint; Broadcast Does

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ESPN organically built a phenomenon two decades ago when it aired College Gameday live from a college campus for the first time. Perhaps we witnessed the start of a similar tradition in which talk shows are hosted with a live football game being played in the background.

Perennial FCS contenders Eastern Washington and Sam Houston State combined for 91 points in a competitive, uptempo showdown. It was an exciting start to the college football season featuring a variety of great plays–and the broadcast spent the first half discussing games yet to be played.

A meeting of teams likely bound for the FCS Playoffs was the backdrop for chatter about the College Football Playoff; and a lot of it.

For fans of FCS football who rarely get to see the subdivision showcased nationally, the hijacking of the broadcast to talk about the same programs that also command the spotlight is insulting.

To ESPN’s (and social media’s) credit, the tone changed dramatically in the second half. Furthermore, none of the preceding nor following is a critique of the overall body of work of play-by-play announcer Mark Jones or color commentator Rod Gilmore.

What’s more, this blog is not in the habit of attacking ESPN. The network typically does a tremendous job with its college football coverage. The Worldwide Leader provides access to literally thousands of games, including FCS programs and certain Group of 5 programs via ESPN3.

Turning broadcasts of these smaller programs into platforms to talk about the Power 5 does little to dispel the notion of warehousing, which is explained in the Wikipedia entry for ESPNU:

ESPN was also being investigated by the U.S. Justice Department on allegations of “warehousing” collegiate sporting events from certain conferences, or signing a deal with a conference for all their games, but only televising a small number and not allowing the conference to make other arrangements for television broadcasts.

I don’t consider myself a conspiracy theorist, but when it comes to national media’s treatment of lower-profile college football programs, I don a 10-gallon tinfoil hat.

That’s typically my sole gripe about the network. I find myself rolling my eyes the inevitable onslaught of internet-griping that follows virtually any First Take or Colin Cowherd broadcast, as it requires concerted effort to watch and listen to these programs. The usual crowd lining up to decry ESPN’s original programming might make a more meaningful statement by ignoring the product.

However, when Cowherd is added to the broadcast of a college football game, it’s a whole lot more difficult to avoid.

Now, having Cowherd on an Eastern Washington football broadcast actually makes sense. Cowherd is an EWU alum and in theory, could provide unique insight into the program. But when his appearance is used as a vehicle for a #HotTake on the Ed O’Bannon ruling? It’s turning the game broadcast into his raido show.

Now Cowherd is talking about the O’Bannon decision. HE HAS A RADIO SHOW EVERY DAY. That’s so he can talk about this and I can ignore him

— Brandon Larrabee(@TeamSpeedKills) August 23, 2014

The teams on the field are feeling their way out in these early weeks, so it’s possibly the same for the teams in the broadcast booths. Hopefully this inundation of Power 5 talk overwhelming FCS and Group of 5 telecasts doesn’t become the norm in 2014.