American Football Database
StarringSean McDonough
Chris Spielman
Quint Kessenich
John Saunders
Jesse Palmer
Robert Flores
Chris Fowler
Kirk Herbstreit
Lee Corso
Desmond Howard
Country of origin United States
No. of seasons46
Running time210 minutes+
Original channelABC
Picture format720p (HDTV)
Original run1950
1966 – present

ESPN College Football on ABC is a presentation of the American Broadcasting Company's (ABC) regular season American college football television package (separate from Saturday Night Football). ABC broadcast regular season college football in 1950 and has every year since 1966. The television network has first pick of games from the Big East Conference, Atlantic Coast Conference, Big Ten Conference, Big 12 Conference and Pacific-12 Conference.


1950, 1966–1997

ABC has historically aired the premiere games since it has had all major conference contracts at one time or another. Keith Jackson with his down-home, folsky style symbolized college football has served as its unofficial voice.

By 1950, a small number of prominent football schools, including the University of Pennsylvania (ABC) and the University of Notre Dame (DuMont Television Network) had entered into individual contracts with networks to broadcast their games regionally. In fact, all of Penn's home games were broadcast on ABC during the 1950 season under a contract that paid Penn $150,000. However, prior to the 1951 season, the NCAA – alarmed by reports that indicated television decreased attendance at games – asserted control and prohibited live broadcasts of games. Although the NCAA successfully forced Penn and Notre Dame to break their contracts, the NCAA suffered withering attacks for its 1951 policy, faced threats of antitrust hearings and eventually caved in and lifted blackouts of certain sold-out games. Bowl games were always outside the control of the NCAA, and the 1952 Rose Bowl at the end of that season was the first truly national telecast of a college football game, on NBC.[1]

For the 1952 season, the NCAA relented somewhat, but limited telecasts to one nationally-broadcast game each week. The NCAA sold the exclusive rights to broadcast the weekly game to NBC for $1,144,000. The first game shown under this contract was Texas Christian University against the University of Kansas, on September 20, 1952.

The NCAA believed that broadcasting one game a week would prevent further controversy while limiting any decrease in attendance. However, the Big Ten Conference was unhappy with the arrangement, and it pressured the NCAA to allow regional telecasts as well. Finally, in 1955 the NCAA revised its plan, keeping eight national games while permitting regional telecasts during five specified weeks of the season. ABC won the contract under this arrangement for the 1966 season onwards. This was essentially the television plan that stayed in place until the University of Oklahoma and the University of Georgia filed suit against the NCAA in 1981, alleging antitrust violations.

In 1997, ABC began using the fixed scoreboard on its broadcasts.[2]


ABC was awarded the first exclusive BCS contract beginning in 1999, however they lost rights to games other than the Rose Bowl after the 2005–06 season. However, the Rose Bowl contract ran until 2010.

Keith Jackson, who was supposed to retire after the 1999 season, stayed in until 2005, in which he announced games televised primarily from the west coast, where he is based. His last broadcast was the 2006 Rose Bowl.

In 2000, with Jackson cutting back his schedule, ABC began the year with the Jackson and Bob Griese team intact, albeit not as the lead one to handling almost exclusively Pac-10 action; Brent Musburger and Dan Fouts returning as was the long-time tandem of Brad Nessler and Gary Danielson. These assignments were not permanent and many different combinations were used[3] ABC locked their broadcasters teams in mid-season. Jackson was teamed with Fouts, Musburger was paired with Danielson, and Nessler with Bob Griese.[4]

Prior to the addition of the 12th game on a permanent basis in 2002, ABC aired pre-season classics including the Kickoff Classic and Pigskin Classic.[5]

In the 2005 season, ABC aired 77 games in 36 windows including the National Championship.[6]


In recent years, there have been 2 set game windows in a typical week. Most Saturdays, there are regional games at 3:30 p.m. ET. Beginning with the 2006 season, ABC started regularly showing games at night under the Saturday Night Football umbrella, and noon-time games are telecast on an occasional basis. This marked a departure from 7 p.m. west-coast-only games (ending after the 2006 season) and occasional 8 p.m. games (occurring every week as part of SNF). Also, the recently-developed BCS spotlight game was essentially replaced by Saturday Night Football.

The 2006 season was marked by a lot of reshuffling in addition to Jackson, as Lynn Swann left for a failed political run, Aaron Taylor left to pursue a career change, and Gary Danielson went to CBS to cover SEC action. As a result Dan Fouts began calling play-by-play.[7]

ESPN, which is mostly owned by Disney, has also increased their presence on ABC over the years. The College GameDay personalities typically appear during halftime of the 3:30 game (often to preview the Saturday Night Football game they may have done the show from) and when they are on-site during the Saturday night game. In addition, the announcers have become increasingly interchangeable, starting in 2008. From the 2006 season onward, as part of a network-wide rebranding of sports coverage, broadcasts on ABC are now presented under ESPN branding and graphics as ESPN College Football on ABC.

During the 2006, 2007 and 2008 seasons, the presenting sponsor was Best Buy. During 2009, the presenting sponsor was Kay Jewelers. During 2010 and 2011 the presenting sponsor has been Buffalo Wild Wings.

On November 18, 2006, ABC had the highest rating and most-viewed contest in over 13 years when #1 Ohio State beat #2 Michigan 42–39.[8]


Since 2009, Sean McDonough has been the lead play-by-play man. John Saunders and Jesse Palmer make up the studio team. Robert Flores handles updates.


Oklahoma–Texas and Ohio State–Michigan are broadcast every year on ABC.

ABC's bowl coverage consists of the Capital One Bowl.


Since 1981, ABC has aired College Football Countdown before the slate of games at 3:00 pm ET with the studio crew.

While ABC had exclusive rights to the BCS bowl games from 1998 to 2005,[9] they aired a Bowl Championship Series Selection Show after Championship Weekend ended on the Sunday after the games.[10]

See also


External links