ESPN held a press conference yesterday during which ESPN executives and talent spoke in advance of tonight's BCS Championship game between Texas and Alabama on ABC Thursday at 8:30 p.m. ET. Not only did they have Brent Musburger and Kirk Herbstreit there, Jon Gruden and Todd Blackledge joined in on the conversation as they will be doing color analysis on the radio broadcast of the game.
The highlight of the conference seems to be when Musburger deferred an answer to Herbstreit, citing advanced age and failing memory.
Here is the transcript from the press conference.
ESPN 2010 BCS Chanpionship Pre-Game Press Conference
THE MODERATOR: Starting to my right, we have Dave Miller, senior coordinating producer overseeing all our college sports programming; then we have Burke Magnus, senior vice president of college sports programming -- actually Dave does production; then we have Brent Musburger and Kirk Herbstreit, who will do play-by-play and analysis on the broadcast of the game; and then Jon Gruden and Todd Blackledge, who will do ESPN Radio analysis of the game.
I think what we’ll do first is we will go to Dave who will provide a couple quick thoughts about the overall production, and then we will have Burke Magnus talk about some highlights of ESPN’s college football coverage this season, and at the conclusion of the on-stage portion of this, we will have over here on my left, we have a 3-D TV and we’ll show some samples of our 3-D coverage from X-games and our USC-Ohio State broadcast earlier in the season.
DAVE MILLER: Thanks, Mike. Good morning. We will be utilizing our Saturday Night College Football prime time crew on ABC, Brent and Kirk obviously; Lisa Salters on the sideline; Tom Rinaldi will also be on the sideline. Primarily that entire crew that’s been with that team all year long will be covering the game. We’ll have 28 cameras. We will have 30 playback sources. So every camera will be iso’d, plus we will have our tape machines building packages and elements throughout the game.
We have one ultra-mo camera during the season, which is a super slo-mo that records at
180 frames per second. We have one of those during the season. We’ll have three of those during coverage tomorrow night. We will be using ESPN Access, which we use on Monday Night Football, which allows us to analyze the plays even better by stopping a play and moving the camera from one vantage point to another and get us closer to the field and take a look at passing lanes and gaps in the line where running backs can get through, things like that. And we’ll be using Snap Zoom, as well, which takes us from the wide shot down to a close-up of a player and then back out to see how that player moves on the field.
But other than that, we’re primarily doing what we do all year long on, again, our ABC prime time games and Saturday nights. That’s it.
BURKE MAGNUS: Thanks, everybody, for coming out. Obviously this is an exciting time for us here corporately to sort of ease into our new relationship with the BCS. Beginning next year we’ll have the entire schedule of games on ESPN. To be able to have two games this year through our good friends at the Pasadena Tournament of Roses in the Rose Bowl Game and the championship game here in California is special for us to -- again, to get a jump start on our full new BCS relationship next year.
We had a very successful Rose Bowl Game the other day. I know many of you were there, but the ratings were up substantially, 13.2 national, which is a very strong number for us, and we look forward to Thursday night. I think a tight game there could end up in the high teens somewhere. So we’ve got our fingers crossed, as always. When asked the question who am I rooting for, I say, I’m rooting for overtime, which would benefit us greatly in the audience delivery department.
But again, we’re thrilled to be here, thrilled to be able to pay off the championship of a sport that we take a lot of pride in presenting each week and treasure our position as a company and the responsibility that we have in presenting the sport of college football through the regular season.
We had a great regular season with ratings up on ESPN and ESPN 2 for the season.
The Bowl season so far has been tremendous. A couple stats that I pulled for this, with a couple games to go, one tonight in the GMAC and one tomorrow in the championship game, we’re currently up 6 percent on ESPN, with 21 games in the house at a 3.2 rating, and we are up 9 percent on ESPN 2 with our two-game schedule there at a 1.9 rating.
At ABC with just the Rose Bowl, so we’re still awaiting a final number for The Cap One and obviously the championship game, the Rose Bowl was up 44 percent over last year. So we’re in great position overall.
The Bowl audience delivery for us continues to be very, very strong. It’s a great way to pay off the season. Of our top 25 most-viewed Bowl games ever on ESPN, seven of them came from this past season, from this year. So we’ve already delivered seven of our top 25 ever on ESPN most-viewed Bowl games. Very happy.|
I guess it must be the weather. I’ve been here for a week, but I hear the rest of the country is pretty cold, so that obviously kept people inside and delivered the numbers that I just reviewed.
Happy to be here, and again, looking forward to Thursday and as a kickoff to our new relationship with the BCS beginning in 2011. Brent?
BRENT MUSBURGER: It’s a great pleasure, and I thank all of you for coming out willing to be a part of this. Somebody asked me for you and Herbie and Todd and Jon on the radio, this is going to be a tough game and a lot of pressure, and I said, this is the easiest game of the year. There’s been so much discussion.
We’ve got two great teams playing for a National Championship. There can’t be any question about who we’ve got playing in this game. At this point when you’re a little over a day away from it, you just can’t wait for the ball to start tumbling in the air. Herbie?
THE MODERATOR: I’ll ask each of the three analysts one question and then we can take questions from whoever has questions for them. For Kirk, the strength of schedule is often used in the debate on the best team. In a twist on that, which of these two teams have played a schedule that you think will best prepare them for a game against this opponent?
KIRK HERBSTREIT: Well, if you compare what Alabama has had to go through playing in the SEC and compare that to what Texas has gone through, I don’t think there’s any comparison. I mean, Alabama has had a much tougher road to get here, even their last game playing against Florida and dominating the way they did. But I just don’t believe that necessarily gives an advantage to Alabama just because they have had that tough a road.
I think Texas has had -- you could probably argue two tough games, both Oklahoma and Nebraska, against two great defenses, and I think that the fact they’ve survived those two games gives them some confidence coming into this game. If they can get through those two defensive lines especially that they have what it takes to be able to be productive.
But I don’t think necessarily that the strength of schedule because it favors Alabama necessarily favors them in the game.
THE MODERATOR: For Coach Gruden, you’ve coached in the Super Bowl, which is the biggest game in the NFL, and this is the biggest game in college football. So from your perspective what do these two coaches do to prepare for this game and to keep their players focused on the task at hand?
JON GRUDEN: Well, I think it’s the bigger challenge for these guys because these are younger players, and they might have a little bit more distraction because of their youth, plus they’ve had longer to prepare. We had a week before our Super Bowl game, and I think when you have 14 to 16 practices, sometimes you can overkill your preparation. But I do think they’ve taken advantage of their preparation, knowing Mack Brown and Nick Saban, and I’m sure they’ve developed some of their young players.
Knowing these two coaches and two programs, the success they’ve had not only this year but have sustained over a long period, I think you’re going to see the best of the Longhorns and the best of the Crimson Tide.
THE MODERATOR: For Todd, you and Kirk are the only two analysts that have actually worked games involving both of these teams, so from someone who’s even both teams in person, who are the keys for each team to lead to victory?
TODD BLACKLEDGE: Well, the teams are very similar in a lot of ways, particularly on the
defensive side of the ball. I think the fact that Will Muschamp and Nick Saban have such a long relationship, their styles are very similar, I would say both teams have an SEC-style defense. Obviously Alabama, and I think Texas has the same kind.
You know, as far as keys, obviously for Texas they’re going to have to protect their quarterback, and they’re going to have to do a good job of stopping the run and defending the run of Alabama and try to put the game into the hands of Greg McElroy and the passing game. And with Alabama, they’re going to have to take care of the football, which they’ve done, only ten turnovers all year, very opportunistic Texas defense, and I think they’re going to have to play well in space. They’re not used to playing as many spread teams in the SEC as they see in the Big 12 week in and week out. They’ve got to tackle well in space. And whenever you have a long layoff like you do for a Bowl game, tackling is always an issue. So I think that will be the key thing for Alabama, playing in space, tackling in space, and this will be the best quarterback that they’ve faced all season in Colt McCoy.
THE MODERATOR: If anyone has questions, otherwise we can do one-on-ones with each of the people, and then after this is done up here, anyone who wants to come over and see a 3-D demo of what next year’s National Championship game would look like in 3-D, that will be available, as well.
Q. For Brent and Kirk, obviously we’re not going to get a chance to talk to you guys after the game. In your opinion if Texas wins this game, are they the team of the decade? I know that’s going to be a discussion after the game. Brent and Kirk, your thoughts.
BRENT MUSBURGER: Honestly to be perfectly honest, I haven’t given it a whole lot of thought. I always think in terms of a season. I’ve got difficulty thinking back with a decade. We’ve had right here in Los Angeles, of course, Herbie and I have done a lot of good USC games, and certainly that team until this year had to be in any kind of an argument. Alabama I’ve thought coming into this game that Nick Saban might have been a year ahead of schedule when you think of the great progress that he’s made down there, and you can’t look past what Tim Tebow and Urban Meyer have accomplished down in Florida. I would be -- and I would think the Longhorns would think the same way, that they would be very satisfied in being called the team of the year and let it go at that.
Talk radio won’t have much to discuss now that one is playing; two, they can’t go back on a play -- maybe they can discuss if we can keep those rascals working for a month or so.
Q. There’s been a lot of talk of decade stuff in the last week with the new year.
BRENT MUSBURGER: Let’s bring in Herbie because he’s younger and he can think back more than I can.
KIRK HERBSTREIT: I agree. I think USC is the team of the decade. I know they’ve had a little bump this year. You go back to 2002, and whatever it was, seven or eight -- seven straight Pac-10 Championships, seems like every year they were in Rose Bowl, started in the Orange Bowl, and I think regardless of what happened this year, in my opinion they’re still the team of the decade.
Florida was battling there, and if they would have been here then you could make a case for them. But with that being said, I think there’s nobody that’s undervalued more than Texas. I don’t know if it’s because of the way Mack Brown goes about his business, the gentleman that he is and the way he’s kind of low key with his personality. I think that Texas is a team that every year wins 10 or 11 games and plays in Bowl games and wins big games, and it just seems like four years ago, five years ago, we were sitting up answering questions about why can’t Mack Brown win big games, and then he had the breakthrough year in ’05 when he knocked off OU, beat SC in the national title and now is dominating Oklahoma, winning every Bowl game. All that is water under the bridge. They definitely are in the discussion, but in my opinion for what it’s worth, I definitely would say SC is the team of the decade in my opinion.
Q. For Kirk or Brent or whoever wants it, Mack has now got seven wins in his last eight Bowl games. What in your mind -- better players, but what changed?
KIRK HERBSTREIT: It’s funny, he told a story to us about how they weren’t dominating necessarily in the postseason, and about seven years ago, they did a study, and maybe he shared this with you guys, but he talked about Barry Alvarez at Wisconsin, and Barry was coming off three Rose Bowl wins. He talked about Florida State and Bobby Bowden, and Bobby Bowden seemed like every year he was winning a Bowl game, and he actually went to Madison and to Tallahassee and visited with them in the off-season to talk about what is it that you implement during that 30- or 40-day layoff, however long it is for you, and he’s kind of used what he learned from his research to help generate some excitement in their lull during that layoff.
From what he shared with us, it’s taking the time in Austin to kind of got back to having preseason camp or kind of a spring football mentality where they’re pounding on each other, being very physical, working on the fundamentals of the game, giving them the time off for the holiday, getting back together wherever the site happens to be, and start to put together the game plan and then treat that week like it’s a game week during the regular season. And just the -- it’s a great question because there’s really a fine balance between working them too hard and not working hard enough, because you want the fundamentals, but you also want fresh legs. Right now you’ve got to give Mack a lot of credit for being able to find that.
BRENT MUSBURGER: If you go back, and this is back to the NFL days of the Super Bowl, it was interesting, I had forgotten that Jon only had a week to get ready. Most of the time they’ve had two weeks, and the first coach that I was ever around who did what Herbie is talking about installed a game plan the first week back home. That was John Madden when he brought the Raiders down and won the Super Bowl, and told them in that second week, we’ll fine-tune it, we’ll go through the distractions, we’ll meet with the media and go from there. So Mack Brown has picked up that principle that has been passed along.
I think in Jon’s case he would tell you the same thing. If he had had two weeks that first week back in Tampa, wouldn’t you have put in most of the heavy lifting back at home and come here and fine-tuned it the second week?
JON GRUDEN: I was one of those guys that lifted heavy most of the time. I’m no longer in coaching, but the preparation part of it, I have to give Mack Brown credit for going places and researching how to win the big game, and the confidence that they obviously have at Texas knowing that they’re going to be in that position year in and year out. But let’s be honest, the Longhorns, it’s like watching an all-star team. They’ve got great players, and they’re playing their best football in recent years under Mack Brown.
Q. Two questions: The first one you guys alluded to, the David versus Goliath thing, I’m interested where that came from. I heard it a couple weeks ago. It seemed to come from some of the national media members. And then also to the long layoff between the SEC Championship -- between your Conference Championship and this game, your thoughts on that; is there anything that can be done about that, because that’s particularly challenging for both of these coaches and programs?
KIRK HERBSTREIT: The guys on the end can talk about the long layoff and a playoff or any of that. I don’t ever see that changing personally. But I don’t think the national media necessarily made this a David versus Goliath thing. I think it is natural when one team ends the year, even in a championship year, with a last-second field goal, admits controversy with that last second of play, the clock, Nebraska coming out on the field, a lot of people reacting to, boy, they were very fortunate to be able to win that game. Are they even deserving? Every year we sit here at the championship game, one team comes in flying high and the other team just got in.
And I don’t think it’s as bad as it normally is this time around. I think Texas I think most people agree is a very talented team and doesn’t have to apologize to Boise State or TCU or Cincinnati for being here. The fact that they got through the Big 12, it is what it is. But Alabama because of the way they played against Tebow and Florida, they come in with a little bit of momentum.
So I think from a national perspective, I would agree that people look at Alabama as the team to beat. But I don’t think it’s the same David versus Goliath match-up that maybe we’ve had in the past in BCS Championship games.
Q. For Kirk and for Todd on this one, because you guys travel around and get a sense of what fans think, do you get a sense from fans that there is sort of an SEC fatigue, that they are sort of tired of hearing how great the SEC is and sort of pooh-poohing all the other conferences? We know the SEC is tremendous, but we do play varsity football in all these other conferences, too.
KIRK HERBSTREIT: I think we all kind of get it. The SEC is the best conference. But I do sense just from a fan’s perspective once you get outside of that region, it is the SEC versus the world. I mean, the world of college football feels that the SEC spends a lot of time almost with an inferiority complex. If you say something as a writer positive about a Pac-10 team, or if you happen to dare to say that, boy, the Big 10 did a nice job this year in the postseason, what do you mean? The SEC is quick to say, well, they’re not as good as we are. So I do think that you get that from fans outside of the SEC.
But I think that nobody has a collective passion in any region the way the SEC sticks by their conference.
Like if Alabama wins, fans at even Auburn and LSU, they’re all claiming the title. I mean, it’s the SEC’s title, it’s not just Alabama’s title. And I think outside of that region, I think there’s definitely kind of an us-against-the-world mentality.
TODD BLACKLEDGE: The majority of my games were in the SEC this year, and I’ll say this, I’ve been in the SEC primarily for the last ten years, and quite frankly, this year, although I do think the conference is still extremely strong, outside of Florida and Alabama, the conference was a little bit down in my opinion, because the other teams were not as good as they have been in the last few years. But those top two teams were so good that it carried the conference this year more than in other years.
But I agree, I think that the thing that separates is I’ve watched the SEC over the last ten years. Everybody talks about speed. Well, there’s speed all over the country. But where you really see it from top to bottom in that league that you don’t see top to bottom in any other league is speed in the defensive line, particularly in the interior defensive line positions from top to bottom in that league is what separates the SEC from the rest of the conferences in college football. And that has been -- that’s why the defenses carry the day in the SEC. I mean, from top to bottom, they all play great defense.
Q. What was the best meal you had all year?
TODD BLACKLEDGE: Actually quite honestly the best meal I had was at the Salt Lake Barbecue when I was down doing the Texas game. That was the best by far.
THE MODERATOR: I think Dave had one more thing he wanted to add about the studio component and then we’ll take one-on-ones for these guys.
DAVE MILLER: In addition to the game coverage, we’ll also have our host unit out here, which is our studio. Kirk and his whole crew, the Gameday crew is out here. You saw them last week prior to the Rose Bowl. We’ll be on ESPN tomorrow night with Gameday. We’ve got, as you’ve probably seen on the air, plenty of live hits for SportsCenter, and College Football Live is out here, as well.
So we’ve got 15 talent running around covering all the stories and teams and everything going on, so we've pretty much got everything blanketed. We're also adding Pete Carroll to our coverage. Pete will join us today for SportsCenter, and he'll be on tomorrow on Gameday and then the pregame show and halftime and the postgame, as well. Nine more cameras utilized for our host sets. There's two host sets, the primary set utilized for Gameday and pre, half and post, but also a side set and secondary sets for other shows, as well.