Start broadcasting college football games featuring top teams on Saturday nights in primetime? Check.
Hire Erin Andrews to host a weekly pregame show prior to said primetime college football games, and then some? Check.
Schedule the weekly MLB game on Saturday afternoons at a time that it won’t conflict with said primetime college football games?
Kiffin, we have a problem.
Many college football fans were looking forward to Fox on Saturday night, with No. 1-ranked USC hosting Hawaii. And many sports media observers had a rooting interest in that it was Erin Andrews’ debut as host of the new “Fox College Saturday” show, which would be co-hosted by former University of Oregon quarterback (and noted piano enthusiast) Joey Harrington and ex-Ohio State standout running back Eddie George, who won the Heisman Trophy Award in 1995.
But by the time it was showtime for Erin and her crew in Southern California, there were a couple of baseball games still in progress on Fox: the Nationals were barely leading the Cardinals in the eighth inning, and the Phillies still had an inning of work to complete against the Braves. And with the Cardinals scoring a run in each of the eighth and ninth innings, it appeared as if a Nats rally would force extra innings – and a further delay of USC vs. Hawaii.
Meanwhile, the third regional game on Fox’s schedule on that day, Angels vs. Mariners – albeit one that was shown in roughly 10% of the country, mostly on the West Coast – was finished in time for “Fox College Saturday” to begin.
As for the two-thirds of the country that got the Cardinals/Nationals contest? No such luck. When the game was finally called at just about 7:30 PM, Fox threw to a commercial break. Upon returning, Chris Myers told viewers that Gus Johnson and Charles Davis would be on the other side of yet another commercial break with Trojans/Warriors. When coverage eventually began – at least on the Fox O&O in New York City – it began right in the middle of a Julia Alexander interview with USC head coach Lane Kiffin. Mid-freakin-sentence.
The good news for Fox is that neither of the three MLB games went into extra innings, so they dodged a major bullet. But 65% of the country was still deprived of Erin Andrews’ debut as host of Fox’s new college football show.
For me, it immediately harkened shades of February 10/11, 2001. That was the night that Jennifer Lopez was scheduled to host “Saturday Night Live” (mind you, February is a “sweeps month”). But by the time the curtain was raised at Studio 8H, J-Lo ended up hosting “Sunday Morning Live” – that’s because the football game airing on NBC in primetime that night didn’t end until a quarter to midnight on the East Coast. And this wasn’t just any football game: this was the first professional football game in Los Angeles in seven years. That’s right: the Los Angeles Xtreme hosting the Chicago Enforcers in the XFL Game of the Week. You remember the XFL, right, kids? The league started by wrestling maven Vince McMahon? The league that brought you “He Hate Me”? I suppose we can pardon this since the Xtreme ended up winning the championship that year – the only year in the XFL’s existence.
My point here is, had there been extra innings in Washington, worse things may have happened – but the example I brought up may have been among the worst. The caveat, of course, is that New York and other major markets were denied seeing Erin Andrews’ first foray as a pregame host on Fox. I don’t think that was what she signed up for. (Of course, she could have stayed at ESPN, where she would not have got the opportunity to work baseball games and NFL playoff games, and worst of all, she’d have to endure the Worldwide Leader’s fascination with Tim Tebow – her words, not mine.)
The tweets told the story during the 7 PM ET hour on Saturday night… and here they are.