Earlier this week ESPN announced that it would be broadcasting our annual game against Georgia at noon on the SEC Network this year, and Tech fans did not react kindly to the news.
A game that will most likely feature two ranked teams in one of the most heated rivalries in college football has been relegated to a weak time slot on a premium channel that is biased in favor of one of the participants.
Tech has been fighting for a decent TV slot all season. By the end of the year, only three of the Jackets’ 12 games will have been on an easily-accessible channel: the Virginia Tech and Clemson games got the noon ESPN slot (with College Gameday serving as its lead-in), while the whiteout game against Miami was on at 7PM on ESPN2.
Otherwise, we were on ESPNU three weeks in a row and had the 12:30 ACC Network slot twice; including the matchup against defending ACC Coastal champion Duke. A typical college football fan would have to make an actual effort to find and watch most of our games, which hurts the program’s exposure.
There has been a lot of talk in the last few weeks about ESPN’s perceived bias towards the SEC, and ESPN has vehemently denied its existence.
However, evidence shows that ESPN devotes significantly more time to SEC teams on shows like SportsCenter and College Gameday than teams from any other conference, even when on-location at a non-SEC school.
They also own the SEC Network, so it is in their best interests for the SEC to do well. Putting a fierce rivalry game between a SEC team and a non-SEC team on the SEC Network is a breeding ground for more evidence of bias.
I do not expect the announcers for the game to be partial at all. Instead, I foresee them focusing most of their attention on Georgia, while our highlights and storylines are downplayed. I expect them to get some of our players’ names wrong, refer to Synjyn Days as our “fullback”, and overall not have a clear understanding about how our offense actually works.
They may even spread misinformation about how we block “illegally” (we don’t) or how our offense is a gimmick, which could certainly impact a recruit’s opinion about our program as he is watching the game.
I have heard Tech fans complain about how often our games are on the ACC Network, since it is a syndication network (not an actual channel) that is only broadcast in ACC markets, limiting the exposure of our team. However, at least those broadcasters do their homework and show a genuine interest in both teams involved.
To make matters worse, students who remain on campus over Thanksgiving break will not be able to watch the game on their own TVs, as we do not get the SEC Network through ResNET.
This means that we will either have to stream it from a shady website (which can vary in quality from blurry to unwatchable), find an off-campus friend who gets the channel, or go out and watch it at a sports bar, where we will surely be outnumbered by rowdy UGA fans.
For the record, I do not blame ResNET for not carrying the channel, since there is really no reason for a Tech to pay extra for it, as our games ideally should never be on that network.