It’s time for me to bring back the annual College Football TV Awards. I’ve been wanting to write this for a while. Because of my schedule over the last week, I have not been able to bring it to you until now. Thanks for your patience.
Let’s get this started.
The College GameDay Award for Best Pregame Show — Yes, College GameDay. There was integration between the ESPN primetime game and College GameDay again this year. There were just a handful of times when GameDay went to a non-ESPN game (LSU-Alabama, SEC Championship), but the show remains the same, a cultural phenomenon that seems to get bigger with each passing year. It’s still the best pregame show on television today. The signs which have been a big part of the show, seemed to grab more of the spotlight this season with the #occupygameday movement from the Dan Patrick Show and other creative signs (1, 2, 3) that slipped through the security guards at various sites. Chris Fowler remains one of the best hosts on TV, Desmond Howard has improved yearly, Kirk Herbstreit is still one of the best analysts in the sport, however, Lee Corso’s slippage after his stroke is very evident with slurred speech. Still, his headgear segment is one of the most anticipated moments on college football Saturdays. The show is still going strong.
The Keith Jackson Award for Best Play-by-Play — Joe Tessitore, ESPN/ABC. Assigned mostly to Friday nights, Joe Tessitore had the fortune to call many barnburners this season. It was as if the Law of Gus Johnson was transferred to Joe Tess. And in each of the games, Joe stepped up. The season began with a crazy 50-48 game between Baylor and TCU and continued all the way to end. During one crazy weekend, he called upsets of Oklahoma State and Oklahoma on successive nights for ESPN and ABC respectively. Joe did an excellent job throughout the season and here’s hoping he gets some Saturday primetime slots for ESPN/ABC next season.
Honorable mentions — Brad Nessler (ESPN/ABC), Gus Johnson (Fox/FX), Tom Hammond (NBC)
The Frank Broyles Award for Best Game Analyst — Charles Davis, Fox/FX. Back on college football with Gus Johnson as his new partner, Charles really had a chance to shine. Teamed previously with Thom Brennaman during Fox’s failed BCS years, Davis was weighed down by an announcer who really didn’t give him an opportunity to speak other than to agree with him. With Gus, Charles was able to spot trends, correctly predict plays ahead of time and showed some humor. Next season, Gus and Charles will call games on the Fox mothership. Here’s looking forward to some fun games in 2012.
Honorable mentions — Todd Blackledge (ESPN/ABC), Gary Danielson (CBS), Randy Cross (CBS Sports Network), Mike Mayock (NBC)
Best Overall Announcing Team — Gus Johnson/Charles Davis (Fox/FX). They didn’t have that many great games this season, the Big Ten Championship Game was probably their best of the year. However, Gus and Charles formed one of the best announcing teams in just their first season together. I was impressed how quickly they jelled and how well they worked off each other. Watching them was an enjoyable experience this season.
Honorable mentions — Brad Nessler/Todd Blackledge (ESPN/ABC), Joe Tessitore/Rod Gilmore (ESPN), Tom Hammond/Mike Mayock (NBC)
The Jim Lampley Award For Best Studio Host — John Saunders, ESPN on ABC. He was hurt for much of the season due to a horrific fall, but when he came back in November, it was as if he did not miss a beat. While ESPN had various hosts such as Scott Van Pelt take John’s place, it was rather obvious that the ESPN on ABC college football studio missed Saunders. He’s really an Old Reliable in the studio chair during college football on ABC. John gets this award for this season.
Honorable Mentions — Rece Davis (ESPN), Liam McHugh (NBC/Versus)
Best Studio Analyst — Spencer Tillman, CBS. The co-host of CBS’ studio with Tim Brando, Spencer goes an excellent job breaking down the highlights and also providing strong opinions about the BCS and a potential playoff system. Spencer’s not afraid to give an opinion and has formed a very good team with Tim Brando and is also willing to share when CBS provides with him with a guest such as Archie Manning or Tony Barnhart.
Honorable Mentions — Jesse Palmer (ESPN on ABC), Doug Flutie (NBC/Versus), Kirk Herbstreit (ESPN)
The Jack Arute Award for Sideline Reporting — Holly Rowe, ESPN/ABC. Sideline reporting is a thankless job. There’s the brief injury updates, the halftime interview of coaches, plus the discovery of little tidbits to pass along all without intruding on the action of the game. Holly does all of this rather well and hardly gets noticed. Well, I’m recognizing the job she does. One of the best reporters on TV, period, Holly is very good at gathering information and doesn’t unnecessarily call attention to herself.
Honorable mentions — Alex Flanagan (NBC), Heather Cox (ESPN/ABC)
Most Valuable Network — Fox. Fox, you say? Yes, Fox. It only had two games this season, but they were big ones, the inaugural Pac-12 and Big Ten Conference Championship Games. While the Pac-12 Championship was nothing to write home about, Fox had a great Big Ten Championship. Both games drew pretty decent ratings for Fox and both had Gus Johnson on the call. While the Pac-12 production was choppy, the Big Ten’s was much better. Fox has decided to invest in college football the right way in its second foray into the sport and I think it will do much better this time around.
Honorable Mention — SEC on CBS
Best Overall Coverage — CBS. For one game each week, CBS provides excellent coverage of the SEC. The network has given each game a Big Event feel and it showed especially during LSU-Alabama in primetime. CBS does a very good job on the SEC and you can tell the network enjoys having the conference as a partner.
Honorable Mention — ESPN
Best Move — CBS moving LSU-Alabama to a primetime slot after making a four way trade with ESPN, CBS Sports Network and Versus in exchange for future considerations. The result was huge ratings for “The Game of the Century.”
The Pam Ward Award for Worst Play-by-Play — Craig Bolerjack, Fox Sports Net. I am not a fan of Bolerjack and he depends too much on clichés. He seems to be in love with his own voice and unnecessarily cranks up the volume just to prove that he has good pipes. I’m actually surprised myself that I didn’t give Pam Ward the award again this year, but Bolerjack takes it this season.
Dishonorable Mention — Pam Ward (ESPNU)
Worst Game or Studio Analyst — Matt Millen, ESPN/ABC. The man has no credibility. He comes off as a bad evaluator of talent and he talks too much. Sean McDonough deserves a much better partner.
Worst Move — Creation of the Longhorn Network, ESPN. Forget about the bad precedent it sets and it being a conflict of interest, what the channel set off was another huge round of conference upheaval. It led Texas A&M to leave the Big 12 for the SEC, TCU to leave the Big East for the Big 12, and then indirectly, Syracuse and West Virginia to leave the Big East for the ACC and then the Big East picking up seemingly every single school not in the East. The Longhorn Network was a bad idea to begin with and major cable providers in the Lone Star State have yet to be convinced of its viability. Texas will receive a huge financial windfall while other schools that don’t have a network will not. Because the NCAA is so weak, it won’t force Texas to end its relationship with ESPN.
Worst Slippage — Verne Lundquist, CBS. Uncle Verne still remains one of the best announcers around, but he continues on a downward spiral. He’s been having more missed calls including wrong names and there was this call of an interception that wasn’t during the LSU-Alabama game.
Once an announcer starts slipping, it’s hard to get it back. Here’s hoping that Verne has a much better season in 2012.
Most Bizarre Moment — Lee Corso’s F Bomb on College GameDay in Houston. Here’s the entire segment from beginning to end. Oh my.
Of course, it led to an apology shortly afterwards.
Honorable Mention — Lee Corso firing off guns again at the Red River Shootout at the Cotton Bowl.
And that will do it for another season of college football.