THE COUGS PLAY their first ever game on new channel Fox Sports 1 this Saturday night against Southern Cal. And based on this past weekend’s broadcasts, Cougar fans might be in for an unfortunate, yet familiar, commentary style.
Thankfully, Fox Sports 1 isn’t manning their announcing crews with former players of the home school like the FSN channels did a few years back. But if the network’s first-ever game broadcast was any indication, home team favoritism remains alive and well.
William & Mary was on the road against West Virginia. Over the final quarter, the announcing duo of Adam Alexander and Chris Sims fell all over themselves to heap praise on West Virginia, despite what was unfolding on the field.
“Dana Holgorson has got to be really pleased with his offense and defense!” Sims gushed as the final seconds ticked off the clock.
Mr. Sims said that as West Virginia, a 32-point favorite, escaped with a 24-17 win at home. W&M had a 10-point lead in the second half. It was tied in the fourth quarter with less than five minutes remaining. West Virginia took only their second lead of the game over the FCS opponent with 3:22 to play.
I’m just going to hazard a guess here that Dana Holgorson wasn't pleased about much of anything in that game. What’s in store for CougFans this Saturday with the FS-1 broadcasting team? Will it be a USC love-fest? Craig Bolerjack and Joey Harrington are on the call, with Ryan Nece on the sidelines for the 7:30 p.m. kickoff.
THE NEW COUGAR RADIO broadcast team debuted on Saturday with Bud Nameck taking over play-by-play from Bob Robertson, who moved to the pre-game, halftime and post-game, plus some in-game commentary. Robertson’s former partner for 11 years in the booth, Jim Walden, had an interesting take.
“I wish what they would have done was to just simply get Bob a spotter,” Walden said. “If they would have done that, we could all still be enjoying the great calls of Bob Robertson and any concerns anyone out there had would have gone away.”
Walden said for the last three years he was in the booth, he served as a spotter for Robertson. And Robertson has said in recent years that his eyes aren’t quite as good as they used to be. Walden also noted it’s hard enough to identify the players given how high up and far away from the action they are in the press box.
That WSU apparently doesn’t have a spotter in the booth seems odd. A quick search on Google seems to indicate the vast majority of other college programs have spotters. Some schools, such as Stanford, have releases on their website stating that upon request, they’ll provide spotters and statisticians to visiting crews.
FLIPPING AROUND THE TV dial this weekend, there was a clear and obvious contradiction in terms seen on ESPN. It bears mention because it involves the two teams playing this weekend – Washington State and USC, exactly 10 years ago in Los Angeles.
Dave Cutaia was on ESPN this past Saturday to talk about the new targeting rule. The graphic identified him as “ESPN College Football Rules Expert.”
Cougar fans know better. During his Pac-10 officiating days, the only thing Cutaia displayed expertise in was an uncanny ability to get it wrong.
One of the more egregious examples came in the WSU-USC game in 2003. Cougar LB Pat Bennett drilled Matt Leinart deep inside Trojan territory. The loose ball was clearly visible when Bennett and Leinart were still horizontal, having not yet hit the ground. Cutaia had a great look at it. WSU recovered the fumble and had they been able to move the ball about 12 yards, WSU would have taken a 14-12 lead.
But the instant Leinart was hit, Cutaia began to run toward the play and proceeded to emphatically signal Leinart was down before the ball came loose – almost before Leinart had even touched the ground. It was, and remains, a stunning display of officiating ineptitude. And ESPN will be beaming his expertise across the airwaves this 2013 season?
You’re killing me, ESPN. You’re just killing me.
SPEAKING OF INEPT, the executives at ESPN-ABC take the cake for a broadcasting personnel move made this season. Here’s a thought: let’s take one of the worst analysts out there and let’s promote him, let’s assign him more high profile games.
That’s exactly what’s happened with Rod Gilmore. He used to be on Thursday night games on ESPN. Then he was moved to the even-less visible Friday ESPN games, lending hope he would soon be phased out. Instead, he’s inexplicably been moved this season to Saturday afternoon matchups on ABC and ESPN.
What makes a Gilmore broadcast akin to being kicked in the face isn’t that he adds virtually no real expertise -- there are plenty of analysts who fail on that score, who never provide that which only an experienced player or coach can. No, what makes Mr. Gilmore’s commentary a slab of well-worn dreck is his propensity to repeat himself. Over and over and over again.
Five plays later, he’s still on the same damned point. Making matters worse, oftentimes the replay has shown his take was dubious, or demonstrably wrong. If he’s assigned to a Cougars game this fall, I’m going to have to wrap everything that's breakable in the house in bubble wrap.
SO WHO ARE the best TV announcers? Everyone has different opinions on that but for my money, Brad Nessler on the call is hard to beat. Another play-by-play guy who doesn’t call college games but boy I wish he would is Kevin Harlan.
The college TV color men, the analysts, those are a bit trickier. There just aren’t many good ones. Todd Blackledge is good at his job. Another who does do a solid job might be hard for Cougar fans to accept since he’s a former Husky - Brock Huard. But the best analyst I’ve heard on TV the last 15 years was a guy who did it as more of a hobby, calling a few WSU games way back when.
Mark Rypien on Saturdays didn’t toss out the all-too common clichés or shtick, he simply gave you tons of golden insight that the average fan following the ball never notices.
Rypien probably has other things on his plate holding his interest these days, such as the work his foundation is doing. But it sure would be nice if he got back into broadcasting and color commentary. He was exceedingly good at it, and that’s a rare thing.