I can't lie, the reaction to last week's news that the Pac-12 is in discussions with The CW Network about broadcasting rights made me laugh. I don't blame people for dunking on the Pac-12, but I feel like the ensuing discourse missed the mark. Sure, they deserve every bit of criticism they get for the disaster that is the Pac-12 Network –plus the subsequent distribution flubs that have followed– but when it comes to the possibility of Pac-12 football being aired on The CW? I'm here for it, and I'm asking you to at least hear me out on why it could be a good thing.
As a fan, I don't give a shit about the numbers of any network deal. It doesn't matter to me how much money these conferences/networks make, or how their deals stack up against each other. I hear your, "You'll care when you see the difference it makes in recruiting, NIL, Playoff visibility, etc." response and yeah, I'll concede there - but please take a second to consider how fucking stupid it is that we have to think about any of that as fans. We've spent so much time over the last decade obsessing over TV network deals that the actual games and players have basically taken a back seat to what's going on behind the scenes with expansion/re-alignment and how it impacts the Playoff. There's nothing I hate more than when it's week five and I open the CFB page on ESPN/The Athletic/whoever and the first two stories are about some new TV deal and what it might mean for the sport going forward. Love to throw on College Gameday and watch 30 minutes of expansion talk! Feel the excitement and pageantry of college football, baby!
One of the other main criticisms people had with a possible CW deal is how it would look "optically" for a conference to air games on a network known for The Gilmore Girls and Riverdale, among other shows. It's a fair point, until I remind you that ESPN/Fox/CBS air thought-provoking shows such as "First Take," "Farmer Wants a Wife," and "The Equalizer." Brother, I will happily sit through the full Gilmore Girls series again* if I can just watch Pac-12 games easily and the broadcasts are entertaining; two things that were absolutely impossible in the Pac-12 Network era.
(*That's right. Again. Still can't believe they did Rory like that in the mini-series. Nasty business.)
If anything, I want the weirdness a network like CW might bring to college football. Could it completely suck? Sure! Would it be worse than ESPN only promoting the Playoff, Mel Kiper and Todd McShay's big boards, or Dan Orlovksy spending 75% of a broadcast only taking about QBs and screaming, "THIS GUY IS GENERATIONAL!" every fifth play? I say no! Same goes for Fox. They've beefed up their coverage, but they can't tell a story or add drama worth a shit. Maybe CW –or another random network– brings something new, or broadcasts in a different way! I'm just sick of the sterile presentation of a sport built off atmosphere and passion we get from the current setup. Remember when broadcasts had intros like this?
I haven't dumped on CBS yet –and they have their own flaws– because they at least seem to understand how to present high-level college athletics. On-field dominance is obviously the reason for the "SEC is King" world we've lived in the past 15 years, but CBS also played a major role in making those broadcasts can't-miss and doing everything they could to build up the conference's persona. They have the Big Ten starting this year, and I doubt it'll take them long to be a better partner for the conference in that regard than Fox has been. With respect to Gus Johnson and Joel Klatt –who I think are a solid duo– the whole presentation and most of the broadcast teams there stink.
I'm rambling here, so I'll end on this. If you're old enough, you remember a time where games were on channels like TBS, Versus, or –if you were in a certain part of the country– Raycom Sports/Jefferson-Pilot Communications. It was weird, but that's the whole point! College football is supposed to be weird. It's not supposed to be the homogenized product that we've been force-fed and told is delicious during the conference re-alignment era. It's supposed to feel local, tribalistic and unhinged. It's supposed to have sideline reporters who get shoulder-checked at midfield because they try to run with Ralphie:
If the Pac-12 can find that with The CW –or any other network– it'll be a major win for college football and its fans.