We’re only just beginning to get a sense of the ramifications to come from the Big Ten’s media rights deals with CBS, Fox, and NBC. The most obvious change to come from the $7-billion media rights package is that conference football games will disappear from ESPN networks.
While there are a lot of questions yet to be answered about how ESPN will move forward, one question that lingers over the college football landscape is whether or not the Worldwide Leader will tone down coverage of the Big Ten. That sounds like an absurd notion on paper but it’s not like ESPN hasn’t played favorites based on their media deals before.
For instance, would College GameDay, ESPN’s conversation-setting studio show, travel less to Big Ten campuses now that they won’t be able to keep viewers on one of their networks afterward? Would they deemphasize the focus of a big Big Ten game by choosing to visit an SEC or ACC campus instead rather than promote a game that will be televised on NBC or Fox?
According to GameDay host Rece Davis, that’s simply not how they plan on doing things.
“Our intention is to continue on the model that built GameDay, which is be at the biggest story every week, whether that’s the Big Ten, SEC, ACC wherever,” Davis said via the Paul Finebaum Show. “I don’t see us avoiding the Big Ten.”
Davis added that the final decision is not his to make, but the broadcasting crew is consulted on their location choices.
If GameDay did cut down on Big Ten campus visits, it would be very noticeable. The show broadcast from four Big Ten campuses in 2021, including a visit to Chicago when Wisconsin played Notre Dame in Soldier Field. This season, they’ll be in Columbus for the Ohio State-Notre Dame game, marking their 22nd time at the school, the most of any campus. They’ve also visited Ann Arbor 35 times, the sixth-most popular campus destination.
Some might wonder if Big Noon Kickoff, which routinely visits Big Ten campuses and game sites, might scare off College GameDay as well. However, both programs broadcast from the same location multiple times last season, including the Wisconsin-Notre Dame game in Chicago, the Michigan-Michigan State showdown in East Lansing, and the Michigan-Ohio State game in Ann Arbor.
Of course, there are always going to be conspiracy theories and what-ifs, this is college football, after all. So if there’s a game between two ranked Big Ten teams and another game between two ranked SEC teams and the GameDay crew sets up shop on the SEC campus, it will be hard to convince some people that it wasn’t intentional. But that’s always been the nature of things for College GameDay.