I’m workin’ for an hourly wage
Went to high school
Didn’t do great
Odds are if you watched cable television at any length in the late 2000s/early 2010s, reading the above probably implanted a song in your head that you cannot get out. But if not, the below should do the trick.
January 2019 marks the 10-year anniversary of the Education Connection ad’s debut, and subsequent inundation of low-cost cable ad slots. In other words, ESPN2 and ESPNU ran Education Connection. A LOT.
Weekday college football was still in its early phases (beyond Thursdays, which were prominent for the college game before the NFL horned in). No one called MACtion MACtion, but the Beta version was every bit as good as the product at its peak, thanks to such noteworthy talent as Central Michigan’s Dan “Non-AQ Tebow” LeFevour and Temple’s Bernard Pierce.
Meanwhile, Friday night belonged to WACtion. Remember the WAC? It was no longer the juggernaut it had been in the 1990s; Air Force, BYU, Colorado State, Utah and Wyoming, all of which were ranked at times the previous decade, left in 1999 to become charter members of the Mountain West.
Ten years later, the MWC found itself at the forefront of growing Bowl Championship Series unrest and its marquee games aired on fledgling VS — another cable network that prominently featured the Education Connection ad!
Anyway, back in the WAC, the conference underwent a dramatic restructuring in the 2000s. In an effort to gain prevalence, it played occasional Sunday games during the early part of the decade (Fresno State’s flirtation with crashing the BCS in 2001 kicked off on a Sunday). The WAC abandoned Sundays at the end of the decade, although not before Rob Stone almost committed seppuku by chili pepper on a New Mexico State telecast in 2007.
Conference USA moved into the since-abandoned Sunday evening time slot in 2009, which included an awesome (and consequential) UCF-Marshall game that no one in America saw, because it ran opposite a World Series game. Well, I mean…*I* saw it, because I had no interest in a Phillies-Yankees World Series. But I’m also the kind of psychopath who writes stream-of-consciousness commentary commemorating the anniversary of a commercial and its significance to a college football season.
…Where the hell was I? Right, the WAC.
The electric two-man backfield of Ryan Matthews and Robbie Rouse at Fresno State; a young Colin Kaepernick operating out of the then-wildly innovative Pistol at Nevada; and arguably the best Boise State team of Chris Petersen’s tenure: All shined on Friday night in the 2009 season.
And the Education Connection jingle is the unofficial theme song of a memorable season; in my memory, anyway.
For me, Education Connection was ubiquitous in 2009.
In addition to its prominence on ESPN2 and ESPNU, Education Connection ran seemingly every ad break on Adult Swim. My editorial desk job at CBS required pulling a midnight shift at least once a week. Once the office emptied out, I changed the bullpen TVs tuned to ESPN to Adult Swim for background noise.
An opportunity came along in this same job that I consider my first break in college football media. I took over as the national FCS writer for the then-CBS-owned NCAA.com, a gig that culminated with the national championship game in Chattanooga.
My trip to Chatty left quite an impression. I took a connecting flight from Chicago that left O’Hare at 6 a.m. Waiting outside my hotel for the airport shuttle, the 10-below temperature was and still is the coldest I ever experienced.
Somehow, it’s supposed to be 40 degrees colder at O’Hare this week.
THEY DON’T EVEN HAVE A COLOR TO DESCRIBE HOW COLD IT’S GOING TO BE pic.twitter.com/p1aMriPMh5
— Patrick Fenelon 🌹 (@Patrick_Fenelon) January 28, 2019
I would recreate Rob Stone’s attempted death-by-pepper if I was in Chicago.
Once in Chattanooga, I met a friendly cab driver who gave me a copy of his rap demo. I interviewed Miss Tennessee and asked for her championship game pick. She went with Villanova because the team wore suits to its championship banquet, while Montana donned sweats. And in the lobby of my hotel, a Griz fan approximately 21/2 sheets to the wind called me “fucking useless” when I was unsure of where the nearest restroom was located.
Oh, and the Villanova-Montana championship game was awesome.
I always like to sample local beer anywhere I visit. After filing the last of my numerous dispatches from Chattanooga, I kicked back in my hotel room, heat cranked up, and cracked one open to watch King of the Hill.
And that Education Connection jingle was there. It’s somehow seared into my brain. I will be 80 years old in the latter half of this century, and if climate change hasn’t rendered us extinct, the Education Jingle and its many appearances throughout the 2009 college football season will still be there.
I can’t explain why it, more than other low-cost cable ads, is so indelibly etched in my memory. Before he made an abysmal movie co-starring Rob Schneider (because OF COURSE Rob Schneider is in it), the ShamWow Guy emanated from non-AQ college football telecast ad breaks to tell America you’re gonna love my nuts.
Of all the cable commercials to flood the ESPN2/ESPNU airwaves, magicJack had the most direct connection to the sport. It sponsored the inaugural Bad Boy Mowers Gasparilla Bowl in 2008. But that the ad was so unremarkable — and the product so antiquated in its purpose even a decade ago, which might explain it only sponsoring the bowl game for one season — I hardly associate it with the era.
Come to think of it, Education Connection missed a real opportunity never sponsoring a bowl game. The closest we may ever get is Grand Canyon basketball reaching the NCAA Tournament.