In the NFL Draft, trading down has become all the rage.

And now the tactic has made its way to TV networks too.

On Monday, Fox President of Insight and Analytics Michael Mulvihill joined The Joel Klatt Show: A College Football Podcast to discuss how networks who share a league or conference’s TV rights pick which games will air where. And when it comes to the Big Ten — which Fox shares the rights to with NBC and CBS — Mulvihill revealed that his network used the top two picks in the draft on Nov. 30 (Ohio State vs. Michigan) and Sept. 7 (Michigan vs. Texas), before facing a conundrum with the No. 3 pick. Last week, Fox announced three Big Noon games, with the third one being Wisconsin hosting Alabama.

Mulvhill then explained the network had a fierce debate over their third pick (Fox having the “A” package of games seems to have the first three picks this year), as they were stuck between November 2nd and October 12th, when Oregon hosts Ohio State a game that they would have not been able to have the game at their preferred noon ET window.

“In the case of that No. 3 pick, we probably debated that pick more than any single other pick in the history of college football on Fox,” Mulvihill said. “Because there were two dates that were in play that we thought were especially strong. One is Oct. 12 where Ohio State will go out West and play Oregon. One of the best games of the season in not just the Big Ten, but probably in all of college football. The other date that’s really interesting is Nov. 2. There are two, I would say, ultra-premium games on that date. One is Ohio State going to Penn State, a very traditional Big Ten matchup. And the other is Oregon coming East to play Michigan in the Big House.

“When you select a date, you’re selecting the date. You’re not selecting a specific game. So if we were to pick Nov. 2, when the time comes, when we get two weeks out of that date, we’ll actually make a selection of whether we want Ohio State-Penn State or Oregon-Michigan. For now, you just take that date, and you maintain the flexibility to decide later what game you’ll actually take.”

As for what made the decision so difficult for Fox, Mulvihill noted that the network weighed the quality of the Ohio State vs. Oregon game and the novelty of Oregon’s first season in the Big Ten against prioritizing its 12 p.m. ET slot and the attractiveness of the Nov. 2 date—and the ensuing ad revenue—just days before the 2024 election. But when it came time to make an actual selection, Fox opted to channel its inner Bill Belichick, moving down the draft board for a bigger haul.

“We traded the pick,” Mulvihill said. “The choice was so difficult that we just didn’t make it. We can trade our picks in this selection process just like you would trade picks in the NFL Draft. And we actually came to a solution that I think worked out well for everybody; I think everybody’s going to be satisfied. I won’t name the network that we did the deal with because they haven’t announced yet what they did with the pick, and it’s their news to share. But I can tell you that in moving down from the No. 3 pick — we then moved up at a later portion of the draft — we ended up with five of the top seven picks in the draft, and we were still able to get that Nov. 2 date.”

“So we are the Chicago Bears is what you’re telling me,” Klatt joked, pointing to the draft trades the franchise has made in the last two years.

If the trade was with NBC and they did pick the October 12th date, NBC would have a pretty stellar doubleheader that Saturday with Notre Dame hosting Stanford followed by Ohio State vs. Oregon.  A trade with CBS would have Oregon vs. Ohio State being at their 3:30 ET slot.

With the start of the season still, three months away, there are still plenty of gaps to fill in, including whether Fox will use its first choice for Nov. 2 on Penn State vs. Ohio State or Michigan vs. Oregon (college football fans are surely hoping for the latter so that Penn State-Ohio State can be played at night and not noon). But at this point, what we do know is that Fox will host Michigan vs. Texas, Ohio State vs. Michigan, and whichever game it selects for Nov. 2, while Ohio State vs. Oregon will presumably air on whichever network opts to trade up for the No. 3 pick.

[The Joel Klatt Show]

About Ben Axelrod

Ben Axelrod is a veteran of the sports media landscape, having most recently worked for NBC's Cleveland affiliate, WKYC. Prior to his time in Cleveland, he covered Ohio State football and the Big Ten for outlets including Cox Media Group, Bleacher Report, Scout and Rivals.