Last week, my 68 & 16 Sportscast colleague Justin mentioned that he felt ESPN was demonstrating an anti-Boise bias. I didn’t really see it at the time, but after this weekend I am starting to pick up on it. We all know that the BCS Countdown show hosts Craig James, Rece Davis, and Robert Flores have outspokenly identified themselves as “Boise Haters”, but that’s been going on for a while now. The sign of something deeper and more sinister on ESPN’s behalf came this weekend during the “Final Verdict” Segment of ESPN’s College Gameday Final. This segment has been going on for several years now and always involves Lou Holtz and Mark May taking a major college football issue and debating each side of it. After both sides make their arguments, Rece Davis acts as the judge in the case decides in favor of one of the analysts. Well in this week’s “Final Verdict” there was an extreme departure in format as May and Holtz both argued that Boise State should not play in the national championship game. The whole purpose of the segment is to have these two analysts square off in a debate, but the whole thing turned incredibly awkward on Saturday when Davis realized that there was no real issue to dispute here, as both commentators took the exact same position. In the end, he decided to agree with both men and rule in favor of both “Counselor May” and “Counselor Holtz”.
Something just didn’t sit well with me about that entire interaction. Even if both May and Holtz truly think Boise should be kept out of the title game, then there shouldn’t have been a “Final Verdict” dedicated to the issue. It’s like ESPN wanted to officially endorse their anti-Boise position and spend 5 or 6 minutes telling you why. One other piece of evidence that supports my position is that Kirk Herbstreit and Chris Fowler, two of ESPN’s most outspoken Boise proponents, have been surprisingly subdued in their discussions of the Broncos this season. Keep in mind that ESPN now owns the rights to all the BCS games, so they may think it is in their best interest to have two national powerhouses square-off in the title game. It will be interesting to see if ESPN does adopt an implicit anti-Boise propaganda campaign, and if they do, how far they decide to take it.