SBD/Issue 242/College Football Preview

Topical Island: Tony Barnhart To Host Show On CBS College Sports

"The Tony Barnhart Show" Debuts On CBS
College Sports Network Tuesday At 9:00pm ET
There is no lack of college football coverage on cable TV with the recent proliferation of new networks and big media deals. However, longtime Atlanta Journal Constitution college football writer Tony Barnhart and CBS Sports Exec VP/Programming Mike Aresco felt there was something missing from the media landscape: a topical, issue-heavy college football show. So when "The Tony Barnhart Show" debuts on CBS College Sports Network Tuesday at 9:00pm ET, viewers might see more similarities to political or business talk shows than other college football franchises. Barnhart says he and Aresco, who serves as the show's Exec Producer, "looked across the spectrum at the genre of talk" for inspiration. Aresco feels Barnhart is a natural choice for this format both because of his "unique ability to relate to fans" and his status as "Mr. College Football" (the name of his blog on AJC.com). Aresco reiterated that this will be a "thinking man's show," but also said that it will not feature "controversy for controversy's sake."

GIVING FANS WHAT THEY WANT: The Tuesday night time slot, previously occupied by either volleyball or game repeats, comes at a time when Barnhart believes college football fans will be "starved for content." Each hour-long show will begin with opening remarks from Barnhart, followed by interviews with guests, panel discussions, and previews of upcoming games. Guests will include coaches, administrators, college presidents and media members, but also some "unconventional guests" such as U.S. Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) on the debut show Tuesday and pollster/political consultant Frank Luntz on September 15. Penn State Univ. President Graham Spanier is confirmed for October 13. Barnhart: "We want to sort of step outside the comfort zone of college athletics to bring in some different voices." The format itself will evolve as needed, and Aresco said events like the Army-Navy game or other storied rivalries will give the show a "unique opportunity" to bring more of a central theme to a given episode. The show will be promoted across various CBS platforms, including CBS Sports, CBS College Sports Network and CBSSports.com. Bass Pro Shops has signed on as the show's presenting sponsor.

SPEAKING OF TOPICS: The SEC's record TV deal with ESPN is typical of the issues that are likely to be discussed on the show. When asked how other leagues might compete, Barnhart said they may turn to "a combination of both" league-run networks and bigger contracts with TV partners. Barnhart said, "I think you're going to see leagues certainly try to close the gap on what the SEC has." He added it is "not beyond the realm of possibility" that conferences could partner with each other to collectively negotiate TV deals. Another hot topic in college football is the dearth of minority head coaches at the FBS level; there are just nine such coaches at the start of the season. Barnhart said college athletics "needs to do a better job when it comes to minority participation. We all know about the head coaching level, but the other great issue that people don't talk about as much is at the administrative level. In theory, a 'Rooney Rule' would be a very good thing. The question I have is the practical application of it, because there is no one single entity that has an umbrella over Division-I college football. The NCAA doesn't really control it. It's done at the conference level by the commissioners."

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