If you think of a Saturday morning college football pregame show, there’s an approximate 99% chance you’re thinking of ESPN College GameDay. That’s just the reality; ESPN essentially owns that space through a seemingly unbeatable combination of longevity and quality.
That doesn’t mean other networks aren’t going to try, though, and Fox is making an attempt via the “bring in big names” strategy, reportedly signing Urban Meyer to appear alongside Matt Leinart, Reggie Bush, and Brady Quinn.
Fox has signed what it feels, as one source put it, is a “Mount Rushmore of college football over the last 15 years,” for its new, yet-to-be-named Saturday morning pregame show that will air on network TV.
Sources say Fox has hired former Ohio State coach Urban Meyer and one of the greatest running backs in the college game’s history, Reggie Bush, for its new team.
Meyer and Bush will join Bush’s former USC teammate and fellow Heisman winner Matt Leinart, ex-Notre Dame quarterback Brady Quinn and host Rob Stone for the show that will air at 11 a.m. Saturdays on Fox, beginning in the fall.
First of all, what are we doing with “Mount Rushmore”, here? And it’s telling that Marchand’s source used fifteen years as a timeframe, because that’s about as far back as you need to go for those USC teams. Brady Quinn, meanwhile, achieved college football stardom in one of the most tried-and-true ways: being a mediocre Notre Dame quarterback.
(An aside: I took a campus visit to Notre Dame in the spring of 2004, and the guide for our group mentioned at least a dozen times that “true freshman quarterback Brady Quinn” lived just down the hall in his dorm. They know what sells, I guess. I did not go to Notre Dame.)
Meyer has been rumored to be moving to Fox for a while. He’s the most currently relevant name, and he’s continuing his tradition of retiring while citing his health only to immediately resume working. All of the people involved are probably going to be fine in their respective roles, but this isn’t going to be anything that threatens ESPN’s status as the dominant force on Saturday morning. None of these names move the needle in 2019, aside from Meyer, and given the year he’s had it’s very possible he’ll move the needle in an undesirable direction.
This is the second time Fox has tried to provide some competition to GameDay. Back when FS1 launched in 2013, Erin Andrews hosted a pregame show for the network. It was not good, though it was an improvement on the Andrews-hosted studio show in 2012. The FS1 show was a ratings disaster and was axed after a season in favor of a Friday night pregame show. With this new show reportedly airing on Big Fox, the viewership will have to be better than the FS1 show all those years ago, right?
Challenging GameDay isn’t easy because there’s no way to beat it for spectacle or cultural relevance, and it’s also one of ESPN’s most consistently competent pieces of production. Again, that doesn’t mean other networks shouldn’t try; competition is never a bad thing for viewers. But this doesn’t seem like a recipe for standalone success, much less something that could conceivably threaten ESPN’s dominance.