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College Football on ABC
Genre Sports
Starring Sean McDonough
Matt Millen
Holly Rowe
Mike Patrick
Craig James
Heather Cox
Terry Gannon
David Norrie
Ron Franklin
Ed Cunningham
Bob Wischusen
Brian Griese
John Saunders
Jesse Palmer
Matt Winer
Chris Fowler
Lee Corso
Kirk Herbstreet
Desmond Howard
Country of origin  United States
No. of seasons 55
Running time 180 minutes+
Original channel ABC
Picture format 720p (HDTV)
Original run 1950
1966 – present

ESPN College Football on ABC presented by Kay Jewlers is a presentation of the ABC Television Network's regular season college football television package. The television network (which broadcast regular season college football in 1950 and has every year since 1966) broadcasts games of all the major conferences of Division I-A NCAA football except the Southeastern Conference.





ABC has historically aired the premiere games since it has had all major conference contracts at one time or another. Keith Jackson with his down-home, folsky style symbolized college football has served as its unofficial voice.

By 1950, a small number of prominent football schools, including the University of Pennsylvania (ABC) and the University of Notre Dame (DuMont Television Network) had entered into individual contracts with networks to broadcast their games regionally. In fact, all of Penn's home games were broadcast on ABC during the 1950 season under a contract that paid Penn $150,000. However, prior to the 1951 season, the NCAA – alarmed by reports that indicated television decreased attendance at games – asserted control and prohibited live broadcasts of games. Although the NCAA successfully forced Penn and Notre Dame to break their contracts, the NCAA suffered withering attacks for its 1951 policy, faced threats of antitrust hearings and eventually caved in and lifted blackouts of certain sold-out games. Bowl games were always outside the control of the NCAA, and the 1952 Rose Bowl at the end of that season was the first truly national telecast of a college football game, on NBC.[1]

For the 1952 season, the NCAA relented somewhat, but limited telecasts to one nationally-broadcast game each week. The NCAA sold the exclusive rights to broadcast the weekly game to NBC for $1,144,000. The first game shown under this contract was Texas Christian University against the University of Kansas, on September 20, 1952.

The NCAA believed that broadcasting one game a week would prevent further controversy while limiting any decrease in attendance. However, the Big Ten Conference was unhappy with the arrangement, and it pressured the NCAA to allow regional telecasts as well. Finally, in 1955 the NCAA revised its plan, keeping eight national games while permitting regional telecasts during five specified weeks of the season. ABC won the contract under this arrangement for the 1966 season onwards. This was essentially the television plan that stayed in place until the University of Oklahoma and the University of Georgia filed suit against the NCAA in 1981, alleging antitrust violations.

In 1997, ABC began using the fixed scoreboard on its broadcasts.[2]


ABC was awarded the first exclusive BCS contract beginning in 1999, however they lost rights to games other than the Rose Bowl after the 2005–06 season. However, the Rose Bowl contract runs until 2010.

Keith Jackson, who was supposed to retire after the 1999 season, stayed in until 2005, in which he televised games from primarily the west coast, where he is based. His last broadcast was the 2006 Rose Bowl.

In 2000, with Jackson cutting back his schedule, ABC began the year with the Jackson and Bob Griese team intact, albeit not as the lead one to handling almost exclusively Pac-10 action; Brent Musburger and Dan Fouts returning as was the long-time tandem of Brad Nessler and Gary Danielson. These assignments were not permanent and many different combinations were used[3] ABC locked their broadcasters teams in mid-season. Jackson was teamed with Fouts, Musburger was paired with Danielson, and Nessler still covers action with Bob Griese. [4]

Prior to the addition of the 12th game on a permanent basis in 2002, ABC aired pre-season classics including the Kickoff Classic and Pigskin Classic.[5]

In the 2005 season, ABC aired 77 games in 36 windows including the National Championship.[6]


In recent years, there have been as many as 3 game windows in a typical week. Most Saturdays, there are regional games at 3:30 ET. Big Ten games are shown on ESPN or ESPN2 in any regions not receiving that game on ABC (as per ESPN's contract with the conference), while a Big East or ACC game joins it in being reverse mirrored on the two channels. The other games are from the Big-12 or Pac-10, and can only air on ABC, as ESPN sublicenses a completely separate package of games from FSN, those conferences' national cable partner. Beginning with the 2006 season, ABC started regularly showing games at night under the Saturday Night Football umbrella, with the 12:00 window scrapped except for a few weeks.

The 2006 season was marked by a lot of reshuffling in addition to Jackson, as Lynn Swann left for a failed political run, Aaron Taylor left to pursue a career change, and Gary Danielson went to CBS to cover SEC action. As a result Dan Fouts began calling play-by-play.[7]

ESPN, which is mostly owned by Disney, has also increased their presence on ABC over the years. The College GameDay personalities typically appear during halftime of the 3:30 game (often to preview the Saturday Night Football game they may have done the show from) and when they are on-site during the Saturday night game. In addition, the announcers have become increasingly interchangeable. As of the 2006-2007 season as part of a network-wide rebranding of sports coverage, broadcasts on ABC are now presented under ESPN branding and graphics.

During the 2006, 2007 and 2008 seasons, the presenting sponsor was Best Buy.

On November 18, 2006, ABC had the highest rating and most-viewed contest in over 13 years when #1 Ohio State beat #2 Michigan 42–39.[8]

Broadcast Teams


  • Brad Nessler, play-by-play, Bob Griese and Paul Maguire, analysts, and Stacey Dales, sideline reporter.
    • Fifteen games: Southern California–Virginia, Oregon State–Penn State (without Maguire), Oregon–Purdue, Notre Dame–Michigan State, Wisconsin–Michigan, Florida State–Miami, Notre Dame–North Carolina, Ohio State–Michigan State, Oklahoma State–Texas, Florida State–Georgia Tech, Penn State–Iowa, North Carolina–Maryland, Michigan–Ohio State, Florida–Florida State and Boston College–Virginia Tech.
  • Terry Gannon or Dave Lamont, play-by-play, David Norrie, analyst, and Todd Harris or Jeanine Edwards, sideline reporter.
    • Thirteen games: Utah–Michigan (with Edwards), Mississippi–Wake Forest, Georgia Tech–Virginia Tech, Virginia Tech–North Carolina, Fresno State–UCLA, Illinois–Michigan (with Lamont and Edwards), Arizona State–Southern California (with Harris), North Carolina–Virginia, UCLA–California (with Harris), Oregon–California (with Harris), Clemson–Florida State (with Harris), Minnesota–Wisconsin and Boston College–Wake Forest.
  • Ron Franklin, play-by-play, Ed Cunningham, analyst, and Jack Arute or Todd Harris, sideline reporter.
    • Ten games: Cincinnati–Oklahoma (with Harris), Miami–Texas A&M, Arkansas–Texas, Texas Tech–Kansas State, Purdue–Ohio State, Kansas–Oklahoma, Virginia Tech–Florida State, Iowa State–Oklahoma State, Oklahoma–Texas A&M and Colorado–Nebraska.
  • Joe Tessitore or Eric Collins, play-by-play, Rod Gilmore, analyst, and Todd Harris, sideline reporter.
    • Three games: Colorado–Florida State (with Harris), Arizona State–California (with Collins) and California–Oregon State (with Harris).


  • Sean McDonough, play-by-play, Matt Millen, analyst, and Holly Rowe, sideline reporter.
    • Twelve games: Georgia–Oklahoma State, Notre Dame–Michigan, Nebraska–Virginia Tech, Miami–Virginia Tech, Florida State–Boston College, Wisconsin–Ohio State, Minnesota–Penn State, Penn State–Michigan, Ohio State–Penn State, Iowa–Ohio State, Ohio State–Michigan and Cincinnati–Pittsburgh.
  • Mike Patrick, play-by-play, Craig James and Brock Huard, analysts, and Heather Cox or Quint Kessenich, sideline reporter.
    • Nine games: Western Michigan–Michigan (with Kessenich), Arizona–Iowa, Penn State–Illinois, Connecticut–Pittsburgh (without Cox), Texas Tech–Nebraska, Michigan–Illinois (without Cox), Penn State–Michigan State, Miami–South Florida (without Cox) and Arizona–Southern California (with Huard).
  • Terry Gannon or Bob Wischusen or Dave Lamont, play-by-play, David Norrie, analyst, and Quint Kessenich, sideline reporter.
    • Eight games: Southern California–Washington (with Kessenich), California–Oregon, UCLA–Stanford (with Lamont), Oregon–UCLA (with Wischusen), California–UCLA, Oregon–Washington, California–Arizona State and Arizona-Arizona State.
  • Ron Franklin, play-by-play, and Ed Cunningham, analyst.
    • Six games: Illinois–Ohio State, Baylor–Oklahoma, Oklahoma–Kansas, Kansas–Texas Tech, Nebraska–Kansas and Nebraska–Colorado.
  • Bob Wischusen or Dave Lamont, play-by-play, and Brian Griese, analyst.
    • Six games: North Carolina State–Boston College, Clemson–Miami (with Lamont), Miami–Wake Forest, Oklahoma State–Iowa State, Miami–North Carolina and Virginia–Clemson.


Typical games

During the Regular season, typical games that are shown almost every year on ABC or ESPN include Oklahoma-Texas, Texas-Texas A&M, Colorado-Nebraska, Ohio State-Michigan and USC-UCLA. In addition, Notre Dame-Michigan, Florida-Florida State, Georgia-Georgia Tech, and Notre Dame-USC alternate each year with CBS (for SEC home teams) or NBC (for Notre Dame home games) depending on which team is at home.

Championship Weekend always features the ACC Championship Game and the Big 12 Championship Game. ABC currently airs the Capital One Bowl and the Rose Bowl; ESPN and ESPN2 supplement this with most of the other non-BCS games.

Non-game action

ABC typically airs College Football Countdown before the slate of games at 3:00 pm ET with the studio crew.

While ABC has exclusive rights to the BCS bowl games from 1998 to 2005,[9] they aired a Bowl Championship Series Selection Show after Championship Weekend ended on the Sunday after the games.[10]

See also



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