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SPORTS WEEKEND | TV-Radio

Fox Sports Net Picks Up ABC's Fumble

September 22, 2000|LARRY STEWART

It's official. The college football game of the day Saturday is UCLA at Oregon.

What makes it official is that ESPN has chosen Eugene, Ore., as the site for the "College GameDay" pregame show.

Yes, Lee Corso, Kirk Herbstreit and host Chris Fowler will be in Eugene.

But they won't be there to promote an ESPN telecast, or even an ABC telecast.

The 12:30 p.m. game is on Fox Sports Net.

So how did the game of the day end up on Fox Sports Net?

You might say ABC, which has first choice, messed up.

ABC chose to televise two games involving Pacific 10 Conference teams--Colorado-USC and Washington-Miami--on Sept. 9. That put ABC at its limit of 14 Pac-10 games for the season, so the network had to pick one weekend to bypass the Pac-10.

ABC, probably guessing UCLA would be 1-2 at this juncture, chose this weekend.

Another reason is ABC has Notre Dame-Michigan State at 12:30 p.m. Saturday.

ABC's West Coast game Saturday is Air Force at Utah at 4 p.m., with Keith Jackson and Tim Brant reporting from Salt Lake City. Do you think there's a possibility that they would rather be in Eugene?

THE 'GAMEDAY' CHOICE

"College GameDay" has been broadcasting from game sites since it went to South Bend, Ind., for No. 1 Florida State against No. 2 Notre Dame on Nov. 13, 1993. By the end of last season, the show had traveled to 54 regular-season games and six national championships.

The on-air talent, senior producer Barry Sacks and one or two other production people pick the sites.

"Our No. 1 priority is to pick the biggest game in the country, the one that will have the most national focus," Sacks said. "What network is televising the game really isn't a factor. We were in South Bend two weeks ago for Notre Dame-Nebraska, and that game was on NBC. Last week we did Florida- Tennessee, and that game was on CBS.

"If it got down to a tiebreaker with games of equal stature, then the network might come into play."

Because the show airs at 8 a.m. in the Pacific time zone, long before kickoff times, ESPN has picked only one other Pac-10 game to visit--Oregon and UCLA at the Rose Bowl two years ago. That one turned out to be a thriller, with UCLA winning in overtime, 41-38.

"Actually, this is the first time we've been on a Pac-10 campus," Fowler said, "and I'm really excited about it. I think Oregon might be the most underrated team in the country, and I think we have the best matchup of the day."

That's always the objective, although ESPN is trying something different in selecting the "GameDay" site for Oct. 7. Fans are invited to pick the site via online voting on ESPN.com.

Certainly fans don't care who televises a game, and it is to ESPN's credit that apparently it doesn't either.

THE BROADCAST TEAM

The Fox Sports Net team working UCLA-Oregon will be Steve Physioc and Tom Ramsey. Last Saturday, they were at Stanford for the Cardinal's upset of Texas.

Ramsey expects to see another close game.

"This is going to be a real test for UCLA," he said from his home in Denver. "The Bruins have played all three games at home and now they're facing a team that has won 16 in a row at home."

Besides his work for Fox Sports Net, Ramsey is involved in a multimedia company focusing on college and pro football with his friend and former New England Patriot teammate, Craig James of CBS. Among other things, the company has a Web site at www.craigjames.com.

Ramsey has become one of the best college football commentators in the business. But he is not the only former UCLA quarterback who is excelling in broadcasting.

David Norrie has moved on from Fox Sports Net to ABC, and Matt Stevens is a rising star. Stevens, the sideline reporter on UCLA radio broadcasts, joined Chris Roberts in the booth for the Fresno State game because commentator Billy Ray Smith had a San Diego Charger game to do for Fox the next day. Stevens showed that, whether in the booth or on the sideline, he offers good information without feeling the need to honk it up for his old team.

FORMULA FOR SUCCESS?

This is a big weekend for Fox Sports Net. Besides having the college game of the day on Saturday, on Sunday the cable network has the U.S. Grand Prix at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, the first Formula One race in this country since 1991 in Phoenix.

And FSN is going all out. It will televise two one-hour practice sessions today, at 9 and 11 a.m., and Saturday's qualifying session at 11 a.m. On Sunday, a one-hour prerace show at 10 a.m. will precede the 11 a.m. race.

FSN will use 35 cameras to televise the race, including five robot-controlled cameras and two in-car cameras. The announcing team consists of Mike Joy, the voice of the Daytona 500, Derek Bell, a former Formula One driver, and reporter Peter Windsor.

SHORT WAVES

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