Brian VanderBeek

Viewing Pleasure: TV is saturated with college football

Don't bother me on Saturday.

The family will be out of the house, and the trough o' Buffalo wings should arrive at my front door just before noon.

It's going to be a special day. In fact, thanks to the dish on the side of my house and the remote control that will be semi-permanently affixed to my right hand, I'll be living in my own personal college football heaven.

On Monday morning, I did a little research and discovered that between the national networks, the regional and local sports stations, the subscription channels and pay-per-view, it will be possible to watch 37 college football games this Saturday.

They start early. The 9 a.m. games include East Carolina at West Virginia and North Carolina at South Florida, and -- for the terminal football masochist -- Temple at Bowling Green.

Then, 34 kickoffs later, you have the 7:15 p.m. start of the Washington-UCLA game.

It's shocking to me that college football has come to this. Not too many years ago, we felt lucky to get our one game each Saturday with Chris Schenkel and Bud Wilkinson calling the action for ABC from the Texas-Oklahoma game.

On a big weekend we got two games, and the second generally was either from the Pac 8 before it became the Pac 10, the Big 8 before it became the Big 12, or the Big Ten before it forgot how to count to 11.

And we were thankful.

It made New Year's Day, with its gluttonous Cotton-Rose-Orange tripleheader, something special.

But 37?

I worry there aren't enough trained voices to man the microphones. On Saturday, ABC had to resort to having Larry the Cable Guy announce the starting lineups for Nebraska, just before USC got 'er done in a blue-collar Cornhusker whipping.

Next thing you know, ABC will be putting a comedian in the booth for Monday Night Football. Oh wait, they tried that already.

But the point is, if every team is on television all the time, the occasion ceases to be special. Even San Jose State (at Utah State, 5 p.m., ESPN GamePlan) yawns at the prospect of tube time.

I read where the Rutgers-Maryland game on Sept. 29 will be nationally televised, and that it will be the 18th consecutive game in which the Scarlet Knights will be appearing on some form of national television.

When I lived in New Jersey, Rutgers had to buy time on the regional Public Broadcasting System station to air its games -- tape-delayed.

Do the math. That's 2,220 minutes of football, more than 700 cheerleaders, 75 marching bands (Virginia Tech has two), 10 field-shrouding American flags unfurled for the anthem, and 37 color commentators remarking about the middle linebacker who "came to play today," or the running back who "will be playing on Sundays."

Is it overkill? No way. You can't get too much of a good thing when that good thing is college football. If the announcers are too much to handle, you always have the mute button.

There are some games on Saturday's schedule that will appear on my screen only as I shuffle around during commercials.

I mean, Kent State at Akron would be interesting if the winner still got a trip to Fresno to play in the California Bowl. Duke at Navy would bear watching if the loser promised to give up the sport.


On the other hand, there are some must-see games, like Steve Spurrier taking his South Carolina team to LSU and Washington State visiting USC.

And in the middle of it all, as if placed strategically for comic relief, is the Michigan State-Notre Dame game. The matchup itself hasn't been significant since the infamous 1966 tie, but Irish football reminds me of the old Islip Motor Speedway figure-eight races we used to see on Wide World of Sports -- never more than seconds away from a wreck.

Just before the start of the season, I was happy to hear my satellite provider signed a contract to carry the Big Ten Network. Among other things, it meant I could watch every Big Ten football game live.

But that was before the Michigan collapse and a series of unimpressive wins over non-conference patsies made me consider switching back to cable.

Hey, anyone have Larry's number?

Bee staff writer Brian VanderBeek can be reached at or 578-2300.