The "Smaller" Side of College Football on TV

ATHENS – When he coached at Georgia from 1996-2000, Jim Donnan didn't have to be at the mercy of the television executives.

His Bulldogs were a huge draw and held enough power in the relationship to be able to dictate some terms to TV, such as no weekday games, but Donnan knows what it's like on the other side as well.

Donnan coached at Marshall from 1990 to 1995 and one of his most crucial achievements at the school was a television contract with local cable companies.

"We didn't make much money, but the exposure got us in line with some mid-level Division 1-A players that we probably wouldn't have been able to attract," Donnan said.

For schools in the Southeastern Conference, television contracts are mostly about money and how much they can get to sell their rights, but for smaller schools like Marshall, they deals are about much more. Marshall's television contract turned the Thundering Herd into a regional recruiting player and helped the school get a contract with Nike.

The biggest difference Donnan saw with his team on television was in recruiting, he said.

"The recruiting of the athletes, that's how you win games," he said. "You've got to get players, and they like that exposure. They like being on College Gameday. They like all that stuff. Everybody is worried about their parents being able to see them play we were able to tell them at least that their parents could still see them play."

Bill Curry has come full circle in the power he holds when in the relationship with television stations, from the infancy of the relationship when he was at Georgia Tech in the 1980s, to dictating to the networks from his lofty perch as Alabama's head coach to his current job at Georgia State.

"We're going to need to be able to play any night they want us," Curry said.

Think Tuesday, 9 p.m. kickoff.

"You can run anything else on Tuesday night other than a live football game and you put a football game between Toledo and Central Michigan and the ratings double," Curry said.

Curry thought about that fact recently when he saw a cartoon the New Yorker magazine of a Boy Scout master leading a group of children through the woods.

"He turns to the children and says, ‘I do not care about the fact that there are no television cameras here, we're going to take this walk anyway,'" Curry said. "There is an expectation (in college football) of, ‘If you're worth anything, why aren't you on TV?'" he said.

For small schools, television means legitimacy. Georgia already has that, but that doesn't mean the Bulldogs don't need television.

"Television is not solely about the money," athletics director Damon Evans said. "It's about exposure."

Exposure means more national recruiting, which is good for the football team, and further branding, which is good for the bottom line. When Georgia gets more attention, Georgia sells more T-shirts and hats and Georgia gets more money.

"We want all our games on TV," Evans said. "You want people to see your product. You want people to know about who you are."


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