This weekend, NBC and Peacock will air the biggest game of the 2023 college football season yet. Ohio State and Notre Dame, two helmet schools with decades of illustrious history, face off at Notre Dame Stadium. The Buckeyes and the Fighting Irish are ranked in the Top 10, so all eyes will watch this pivotal nonconference game. As she did during the epic between the Irish and the Clemson Tigers a few years ago, NBC’s Kathryn Tappen will be on the sidelines this Saturday. Tappen talked with Awful Announcing about the hype for the game, how NBC feels about hosting the Top 10 matchup, and much more.
Awful Announcing: So this is obviously a huge game. Top 10 matchup, two helmet schools, a lot of history, and passionate fanbases. Big stage, primetime. When games like this happen, there’s always an added sense of that big feel in how it’s on TV. When you’re behind the camera, how do you deal with that energy since it’s easy to probably get swept up in all the hype?
Kathryn Tappen: We treat it throughout the week like every other game; the prep doesn’t change. When you get to kickoff on Saturday night, you feel that energy, there’s no question. It’s an electric venue. Notre Dame Stadium is one of the cathedrals of college sports and college football. I think there’s gonna be a lot of people on the sidelines, the most we’ve seen pregame. The most through the first weeks of the season. That adds that element of navigating through people.
In general, it’s a great energy. We’ve all been doing this for a long time. This is my 20th year broadcasting; I’ve been to big games, Super Bowls, NHL Winter Classics, and the Olympics. I think I always feed off that energy, nothing will compare to the prep for a college race at Rutgers (Tappen excelled at track and field at Rutgers University). Those were legit nerves.
This is a heightened energy. A big moment, a big stage. Sometimes it’s as simple as a quick deep breath.
AA: Does this game excite you not just for the environment this Saturday but also for potential future primetime games on NBC in other big-time environments as the network’s coverage has significantly ramped up?
Tappen: 100%. Even looking forward to the winter months for the Olympic sports and Big Ten men’s and women’s basketball. We already sense the excitement, the enthusiasm, and the pure joy our company as a whole feels with this property. It started when we acquired it back in the wintertime. Big Ten college football on Saturday night. And then we sensed it at Big Ten media days back in July. And then now. each week, we’ve got reps of NBC’s exec team on site. People who are enjoying all this about college football. Generally, even execs that have gone to certain universities are on-site cheering for their alma maters.
This was a big acquisition, and everyone was excited. From my production team, producer, director, and associate director, everyone’s excited. There’s something about college football, the traditions, the pomp and circumstance, the families, the generations of people who’ve cheered on these teams. It’s amazing, and we’re feeling that as a family at NBC. It’s been amazing for the first couple of weeks.
AA: How do you think this game will compare to Clemson-Notre Dame, a game you were on-site for?
Tappen: That’s certainly one of my top memories and fondest memories. That was such a… surreal time with all of us going through the pandemic. It was November 2020. It was a relatively empty Notre Dame Stadium because it was only faculty and students in this Notre Dame Bubble. We were still all wearing masks; I was able to take it off for the broadcast. It was a strange time, and oh, by the way, NBC News came and announced who the President of the United States was. It was officially announced that Joe Biden would be the President. And oh, by the way, you have this Top 10 matchup everyone was excited about. It was challenging for all of us, knowing it was a big matchup. Certainly thought there was a possibility that the President could be announced. And then it goes into double overtime.
And THEN everyone rushes the field. My producer was like, “Tap, Tap, go get coach!”
“Do I have him?” Not only do I not, but I’m scared of all these people who are around me all at once. It was a STORM of students storming the field. There was so much excitement.
And then, oh gosh, Kyren Williams, who was such a great athlete, week in, week out, typically I’d interview him because he was always the star of the game. And so, out of nowhere, he comes like through, like a fish swimming upstream. “Did you need to interview me?” YES!
So, okay, I don’t have Brian Kelly, but I have Williams. He was so excited. Students were around him, giving him high fives. It was one of those moments like, ‘Who cares at this point?’ It was so much fun. A great win for Notre Dame; never will forget that for so many reasons in addition to the victory.
Tappen will be on the sidelines again in South Bend this weekend. Notre Dame hosts Ohio State in a Top 10 matchup on NBC and Peacock, which kicks off at 7:30 p.m. Eastern.