By Keith Antigiovanni
When CBS began covering College Football again in 1996 I was skeptical after the way they allowed FOX to take the NFC and neglected their own MLB coverage in 1993.
I recall watching College Football games on CBS on saturday afternoons in the 1980's when they had the games from 1982-1990 and always enjoyed their coverage which included a pre game show hosted by (who else?) Brent Musburger and then games which covered a mix of conferences (PAC-10, Big-10, SEC, Big-8, ACC, etc).
Their games and overall coverage was always upbeat and entertaining as compared to ABC's stoic coverage. but when the SEC on CBS came back I figured it would be gone after a few years however its' staying power has been impressive on an annual basis.
First, their pre game show with Tim Brando and Spencer Tillman is outstanding. Even though the constant moving graphics are annoying and unnecessary CBS has the right idea with Brando as the host and Tillman as the analyst. All you need for a pre game is two people and not the half dozen that CBS, NBC, ESPN all use.
Second, their announcers are experienced and manage to focus on the game. Venerable Verne Lundquist is in his 12th year as the play-by-play guy for CBS and is now a modern classic with his patented belly laugh and good natured on-air personality. I still remember when Verne was an announcer on CBS college football coverage in the mid 1980's and of course his time covering NFL games from 1984-1993 and 1998-1999 on CBS.
Verne's partner Gary Danielson is adequate and for a few years could grate on you but if you get past his nasally midwestern accent there is a quality football analyst there.
Overall the SEC on CBS coverage reminds me of the days of pre-free agency NFL when you had great teams and great teams played great teams. The 1990's we watched the Tennessee- Florida rivalry become one of the top in the sport thanks to Phillip Fulmer and Steve Spurrier, Peyton Manning, etc. Fulmer the humble, quiet Volunteer Coach was a stark contrast to the cocky, loud mouth Steve "Superior" as his he was sometimes referred to.
The tradition of the Alabama Crimson Tide was also evident throughout the 1990's with former Bear Bryant assistant Gene Stallings. Although the Tide struggled until Saban arrived four years ago the tradition appears to be back in Tuscaloosa in the 2010's.
Other characters are also back including Spurrier who has been at South Carolina since 2005. Former Georgia Coach Vince Dooley's son is all grown up now and coaching the rival Volunteers.
Today the NFL is interchangeable and overly commercial while college football continues to be steeped in tradition and can attract fans in much greater numbers. The NFL has become a vehicle for gambling, fantasy sport (gambling) and gossip for its' pre game shows.
The NFL is something a true fan of the sport will watch out of loyalty and habit while College Football is something a true fan will watch out of enjoyment.
While I cringe whenever I am forced to watch any NFL coverage I can only beam with pride and excitement when the SEC on CBS is on the air. My only hope is that they dont screw it up.