FROM: Dan Strakowsky, Senior VP, Analysis and Meme Development
TO: All ESPN College Football on-air talent
RE: Boise State coverage in 2010
I'm sure you're as riveted as I was by the thrilling upsets that came to symbolize this year's NCAA men's basketball tournament, particularly Butler's surprise run to the championship game. I'm also sure many of you have considered the implications this has for our coverage of the 2010 college football season.
In case you don't know what I'm talking about, I'll spell it out for you: Boise State = Butler in 2010. We're in a unique situation here, folks -- Boise State may return as many as 21 starters from a team that went 14-0 and won the Fiesta Bowl last season. And right as pundits began seriously assessing whether the Broncos should be considered a legitimate candidate for the 2010 BCS National Championship Game, Butler went out there and presented a template -- albeit in another sport -- for how it could be done. You know I consider narratives to be as good as gold, so I hope you're all wearing cups, because fate has just dropped a gigantic Krugerrand right in our laps.
The following is a back-of-the-napkin outline of where I see our on-air talent fitting into this theme. Right now we're just talking about the flagship programming (College Gameday and College Football Live), but I want our announcing teams and ESPNU personalities to use this as a template for how they might strategize their own positions this season. If everybody finds a role and plays it to the hilt, nobody will be getting more mileage out of Boise State than the ABC/ESPN family of networks in 2010.
Chris Fowler, Rece Davis: The Mediators. Officially, you have no position on whether Boise State is worthy or unworthy of playing for the national title; your job is to manage the repartee between your co-hosts, stoke the fires, keep the debate moving. Never take sides -- anything you say about the Broncos, good or bad, should only be used as a way of eliciting a response from a co-host. For example, if one of them says BSU is a dead-solid lock to play in the BCS title game, you might use something like "Whoa! Bold prediction from so-and-so!" to tee his "opponent" up for a fiery response. On the other hand, if one of your co-hosts says that there's no way the Broncos can go undefeated for two straight regular seasons, remind them of Butler and give the other guy a chance to let loose. Some networks may view repeated use of the phrase "Butler did it" as trite and overdone; you know that's not how we roll here. Repetition is the spice of life. Just remember, the goal is to ensure that the debate is in no way won or settled before kickoff on January 10.
Desmond Howard, Lou Holtz: The Good Cops. Until Boise State loses a game, your job is to pump them up as a national-title contender for all they're worth. Desmond, since you've familiarized yourself about as well as anyone can with the workings of the BCS system, you'll be the guy to crunch numbers and talk about how Boise is still very much in the mix to finish #2 in the BCS rankings; Lou, since that's obviously way above your pay grade, you'll be the one to talk about "heart" and how bad they "want it" and how they feel disrespected about this thing or that thing. You know, all the intangibles that we relentlessly toss out there in spite of the fact that they mean next to nothing. Feel free to compare them to any of your Notre Dame teams as you see fit, but that's your call, Coach. Just pump up those Broncos and let the sun shine in!
Kirk Herbstreit, Mark May: The Bad Cops. It's a tough job, but somebody's gotta do it: You guys are the buzzkills. It's your job to tell the country why BSU does not belong in the national-title game. Don't criticize them as a team -- always be sure to throw them a patronizing bone about what a terrific coach Chris Petersen is and how they're great by mid-major standards -- but no way, nohow do you want them playing for the big one. Herbie, you're kind of our nice guy out there, so be sure to deliver the bad news with a spoonful of sugar when you can; May, you're our designated asshole. I want at least one eye-roll for every positive thing Holtz says about BSU, and any negative comparisons to, say, Southern Cal are also a plus. You're walking a tightrope here, fellas, but I'm confident you can pull it off.
Lee Corso: The Babbler. Your job is kind of similar to Fowler's -- to "not so fast" the other two at every opportunity. Probably be a good idea for Fowler to have a signal he can throw you when he needs some help there; you and he can work that out. But whenever you do that, be sure your analysis isn't backed up by any actual reasoning but is just pretty much stories from your Florida State days. People love that stuff.
One thing it's important to keep in mind: This action plan is only in effect for the regular season. Once Alabama kicks Boise's ass in the title game, everyone's editorial opinions shift to "Boise State wasn't worthy." During the regular season, though, feel free to go nuts, as all Web content and video archives will be scrubbed of any pro-BSU sentiment so as to make it look like we knew what was going to happen all along.
Announcers and ESPNU talent, I want a memo from each of you outlining which of these roles you want to take and how you're going to play it. We've got to keep the sides more or less equal, so I can't promise that everybody's going to get what they want, but I'll do my best.
I look forward to hearing your pitches -- let's do everything we can to keep 2010 meme-tastic!
(dictated but not read)