I know I'm showing my age, but back in the spring of 1980 I suddenly found myself graduating from college. I heard of a new sports network going on the air called ESPN, so I made a call to Bristol, CT, a few hours from where I went to college. Upon asking about openings for sports anchors, a company official told me, "We have already hired our anchor- his named is Chris Berman. We are not hiring any other anchors." I hung up the phone, went the local TV route and here I am 33 years later.
I mention this because back in those days, programming on ESPN was a bit, well, shallow. Filling 24 hours with sports shows was no easy task. Today, you have to wonder if the fine folks with the SEC network may experience some of the same growing pains as ESPN did over three decades ago. Since I've been covering SEC sports since 1984, and since I want the best for Mike Slive and the fine folks at the SEC offices in Birmingham, I thought I'd offer up some ideas for filling all of those hours when the new network hits the air in the summer of 2014.
No doubt the SEC folks will order up a program on all 14 SEC football teams. I picture 30 to 60 minute shows on each team, which will certainly help any initial programming voids. Here now, are my ideas for those programs on each team:
"King Of The Hill" (Alabama): A reality show sees TV cameras follow Nick Saban, his PR folks, state troopers and groupies wherever he walks.
"Who's The Boss?" (Auburn): The network profiles AU athletic department officials as they fight for power. In a "Survivor" format, one official is voted out of the department until a last person is left standing. Paul Finebaum hosts.
"Law & Order LSU" (LSU): The network hires the producers of the show "Cops" to follow the Tigers through an entire season. The Honeybadger is hired to give creative input.
"Scrubs" (Miss State): A weekly news magazine show that delves into the reasons the Bulldogs can't get over the hump.
"Fringe" (Ole Miss): Hosted by Dari Nowkhah and Mel Kiper, this program explores the reasons why the Rebels are "almost" at the level of Alabama & LSU. Offers Kiper, "When my hair moves, the Rebels will be back!".
"Without A Trace" (Arkansas): This mystery program informs viewers why the Razorbacks haven't been seen since Bobby Petrino took his infamous motorcycle ride.
"Johnny Quest" (Texas A&M). Aggies quarterback Johnny Manziel and his dog Bandit are followed 24/7 by TV cameras. The SEC soon finds its budget strapped when the TV crew is forced to travel to Cancun six months of the year. Hosted by AJ McCarron.
"Hoarders" (Florida): Can an SEC program win a national title in every sport? Find out on this new program hosted by Jeremy Foley.
"Once Upon A Time" (Georgia): Nostalgia freaks will enjoy this show about an SEC program that used to win championships. Hosted by Vince & Barbara Dooley.
"Mad Men" (South Carolina): A true comedy with hearty laughs, this program is based loosely on the life of Steve Spurrier and his crazy quotes. So what if he tees off other SEC coaches? He's a mad man! Michelle Beadle is brought back to host.
"Rescue Me" (Tennessee): Hosted by Peyton Manning, this program explores different ways the Vols program can be rescued and brought back to life. (Note: Manning has no more eligibility).
"Lost" (Kentucky): The title says is all.
"The Biggest Loser" (Vanderbilt): Hosted by Jillian Michaels, this program profiles bottom dwelling athletes who, after their college careers may just end up being more successful than any other athletes in the conference.
And if that's not enough? SEC Network big-wigs are said to be exploring these reality programs based on talented and colorful coaches and traditions:
"Just Shoot Me": An insightful reality show profiling John L. Smith's run as the Arkansas Razorback's interim coach.
"The Apprentice": TV cameras follow Alabama defensive coordinator Kirby Smart 24/7.
"The Six Million Dollar Man": A full 60 minutes of Nick Saban! Is that enough?
"The Price Is Right": Inside the SEC and ESPN board rooms as big-wigs exhibit the art of the deal.
"Family Guy": An uplifting weekly programming starring Auburn's Jay Jacobs. Guest stars include Jay Gogue and Pat Dye.
"Blues Clues": This program stars Kentucky basketball coach John Calipari, as he offers us clues on how to deal with "one-and-done" athletes.
"The Best Wing": Hosted by Bob Baumhower, this weekly tailgating show is out to find the best barbeque in the SEC (actually, this one might really work!).
I hope you enjoy the new SEC network- I know I am excited about what the network will bring. While executives continue to explore future content, let's hope this serves as helpful input to those making the decisions at the highest levels.
Have a great day and I'll see you on TV!