This is the season for holiday miracles and resolutions for the coming year, and I think I’ve determined what is at the top of my list for 2017. As college fantasy sports become more commonplace and I grow preferential to NFL RedZone, what I’m longing for more and more is a true NCAA version of the NFL’s best idea since they removed eyeholes from leather helmets.
This is not a particularly novel concept, ESPN dabbled in it for nearly a decade under the title ESPN Goal Line, but it has never been executed to its full potential and was rolled into the more general College Extra in 2015. What I’m dreaming of this Christmas is a full commitment to the NFL’s format, complete with minimalist banter from a solo in-studio host and breakneck, quad-box coverage as games expire in whirlwind fashion.
Unfortunately, to deliver on my wish, there’d have to be a Festivus miracle. Part of this is because the fractured nature of college sports coverage makes it nearly impossible to bring all the games under a single roof. For the NFL, this issue doesn’t exist as it handles the television contracts for all its teams. Bringing together viewing rights between schools that can’t even decide who they want to have in their conference, much less on their networks, makes building college RedZone a tall order.
Additionally, anyone who has watched NFL RedZone, especially around 3:45-4:15pm, can attest to the frenetic pace created from several games concluding at once. This is both stimulating and slightly confusing as hosts Siciliano or Hanson whip around, trying to give context as the seconds expire and games swing dramatically on single plays, and this is only with a few NFL games happening simultaneously. Conversely, there are 128 D1 college programs playing dozens of games at once on a Saturday. Covering the end of all of them, or even keeping-up with scoring opportunities throughout the games, is a limitation on the feasibility of college RedZone.
Fortunately, a compromise that might rectify both glaring issues is conceivable. Because networks typically make deals with entire conferences rather than individual teams (with a handful of obvious exceptions) and conferences offer a smaller subsection of schools, perhaps offering a limited version of RedZone is the answer. For example, for those who have rooting interest in SEC games, athletic departments and network executives could put together a commercial-free, live-look-in package for just that conference. The same could be true of any other conference, or maybe even a combination thereof that takes advantage of geographical locations. Imagine offering an SEC & ACC RedZone package. Football fans in the South would devour that.
The other advantage to a conference system would be greater access for smaller teams that don’t get much TV coverage or are relegated to obscure channels. William and Mary graduates like myself might be very interested in what’s happening both with the Tribe as well as around the CAA, but don’t have the access to follow the conference live. Being able to purchase a CAA-specific RedZone could allow for greater investment from disenfranchised fans who simply don’t know how or where to look for coverage of their smaller schools.
Offering college RedZone by conference or geographic location could be the answer to some of the more obvious hurdles that have stood in its way in the past. Smaller schools could gain buy-in around their programs through greater conference interest, while big-time schools could generate a new and lucrative way to follow their teams. Maybe I can start to believe that some miracles can happen.
Francis Giknis joins College AD as a contributor after seven years of teaching and coaching throughout the east coast. Prior to writing for College AD, Francis earned an English degree from the College of William and Mary and his masters at Columbia University. Raised in a cable television-free household, he remembers binge-watching ESPN while on vacations away from home, much to the chagrin of his parents.