With the MAC and Pac-12 conferences kicking off their 2020 college football seasons across ESPN and ABC last week, Front Row chatted with ESPN Vice President, Programming, Nick Dawson, to get his perspective on the most unprecedented season in the sport’s history.
In the second part of this interview (Part One is available here), Dawson discusses scheduling bowls around conference championships and college basketball, College GameDay’s historic stop at the Masters this week, and what he expects for the college football postseason.
With most conference championship games being played Dec. 19, what’s the impact on the bowl season?
Ultimately, the calendar for bowl season is condensed. Normally, we would kick off bowl season with as many as six games across ABC and ESPN on Dec. 19. Now, we’re targeting just one on that date, intermixed with a collection of conference championship games and regular season finales. As a result, more bowl games are packed into a tighter window between Dec. 22 and Jan. 2.
Kurt Dargis [Director, Programming & Acquisitions at ESPN] leads our efforts here, working hand-in-hand with our colleagues at ESPN Events and our third-party bowl partners on each year’s schedule. While a handful of games will not occur this year due to complications from the pandemic, we still look forward to a robust bowl season. Those two weeks are consistently the two most-viewed weeks of the year on ESPN and we have no doubt the same will hold true this year.
Veering away from the postseason briefly, College GameDay will have a show unlike any other when it goes to the Masters this weekend. What’s the excitement level for this show?
I’m sure I speak for the entire cross-department college football team in stating our excitement for College GameDay’s visit to Augusta National Golf Club on Saturday. Two iconic brands, with unique traditions, coming together for a special morning. The people that make College GameDay go, from the production and operations staff, talent, social, sales and marketing leads, PR team, etc., pride themselves on risk-taking and creativity. This is yet another example of that team leading the way.
Finally, what should college football fans expect with this year’s College Football Playoff?
One word: normal. In a world of chaos where nothing is normal, our hope is everything (save the number of fans in the stands) will be normal for the CFP. The top four teams as decided by the selection committee playing in two semifinals at the Rose Bowl and Sugar Bowl on New Year’s Day with the winners advancing to the National Championship game in Miami on Monday, Jan. 11. When toe hopefully meets leather at 5:10 p.m. ET on Jan. 1 in Pasadena and when that sunset paints the San Gabriel Mountains in their signature golden hue near the end of the third quarter, I hope fans across the country can find a moment of normalcy and comfort in knowing 2020 is no more and a new year has arrived. With that comes hope, optimism and the best college football has to offer. I can’t wait!