This has been a truly strange college football season so far but we do know two things for sure. The Heisman Trophy will still be handed out and that moment will be broadcast on ESPN.
ESPN announced Saturday that it had reached a multi-year agreement with The Heisman Trust, which oversees the trophy of its namesake, and will remain the exclusive home of the Heisman Trophy Ceremony for the foreseeable future. ESPN has hosted the event since 1994 and will televise the 86th annual Heisman Trophy Ceremony on Tuesday, January 5, at 7 p.m. ET.
There will be one key difference in this year’s version of the ceremony. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the 2020 Heisman Ceremony will be filmed at ESPN’s studios in Briston, CT, and not the PlayStation Theater in Times Square, where it has been hosted since 2005. The one-hour telecast will be hosted by Chris Fowler and will also include reporters Tom Rinaldi and Maria Taylor. ESPN analysts and former Heisman Trophy winners Desmond Howard and Tim Tebow will also appear remotely.
Also unique is that the Heisman finalists will not appear in the studio but instead will appear remotely, either from their homes or schools.
“The Heisman Trophy is one of the most iconic awards in sports and ESPN is honored to have annually presented the Ceremony for nearly three decades,” said Kurt Dargis, director of programming, ESPN. “We look forward to continuing our relationship with the Heisman Trust in the years ahead as we come together to celebrate college football and one of the sport’s enduring traditions.”
For ESPN, renewing their deal with The Heisman Trust is a no-brainer given the way they’ve leveraged the slot after it to take advantage of the large audience. That slot has usually gone to a college football documentary, and those post-Heisman documentaries have frequently been some of the most-praised editions and some of the highest-rated as well thanks to their strong lead-in. While most recent years featured a 30 for 30 airing after the Heisman ceremony, ESPN switched gears a few years ago and promoted live boxing in the post-Heisman spot as well. It remains to be seen what their plan is for that spot this year, but given the success of recent docu-series and documentaries, we wouldn’t be surprised to see one slotted back in there.