#TBT: 30 Years for ESPN’s NFL pregame show

The 2015 NFL season kicks off tonight and this Sunday marks the 30th anniversary of ESPN’s NFL pregame show. NFL GameDay debuted in September 1985 and was renamed to its current Sunday NFL Countdown in 1996.

In this edition of #TBT, Front Row visits with Bob Rauscher, currently the Vice President of Production for SEC Network. Rauscher joined ESPN in the company’s first year (1979) and launched NFL GameDay before the company even had rights to league games. He was ESPN’s lead NFL producer until 2010.

When did ESPN decide to start an NFL pregame show?
It was leading into the 1985 NFL season. I was asked by my boss and the quote was, “We should be in the NFL pregame show business. Start one.” So that was the task I was charged with. We decided on that title for the show – NFL GameDay.

What was the toughest obstacle to overcome when you created the show?
We understood we were a pregame show without a game. And by that I mean our show was on and then at 1 p.m. two other networks were doing games and we weren’t. We were doing other sporting events on ESPN. We were really a pregame show without games following us, which made it a little bit difficult against competition. We were always proud of the fact that we were able to have success with the ratings under those circumstances.

Are there particular moments that stand out from your experience producing Countdown?
Winning the first Emmy [for Outstanding Weekly Show] back in the 1988 season really legitimized what we were doing and was a great accomplishment for the team.

What parts of Countdown make Rauscher most proud? Visit Front Row’s Facebook page for the answer.

Editor’s Note: Sunday NFL Countdown has a new, fast-paced two-hour format (11 a.m. ET) this fall and will be preceded by the new NFL Insiders: Sunday Edition (10 a.m.). Full release.

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