PSU shoud get used to Fox

After two postseason firsts for Penn State in one game Saturday night — playing in the Big Ten Conference championship game for the first time and playing in game broadcast by Fox for the first time — fans can expect more of the latter over the next six years.

Fox picked up the broadcast rights to half of the conference’s content in a six-year, $240 million deal that became public earlier this year. That buys the network 25 football games, including the championship game, and 50 basketball games each year.

In a separate $190 million deal over the same period, ESPN retained the rights to a similar number of games in each sport.

Practically, it means fans will find games on different outlets from week to week. Sometime before next season the networks will agree during which weeks of the season Fox or ESPN gets first pick of games.

Those selections set game times and the viewing schedule as a season progresses.

While the kickoff times for a couple of Penn State football games will get set before next season, a majority will be determined in 14- or six-day selection windows as ESPN and Fox take turns picking games and assigning them to networks.

Fox determines games for it and Fox Sports 1 while ESPN does the same for itself, ESPN2 and ABC.

Bowl bonanza

College football bowl season begins in less than two weeks, with six games Dec. 17. Five air on ABC or ESPN, with one on CBS Sports Network.

Overall, ESPN will televise 33 bowl games, clearly marking itself as the home of college football as the season concludes.

That’s part of the reason that the move to Fox will be a stark contrast for some Big Ten and Penn State fans next season. While some fans like to complain about ESPN, and might have reason to do so, it generally remains the clear, trusted home of college football coverage.

Others may dip their toes in and attempt to grow their coverage, but ESPN has built and maintained the pool for more than three decades.

Playoff point

Few sports things seem less worthwhile than the weekly College Football Playoff reveals on ESPN.

The made-for-TV silliness reliably offers relatively little substance. Sure, it’s fun to hear the analysts/experts/talking heads debate, but that’s just their job, and investing much in what they have to say seems a fool’s game.

Worst of all, or maybe best of all, smart viewers of the weekly playoff show can see past the talking heads enough to step back can notice what the shows really reveal — the indecision and ineptitude of the over-glorified playoff committee that seems to change its criteria from week to week.

What they do hardly constitutes rocket science, and hundreds of thousands of dollars (with hotels, travel and so much more) then gets invested into a self-perpetuating process that becomes a weekly TV series.

It just seems like much ado bout nothing. Or, at minimum, a whole lot of attention to things that generally seem obvious or that they somehow make more mysterious than necessary.

Penn State presence

n     This year’s BJC Dual for the Penn State wrestling team, a matchup against Lehigh, airs at noon Sunday on BTN.

n There are two nationally televised games for the Penn State men’s basketball game this week: 7 p.m. Wednesday vs. George Mason on BTN and 2:30 p.m. Saturday against Pitt in a neutral site game in Newark, N.J., that airs on CBS Sports Network.

Tuner tidbits

n     Last week’s Michigan State-Penn State football game was the most-watched sporting event on cable TV that day. It attracted 3.7 million viewers.

n     With the Giants visiting Heinz Field this afternoon (4:25 p.m.) to play the Steelers, Fox has assigned its top broadcast team — play-by-play man Joe Buck, analyst Troy Aikman and sideline reporter Erin Andrews — to the game.

n     Former college coach turned TV analyst Butch Davis left ESPN a few weeks ago to return to coaching. Davis accepted the head coaching position at Florida International. He had been with ESPN since 2014, working as a member of the college football studio show on ESPN2.

n     NFL fans who appreciate quality broadcasters got a treat the past few weeks when play-by-play man Mike Tirico worked “Sunday Night Football” games for NBC in place of Al Michaels. Fans will get more of the same Dec. 17 and Christmas Day. It’s not that Tirico is better than Michaels — they’re both good — it’s just that Tirico got jerked around when he joined NBC this summer. He was to be in the broadcast booth for all of the network’s Thursday night games — until the NFL balked for no apparent reason. So it’s good that the network found a way to integrate Tirico.

Sampsell comments on TV and radio for the Mirror. He can be reached at stevesampsell@gmail.com.

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