It’s rare that a national media outlet is so closely associated with a single team. But that’s the exact relationship Notre Dame has with NBC, which has been carrying Fighting Irish games since 1991.
That dynamic, however, has changed this season with NBC entering the first year of its new rights deal with the Big Ten. Thus, viewers who have become accustomed to the network’s Notre Dame loyalties might be in for a surprise on Saturday when the Fighting Irish face Ohio State, with Noah Eagle on the call for NBC’s Big Ten Saturday Night.
“We know, Noah, for years, for decades, Notre Dame football has featured on NBC. They’ve been the home for Notre Dame football. Now they have to share the spotlight a little bit,” 92.3 The Fan’s Anthony Lima said while interviewing Eagle on Thursday. “Do Notre Dame fans understand that this is not going to be a homer broadcast this week and that Tom Hammond, Dick Enberg, Dan Hicks, Don Criqui, they’re not walking through that door? They got Noah Eagle who is going to show bipartisan support during this broadcast.”
“That is correct. I will be, as I said last week when I got to call my alma mater [Syracuse], I will be ‘Neutral Noah,’ and that is the case throughout the year, no matter who we’re doing,” Eagle replied during his appearance on The Ken Carman Show with Anthony Lima. “I don’t know. It’s a great question and I really don’t know the answer. If they don’t know, they’re going to find out.”
Eagle then turned to his family’s calling card, making a pop culture reference to illustrate his point.
“I would quote the wonderful and amazingly talented Biggie Smalls that ‘if you don’t know, now you know,'” the 25-year-old son of Ian Eagle said. “It’s going to be a neutral game. It’s going to be a neutral call. I mean, this is Big Ten Saturday Night, so we have to showcase the Big Ten just as much as we showcase Notre Dame.”
To Eagle’s point, this particular game is a part of the seven-year deal NBC reached with the Big Ten last year, which will see the network pay the conference a reported $350 million per season for 14-16 games each year. If this was a part of NBC’s Notre Dame package — which runs through 2025 — Jac Collinsworth, Jason Garrett, and Zora Stephenson would be on the call, as opposed to the Big Ten Saturday Night team of Eagle, Todd Blackledge, and Kathryn Tappen.
Nevertheless, that likely won’t stop Buckeye fans from claiming homerism should Eagle excitedly make a call in favor of the Fighting Irish. Then again, perhaps it’s the Notre Dame fans who will be claiming a Buckeye/Big Ten bias on the broadcast.