College football bowl season is underway with ESPN covering the majority of the games. Today, the lone bowl game was the Famous Toastery Bowl. It ended up being a compelling game that went to overtime. However, ESPN cut the coverage short in favor of their Monday Night Countdown NFL pregame show.
Famous Toastery Bowl
The Famous Toastery Bowl was between Western Kentucky and Old Dominion. Originally, this was supposed to be the Bahamas Bowl taking place in Nassau. However, due to stadium renovations in the Bahamas, the bowl quickly had to be moved to Charlotte, North Carolina. As a result, bowl sponsorship changed with it.
At first, it did not look like a game worth covering. Old Dominion got off to an early 28-0 lead. However, Western Kentucky fought back. Eventually, they scored 21 unanswered points to tie the game at 35 and send it to overtime. Miraculously, Western Kentucky ended up winning the game outright in overtime after being down 28-0 in the game!
It was an impressive comeback victory. You would think ESPN’s audience would have their eyes glued to the screen, right? Well, not so fast.
ESPN Cuts Coverage
As the clock struck six (Eastern Standard Time), ESPN interrupted overtime coverage of the Famous Toastery Bowl. Scott Van Pelt let the audience know from the studio that ESPN was going to start their Monday Night Countdown pregame show. As a result, people watching the Famous Toastery Bowl would have to go to another channel to see the conclusion of the game.
In all fairness to ESPN, they did let the audience know immediately where they could watch that game. They switched the coverage to their ESPN 2 channel.
There is an unofficial rule of TV sports coverage that you do not leave a compelling game like this. It dates back to 1968 when NBC infamously cut the dramatic conclusion of the New York Jets and Oakland Raiders. They chose to show the movie “Heidi” while the Raiders scored 14 points in just over a minute to win the game.
The Ratings Argument
Did ESPN make the right decision on this? Well, the average ratings for each event seem to suggest they did. Last year, the Bahamas Bowl averaged about 822,000 viewers. The Monday Night Countdown show averages at least 1.2 million viewers. It can be up to double the Bahamas Bowl average viewers in the final hour.
There is an old saying that “money talks.” Still, ESPN may have robbed some people of seeing an exciting conclusion to an incredible comeback.