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Jason McIntyre Could Talk Sports All Day

“I’ve always thought of myself as an alpha. I’m going to be the guy setting the agenda, leading the way.”

Derek Futterman




Throughout the last decade, the methods and means through which people consume content disseminated across different forms of media have undoubtedly changed. Jason McIntyre knows this pattern well, but like most others in the industry, is still trying to determine how to best utilize the power of evolution to facilitate effective cross-platform integration, likening it to a “million-dollar question” of sorts.

The paradigmatic shift was evident to him during his formative years in the industry when he worked as a writer for various newspapers and magazines. As the internet began to grow in the early 2000s, he distinctly recalls buying a domain with his name in it so he could ensure its ownership and began using it as a place to share his stories.

Essentially, he was looking to find new ways to market himself and built an online professional curriculum vitae, including his work with these outlets. As he began to rise in the industry, one of his colleagues with whom he was competing noticed what McIntyre was doing and decided to inform management.

McIntyre was subsequently called into a meeting with executives from the outlet and duly questioned regarding the practice. Once McIntyre told them the intent behind posting some of his stories on a personal website, they regarded how the internet was fairly new and that the legality of the practice was largely unknown.

“It was at this point when it hit me – ‘What am I doing here?,’” McIntyre remembers thinking. “‘These guys are archaic dinosaurs; this is the stone age. The internet is next.’”

By no means is McIntyre considered a scofflaw, nor did he look to take readership away from the outlet. Posting the stories was simply representative of self-promotion, marketing himself and cementing a repository of demo material for prospective employers to view. Looking back on the moment, it can be considered a turning point in his career, perhaps as the impetus of a focus on audiovisual content and its widespread promulgation.

Today, McIntyre is in his first year as co-host of the daily, national midday talk show The Herd featuring sports media personality Colin Cowherd. The program has been simulcast on FS1 after it had aired on select ancillary ESPN networks and consistently receives high levels of engagement across multiple platforms.

“Cowherd does three hours live on TV [and] you can also hear the show on the radio as it’s happening,” McIntyre said. “Oh by the way, his podcast is still a massive juggernaut – I think it’s top-five [or] top-10; I don’t even check the iTunes rankings. Then, oh, by the way, go look at YouTube – he’s still getting videos at 50-; 100-; 200-; 500,000 views…. People are consuming this at an incredible rate.”

McIntyre moved into the role after FOX Sports altered its programming lineup, resulting in Joy Taylor shifting to work alongside Emmanuel Acho and LeSean McCoy on a new program titled Speak. Before he had made the decision, McIntyre took a variety of factors into account – including his family, future aspirations, and the geography. When he and his wife visited Cowherd in Los Angeles, Calif. to have dinner, they quickly realized the area was right for them and a place McIntyre could continue to flourish as a bonafide industry professional.

Cowherd and McIntyre were not unfamiliar with one another though, as they previously worked together as commentators on Speak for Yourself, a talk show Cowherd formerly hosted with Jason Whitlock. Furthermore, when he was still with ESPN Radio in 2007, Cowherd urged his listeners to crash The Big Lead, a sports and media blog McIntyre started the previous year with David Lessa. In the end, the mission was successful and caused the website to go dark for nearly 48 hours.

At the time when the website was famously flooded with traffic, McIntyre was operating the venture anonymously – writing and editing stories in an attempt to craft his voice and grow the platform. It came when McIntyre affirms that the “www” preceding a URL stood for “wild, wild west” instead of “world wide web,” and amid a period where people could proffer content in exchange for ethos, rather than selecting content to consume based on ethos alone.

“To grow up and mature as anyone would do with social media, it’s fun to run an anonymous social media account – but ultimately if you want to make that next step and take the jump to lightspeed, you’ve got to put your name on it,” McIntyre said. “That’s when Richard Deitsch at Sports Illustrated said, ‘Hey, do you want to reveal yourself?,’ and I said, ‘Alright, sure.’ Obviously, the site gained way more credibility once that happened.”

Growing up, McIntyre was an athlete, playing everything from travel soccer to basketball, but he had a realization as an adolescent that he would not play professionally. This feeling was accentuated when he was the second person cut from his high school freshman basketball team despite having knowledge and passion for the sport. When he was in middle school, he would play a game with his friends in which they identified where NBA players went to college, testing their ostensibly boundless knowledge of the association.

At the suggestion of his parents, McIntyre called a local newspaper to ask to help out but ended up being told that he had to wait until he was 16 years old so he could legally operate a motor vehicle. Once he came of age, he began contributing to the outlet, doing whatever was asked of him including answering phones and assisting others.

Eventually, he had the chance to write stories and saw his name on bylines, leading him to conjecture working at The Washington Post and eventually, the Los Angeles Times covering the Los Angeles Lakers, right out of college.

Upon matriculating at James Madison University though, things began to change. Although he was studying to attain a journalism degree, he quickly realized that media was on the verge of enduring significant innovation across the board, prioritizing interactive elements, engagement and dynamic content.

“I got into a fantasy college basketball league through some random dudes from a chatroom I was in talking about sports,” McIntyre said. “You kept your stats [and] I was all-in. The internet just changed so much, and the idea that I would want to work for a newspaper started to slowly fade.”

Nonetheless, McIntyre interned at the Greensboro News and Record, and then received an offer from The Washington Post to cover high school sports on a part-time basis. Despite talking about working for the national outlet years prior, he declined and opted to stay local by working in Passaic County, N.J. at The Herald News. One year into that role, its sports section merged with The Bergen Record to reduce operating costs, and McIntyre eventually began to freelance for ESPN and CBS Sports’ websites.

Just before March Madness commenced in 2006, McIntyre launched The Big Lead and was operating it on the side of other jobs, including working as an editor at Us Weekly. As time went on and the website began to amass a legion of followers, McIntyre added staff members to ensure it was able to produce enough content to keep pace with demand.

Additionally, he ceded his anonymity once it became evident to him that he would need to do so for the website to continue to grow, and then went on to sell the operation to Fantasy Sports Venture in 2010, reportedly for seven figures. Two years later, that company sold the website to Gannett with McIntyre remaining critical to the platform amid both transactions.

“Selling the website was pretty cool,” McIntyre remarked. “It was written about in The New York Times. My parents have it framed. Hell, I have it framed in my house; it’s pretty exciting.”

The move to radio started upon filling in on NBC Sports Radio on Independence Day, leading someone from Creative Artists Agency (CAA) to reach out and ask if he had representation. McIntyre did not at the time, and was subsequently contacted by two other agents in a three-week span. He ultimately settled on the agent who reached out to him first, and felt that operating in this sense gave him more opportunities.

McIntyre was shocked to learn that Yahoo! Sports was interested in the content he produced and asked him to host a national internet radio show to be distributed to SiriusXM and other radio stations eponymously-named The Jason McIntyre Show. He had launched a podcast through The Big Lead by the same name in 2013, welcoming guests including Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry, then-CBS Sports host Doug Gottlieb and NFL Network insider Ian Rapoport. Beginning in early 2015, the radio show began and was broadcast on Sundays from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. EST, bringing listeners the latest news and opinions.

“I love sports,” McIntyre explained. “I could easily talk about sports for three hours. Once that started, it essentially kind of took off.”

Nine months later, McIntyre joined FOX Sports Radio where he hosted a Saturday sports talk show titled The Big Lead, largely functioning as a way to preview weekend action and interview guests in the industry. Moreover, he filled in for various high-profile hosts, including Gottlieb, Dan Patrick, and Chris Broussard, and began to establish a unique and distinctive hosting style.

“I’ve always thought of myself as an alpha,” McIntyre said. “I’m going to be the guy setting the agenda, leading the way. I’m going to have topics nobody else is going to have. I was never like, ‘I’m going to work with a guy,’ but obviously you have to work well with others.”

In the time between being removed from Speak for Yourself to being named co-host of The Herd, the alteration of the media landscape was hastened amid the COVID-19 global pandemic. Whether it was appearing on select television shows; hosting his Saturday radio show; contributing to gambling content; or helping FOX Sports expand its digital footprint, McIntyre was ostensibly itinerant while continuing his work with The Big Lead website.

Moreover, he worked with TVG Network (today known as FanDuel TV) providing analysis on the studio show More Ways to Win hosted by Lisa Kerney.

“I’m kind of limbo,” McIntyre said of that time. “I’m going on all the shows as a fill-in which is fine [and] I start doing a lot of digital stuff which I had already done because it’s in my contract.”

Producing the gambling content, in particular, helped boost the popularity of sports betting, especially as states gained regulatory power over its legality. Although California has yet to legalize sports betting, its base of sports fans are familiar with related content, which is very much momentary because of the dynamic nature of the niche.

“It is literally there for a day and then nobody cares the day after,” McIntyre said. “Nobody’s going back and looking at what you said about a game that’s now done. That part is difficult; it just doesn’t have a long tail.”

Everything changed, though, when The Big Lead was sold by Gannett to Minute Media in March 2019, which resulted in the bifurcation of the staff including McIntyre. In July 2020, McIntyre pivoted to begin hosting a podcast titled Straight Fire with Jason McIntyre, adopting an approach similar to his radio show except with more freedom to be himself and be completely authentic with his audience free of Federal Communications Commission standards.

The podcast, which has a new episode published on a near-daily basis, has performed well across audio platforms and given consumers another way to find McIntyre amid today’s crowded media environment. The experience of listening to a podcast, he states, differs from other forms of media largely because of the mechanisms fueling consumption.

“A lot of people listen while they’re running [or] walking their dog and the earbud is right in their ear,” McIntyre said of his podcast. “That’s different [from] the TV experience which can be on in the background. [With] the radio, you’re driving; you’re paying attention to a million things. I just feel like the intimacy of podcasts is something you don’t get anywhere else.”

Combining his podcast with a regular role on The Herd has helped burgeon his career, but present contrasts in terms of the way the shows are produced and distributed. With his podcast produced and distributed by iHeartMedia, he has flexibility to determine topics and welcome on guests as contributors.

Conversely, the visual component of The Herd equals in importance to being compelling and engaging aurally, rendering the show multitiered in terms of its production.

“If you’re walking by the screen, the graphics; the charts; the rankings – it just visually is appealing,” McIntyre said. “I must get at least two to three random people every single day [who say], ‘Dude, I walked by the bar and this show just looks visually-appealing.’”

McIntyre still participates in sports in spite of not playing professionally, including suiting up for pickup basketball at a gym and participating in a tennis league. There have been occurrences where he sporadically begins to talk about sports with other gym members, most recently regarding the New York Jets working to acquire quarterback Aaron Rodgers from the Green Bay Packers.

The same is applicable to Cowherd, as McIntyre has heard through friends that he will start talking to people about sports at gyms, parks and other public locations. Through their time co-hosting the show, they have been able to foster chemistry and transform it into favorable ratings.

“He’s exactly like you see on air, and I know that sounds crazy,” McIntyre said of Cowherd. “Between commercials, he’ll have a random rant and just come over and we’ll start talking and just fire off 5 minutes and I’m like, ‘This guy’s just nonstop.’”

In cultivating on-air synergy conducive to success, McIntyre feels he and Cowherd are able to discern gray areas and stimulate deeper, comprehensive thinking elicited through their interactions. One reason for listening to sports talk radio is for entertainment; however, appealing to the complete base of listeners requires finding points to display erudition and circuitous pedagogical instruction within their deft communication abilities.

“We can go back-and-forth a little bit at each other without it feeling personal, and we can disagree,” McIntyre said. “Reasonable minds can disagree. On the internet, everybody has to disagree; you’re either right or you’re wrong.”

Don Martin and Scott Shapiro oversee FOX Sports Radio and its programming, and have worked hard to compile a powerful on-air lineup at all hours of the day. McIntyre believes he has heard them joke about how it arguably compares to the 1927 New York Yankees starting lineup nicknamed “Murderers’ Row.”

That compilation of hitters, which went on to sweep consecutive World Series championships, featured impactful hitters such as George Herman “Babe” Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Earle Combs and Tony Lazzeri among others. Today, the FOX Sports Radio consists of McIntyre and Cowherd, along with Dan Patrick, Doug Gottlieb, Chris Broussard and Rob Parker, all of whom are considered at or near the top of the industry.

“They’ve got home run hitters all day,” McIntyre said. “ESPN seems to have punted on radio which is a little bit of a surprise. They just don’t seem to take it as seriously as they did say five or 10 years ago. CBS: I’m not entirely sure where they are. I don’t know; you tell me. Is FOX dominating now or what?”

Aside from it being his profession, McIntyre considers sports themselves as an outlet for which to find enjoyment. Discussing aspects of the games he is passionate about enhances his ability and motivation to succeed as a host, and he continues to attempt to follow the leagues and its players as closely as possible.

“[If] you tell me that the NCAA tournament is on, I’m hunkering down with multiple televisions in my house and just devouring all of it,” McIntyre said. “[If] the World Cup is on, I’m waking up at whatever time I need to [in order] to watch Saudi Arabia vs. Argentina. It’s one of those things; I really love sports.”

At the moment, McIntyre is not thinking too much about the future, instead trying to enjoy the journey as opposed to solely focusing on his final destination. Yet he acknowledges that he has always been a person thinking about how he can improve and aggrandize his content, underscoring his commitment to the craft. He does enjoy his new job working with Cowherd and finds that they have been able to have compelling discussions.

“I’m always striving for something; always trying to push forward and do more,” McIntyre said. “Now, I’ve been part of TV shows; I’ve filled in; I’ve done all this. I don’t know what’s next for me. Is it having my own show? I don’t know.”

Even though sports radio today is, in some ways, unrecognizable from the programming from just one decade ago, McIntyre maintains a positive outlook on the future of the industry. Streaming services, podcasts and other on-demand content made available through OTT and FAST platforms certainly adjusts listenership, as it creates another area for the audience to invest their time of consumption, meaning that radio programs must pivot to retain and increase visibility.

“Maybe it’s the California air getting to me,” McIntyre said of his feelings towards the future of sports talk radio. “I’m not eating avocado toast regularly, but definitely I’m trying to be a little more positive. I’ve worked with enough negative people in this industry that that’s just not the way I want to live.”

As more people look to ingratiate themselves towards consumers and establish footholds in this competitive industry, it is fundamental for aspiring professionals to find a niche and work to distinguish themselves in that area. For McIntyre, it arguably came through launching The Big Lead, deviating from the outline of a typical path writers took to build their careers, and taking a calculated risk by remaining anonymous for several years.

Being able to talk in detail about a broad array of topics and having vast experience certainly improves the likelihood of succeeding in a marketplace that prioritizes versatility, along with establishing and keeping professional relationships. These factors have helped McIntyre construct a formidable career that took him from newspapers to magazines to web to radio to television, and with more potentially on the horizon as the years go on.

“It’s tough to just jump in as a generalist,” McIntyre said. “You’ve got to really drill down on something. I was able to drill down on media on the website; [I] got the media reading; and then I was able to supplement it with talking about the NBA and the draft and the NFL and all this stuff; controversial stories…. Once you own something, then you can pretty much own everything.”

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Robert Griffin III Wants to Tell Your Story the Right Way

“Even if I do know you personally, I’m not going to bring that to the broadcast because that’s not my job.”

Derek Futterman




During last season’s VRBO Fiesta Bowl, Robert Griffin III was part of ESPN’s alternate telecast at field level alongside Pat McAfee. Suddenly, the Heisman Trophy winner took a phone call. Once he hung up the phone, Griffin divulged that his wife had gone into labor and proceeded to sprint off of the field to catch a flight. An ESPN cameraperson documented his run and jubilation as he returned home to welcome his daughter, Gia, into the world. It encapsulated just what motivates Griffin to appear on television and discuss football, and why he is one of ESPN’s budding talents with the chance to make an impact on sports media and his community for years to come.

“This was an opportunity for me to go out and be different in the way that the media covers the players and truly get to the bottom of telling the players’ stories the right way,” Griffin said. “I look at this as an opportunity to do that.”

Griffin was a three-sport athlete as a student at Copperas Cove High School, and ultimately broke Texas state records in track and field. In addition to that, he played basketball and was the starting quarterback for the school’s football team as a junior and senior, drawing attention from various schools around the country. He ended up graduating high school one semester early and quickly became a star at Baylor University in both football and track and field.

Robert Griffin III’s nascent talent was hardly inconspicuous, evidenced by being named the 2008 Big 12 Conference Offensive Freshman of the Year and then, three years later, the winner of the Heisman Trophy. In the end, he graduated having set or tied 54 school records and helped the program to its first bowl game win in 19 years.

Ultimately, he transitioned to the NFL in a career with many trials and tribulations, but through it all, he never lost his sense of persistence. Nearly a decade later, he returned to college, but this time as a member of the media covering the game from afar. Unlike a majority of former players though, Griffin did not formally retire from playing football when inking a broadcasting contract with ESPN.

“I haven’t retired yet at all,” he said. “I tell everyone that asks me the question that I train every day [and] I’m prepared to play if that call does come. I’ve had some talks with teams over the past two years; just nothing has come to fruition.”

While Griffin’s focus as a broadcaster is undeniable, he never thought about seriously pursuing sports media until his broadcast agent pushed him to do so. He was urged to take an audition at FOX Sports. Griffin broke down highlights and called a mock NFL game alongside lead play-by-play announcer Kevin Burkhardt. He was not prepared for that second part, but impressed executives and precipitously realized a career in the space may not be so outlandish after all. 

Griffin then moved to ESPN where he experienced a similar audition process, this time calling a game with play-by-play announcer Rece Davis. Once the audition concluded, it was determined that Griffin would not only begin working in the industry, but that he would be accelerated because of his ability to communicate in an informative and entertaining style.

As a player, he saw the way media members covered teams – sometimes bereft of objectivity – and therefore saw assimilating into the industry as a chance to change that. Now, he is focused on telling the stories of the players en masse while being prepared to pivot at a moment’s notice.

Courtesy ESPN Images

ESPN’s intention was to implement Griffin on its studio coverage, but once executives heard him in the broadcast booth, the company had a palpable shift in its thinking. He was told he was ready to go out into the field and start calling games immediately, something of a surprise to him. FOX Sports felt similarly. This led to a bidding war between the two entities, which ultimately concluded with Griffin inking a contract with ESPN. He appeared over its airwaves plenty of times as a player, and even participated on a variety of studio shows in 2018 where he was almost permanently placed on NFL Live. This time around though, Griffin was suddenly preparing to work with Mark Jones and Quint Kessenich on college football games. He did not have time to consider the implications of the decision, instead diving headfirst into the craft and remaining focused on what was to come with producer Kim Belton and director Anthony DeMarco at his side.

“These guys took me under their wing, and I’m beyond indebted to them for that,” Griffin said of his colleagues. “They taught me everything that I know about the industry. They taught me everything I know about how to present things to the masses to where it can be easily digestible. They’ve allowed me to allow my personality to shine through.”

Demonstrating his personality was a facet of his makeup Griffin felt was inhibited by playing professional football, but he knows it would have been considerably more difficult to attain a chance to cover the game had he not laced up his cleats. Calling college football games with Jones accentuated his comfort in the booth because of Jones’ adept skill to appeal to the viewers and penetrate beyond the sport.

“He has the way to connect different generations of listeners to hear what he’s saying and perceive it in the same way,” Griffin said. “To me, that’s what we all strive to do in this industry is to be able to find the connective tissue between the fan who is 60 or 70 years old, and the fan who’s in their late teens or early 20s.”

From the beginning, everyone told Griffin to be himself and not adopt an alternate persona in front of the camera. That advice has guided him as he approaches his third year working in the industry.

“It is so hard to maintain a character or try to be someone that you’re not, but if you are who you are every single day, then every time you show up on camera you will be that person,” Griffin said. “I’ve made sure that when I stepped foot in front of that camera, I was going to be myself.”

Griffin identifies his style as pedagogical to a degree, critiquing players as if he was coaching them on the sidelines. He will never look to penetrate beyond football with his criticism, as drawing conclusions and using unrelated parlance could be viewed as indecorous. In short, Griffin III knows what it means to represent ESPN.

“We’re not a gossip website. We’re supposed to be critically acclaimed, prestigious journalists, and at the end of the day, that’s how I try to approach the job that I do. That’s why I got into the business – because I felt like there was a little of that going on, especially during my career, so I would never do to somebody else what was done to me.”

Over the course of his NFL career, Griffin was subject to immense criticism that went significantly beyond the gridiron. For example, sports commentator Rob Parker suggested that Griffin was not fully representative of the Black community and proceeded to question if he was a “cornball brother.” The incident resulted in Parker receiving a 30-day suspension from ESPN, and after he defended his comments and blamed First Take producers in a subsequent interview, the network decided not to renew his contract.

“My goal as a member of the media is to tell players’ stories the right way, and if I don’t know you personally, I’m never going to make it personal,” Griffin said. “Even if I do know you personally, I’m not going to bring that to the broadcast because that’s not my job.”

In addition to broadcasting college football games with Jones on ESPN and ABC, he also appears on-site for Monday Night Countdown, the network’s pregame show leading up to Monday Night Football. Making the decision to add NFL coverage to his slate of responsibilities meant that Griffin would be able to tell more stories and utilize his knowledge of players during their collegiate careers to enhance the broadcast.

The energy that he felt attending tailgates and interacting with fans at the college level gave him a unique skill set to translate to the NFL side, leading him to present the production team with an unparalleled idea for Week 1. He wanted to race Taima the Hawk, the live game mascot for the Seattle Seahawks who flies around Lumen Field prior to the start of each home game. It was an outlandish idea, but one that made sense for television because of the visual appeal it can present.

“If you know anything about hawks, they can fly up to 120-140 miles per hour, so they’re like, ‘There’s no way he’s going to beat this hawk in a race, but we’ll do it,’” Griffin said. “To that crew’s credit, they never once balked at any of the creative ideas that I brought to the table because they want to try different things and be exciting and have fun on the show.”

Griffin ended up winning the race, commencing the new season of Monday Night Countdown with immediate excitement before the Seahawks’ matchup against the Denver Broncos. He thoroughly enjoyed his first year on the show and having the chance to work alongside Suzy Colber, Adam Schefter, Booger McFarland, Steve Young, Larry Fitzgerald and Alex Smith. 

“They always tell me, ‘Hey, anything you’re not comfortable with, you just let us know and we won’t do that thing,’” Griffin said of the show’s producers. “My answer always back to them is, ‘Well, I won’t know if I’m uncomfortable with it if I don’t try.’”

While Griffin had what looked like a seamless assimilation into the broadcasting world, he had a difficult moment when using a racial slur on live television in discussing Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts. The clip quickly gained traction across the internet, and Griffin issued an apology on his Twitter account for using the pejorative language and claimed that he misspoke.

“I was shocked that it came out in the way that it did, and I immediately jumped on it and apologized because there’s no need to deny,” he said. “You messed up. You move forward, and I think that’s the easiest way to get over those types of things and to get back on your feet.”

The football season at both the college and professional level is undoubtedly a grind, and it requires a combination of dedication, passion and persistence few people possess. Robert Griffin III has garnered the reputation of being an “overpreparer,” often partaking in considerably more information than necessary to execute a broadcast. The information he consumes and conclusions he draws combined with his experience at both levels has cultivated him into a knowledgeable analyst who makes cogent, intelligible points on the air.

“I over-prepare for everything, and 70% of the information that I soak in going into a game or going into a broadcast for Monday Night Countdown, I don’t use because there’s just not enough air time,” Griffin III said. “There’s not enough opportunities to talk on it all.” 

At the same time, he makes a concerted effort to make the most of his time with his family and separate himself from the field, engaging in activities including playing ping pong, going to the movies and supporting his children. He also embarks in charity work through his RG3 Foundation and strives to teach his daughters the importance of giving back. The mission of the nonprofit foundation is to discover and design programs for underprivileged youth, struggling military families and victims of domestic violence, and it has made a significant impact since it was launched in 2015.

“Trying to end food insecurity; making sure that our under-resourced youth have access to the things that they need just to survive – talking about food, clothes, books, the ability to learn [and] putting on these after-school programs,” Griffin elucidated in describing the organization’s mission. “We want to have an impact on our community. We mean that with everything in us and have shown that to be the true case of why we do this.”

Griffin’s wife, Grete, serves as the executive director of the foundation and also runs her own fitness business. Staying physically and mentally in shape is something they actively try to accomplish in their everyday lives, and lessons they are passing down to their daughters.

“I’m 33 years old right now, so if I want to continue to train every single day, I can do that for the next 10 years if I need to,” Griffin said. “Not taking hits and being physically fit is also a good thing for your own health, which is something me and my wife are extremely passionate about.”

Although his experience is in playing football and working in sports media, Robert Griffin III does not believe in limiting himself and would consider exploring opportunities outside of sports and entertainment. He wants to become the best broadcaster possible no matter where he is working in the industry and continue finding new ways to be distinctive en masse.

“We’re storytellers,” he said. “We’re here to break down things [and] to tell people a story the right way; things that people are interested in, and that expands across all media levels. We’re not closing the door on anything from that standpoint.”

Courtesy ESPN Images

While he was playing in the NFL, Griffin dealt with a variety of injuries that ultimately kept him off the football field and made it difficult to display his talents. Ranging from an ACL tear, shoulder scapula fracture and hairline fracture in his right thumb, staying healthy was a challenge for him over the time he played in the NFL. 

Through surgeries and rehabilitation, he learned how to face and overcome these challenges. It has shaped him into the broadcaster and person he is today as he looks to set a positive example to aspiring football players and broadcasters everywhere.

“The eight-year career that I was able to have thus far didn’t come without roadblocks in the way [and] didn’t come without adversity. Learn from the adversity that you go through and learn from all the things and the lessons that you have that sports teaches you, and then go be able to present that to the masses.”

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Pac-12 Pushing Enhanced Access, Deion Sanders Reeks of Desperation

What good is enhanced access for TV broadcasts or the star power of Coach Prime if those game telecasts aren’t seen?

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Getting experimental has drawn some attention to USFL and XFL broadcasts during each league’s seasons. The Pac-12 is apparently hoping the same approach will draw viewers to its football telecasts beginning this fall.

Last week, the conference announced that its broadcasts on ESPN, Fox Sports, and Pac-12 Networks would feature enhanced access for viewers. Head coaches will be interviewed during games. Players and coaches will be mic’d up during pregame warm-ups. Cameras will have pregame and halftime access to team locker rooms. And handheld camera operators will be allowed to film parts of the field and game experience which were previously prohibited.

Those familiar with USFL and XFL telecasts will likely see some similarities to the greater access that those leagues allow their TV partners. Coaches are mic’d up on the sidelines, giving viewers insight into play calls and strategy. Players are interviewed during the game, providing near-instant reactions to success or failure. Cameras in the replay booth show how officials decide to either overturn or uphold calls on the field.

What the Pac-12 intends to do with its broadcasts won’t go as far as the USFL and XFL. Access to coaches and players is being expanded but will still have limits. The conference doesn’t have to demonstrate familiarity, credibility, and legitimacy to fans and media.

Spring pro football leagues are a tough sell to mainstream sports fans accustomed to college football and the NFL from September through January. Especially when the level of play is subpar and rosters are filled with unfamiliar names, the USFL and XFL have to give fans more reasons to watch.

USC, UCLA, Washington, and Oregon are established national brands and regularly compete with the top teams in college football. Utah has played in the past two Rose Bowls, seen on millions of televisions during the New Year’s Day holiday. All five of those schools finished among the final AP Top 25 rankings of the 2022-23 season. USC quarterback Caleb Williams won the 2022 Heisman Trophy.

Yet the Pac-12 is promoting the gimmick of enhanced access because it needs to attract positive fan and media attention. Right now, most of the headlines the conference is generating aren’t flattering.

Notably, the Pac-12 needs a new media rights deal. Losing two of its most prominent schools, USC and UCLA, to the Big Ten in 2024 certainly isn’t helping with that. Rumors have persisted that Washington and Oregon could soon follow. Additionally, the Big 12 is reportedly eyeing Colorado, Arizona, Arizona State, and Utah as possible expansion targets.

Pac-12 commissioner George Kliavkoff is left to tout Colorado’s new head coach, Deion Sanders, as a selling point in a new media rights deal. Never mind that Sanders hasn’t coached a game in Boulder yet. The Buffaloes are also coming off a 1-11 season and have won more than five games only once since 2007.

If Coach Prime is as successful as Colorado hopes, how likely is he to jump to a better program and stronger conference? And as mentioned in a previous paragraph, even if Sanders sticks around, Colorado could be poached by the Big 12. How much value would Coach Prime provide for the Pac-12 then?

ESPN’s deal with the conference expires in July 2024, shortly before USC and UCLA defect, and reportedly has no intention of renewing. (ESPN could still agree to a package of lower-tier games for late-night broadcast windows, but Andrew Marchand of the New York Post reports that doesn’t appear likely.) Fox’s agreement is up at the same time, though prospects of a renewal seem more optimistic. The network needs Pac-12 games to fill its college football Saturday inventory.

The options from there aren’t promising. CBS Sports’ Dennis Dodd reports that current speculation has USA Network, part of the NBCUniversal conglomerate, as a possible landing spot. According to The Athletic, Pac-12 commissioner George Kliavkoff believes that the conference’s next media rights deal will have a large streaming component with Amazon and Apple TV+ mentioned as potential partners.

A streaming partner might be good from a financial standpoint, helping produce some of the revenue that ESPN has cut off. But forcing fans to find your product and asking them to pay for another TV platform isn’t a good way to draw interest. It may well be a path to irrelevance and obscurity. That’s not going to compete with the Big Ten and SEC, or even the Big 12.

And as The Athletic’s Chris Vannini points out, how can streaming be expected to save a conference like the Pac-12 when it isn’t even helping TV networks (or standalone providers) right now? Disney is losing money with Disney+, ESPN+, and Hulu. NBCUniversal has lost billions on Peacock, as has CBS with Paramount+. Maybe the Pac-12 won’t care about that because it got paid. But there’s little chance for growth.

OK, Lincoln Riley, Chip Kelly, Dan Lanning, and Kyle Whittingham could be interviewed during games. But they probably won’t say much interesting during a game. Caleb Williams, Bo Nix, and Michael Penix Jr. will be mic’d up during warm-ups. Maybe we’ll see coaches and players going crazy in the locker room at halftime. Just remember that Peyton Manning said most players only have time to use the bathroom and have a snack. There’s your compelling television.

What good is enhanced access for TV broadcasts or the star power of Deion Sanders if those game telecasts aren’t seen by large audiences? To say otherwise is desperate. That’s exactly where the Pac-12 is.

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ESPN Deal Used to Mean Stability for ACC, Now It Means Anything But

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It was April 19, 1775 when the first shots of war were fired on battlefields in Lexington and Concord that would send shockwaves across the world. Some brave soul among a group of rebel farmers and blacksmiths, doctors and lawyers literally pulled the trigger on what would become known as “The Shot Heard ‘Round the World”. Indeed, the world would never be the same.

The college athletics version of that event was June 11, 2010. On that day, regents at the University of Nebraska officially applied for Big Ten membership and were unanimously approved by the other eleven schools (if the number in the conference name not matching the number of schools in that conference is something that bothers you, this column may not be for you). From that day forward, we have never really exited the “expansion era”.

One conference that has gone largely untouched in that time is the ACC. Only Maryland has left the ACC since 2010, heading to the Big Ten, and the conference has added Syracuse, Pittsburgh and Louisville in that same window. That is significant when you consider only the SEC and Big Ten have avoided any departures in this era. Every other major conference has seen great turbulence while those three conferences have primarily seen only growth.

That trend may actually continue for the ACC and that may not be a net positive for the conference or the ACC members. This is thanks to the long term grant of rights deal the conference schools negotiated with ESPN. The grant of rights means ESPN holds the broadcast rights to all home games of the current ACC schools, and do so for the next 13 years. 

When the deal was signed in 2016, the 20 year media rights deal seemed like a win for the ACC, creating stability in a time of great instability. Now, what seemed like a “must have purchase” may be the impulse buy that the league schools regret for decades.

Put simply, the ACC has been lapped in the media rights race by the Big Ten, SEC and even the Big 12. At best, the ACC schools are working at a $10-15 Million per year deficit when compared to Big 12 schools. At worst, they are operating at a much larger $30-$40 Million annual deficit when compared to Big Ten and SEC programs. It would be a battle of monumental proportions for the ACC to compete on the same level as those other conferences at that large of a disadvantage.

The conference’s options are slim. ESPN has a deal that is locked for 13 more years, what benefit would it be to them to renegotiate just so the ACC can compete? For instance, it would require $140 Million annually from ESPN just to place the ACC in the same financial neighborhood as the Big 12 Conference. What would be the benefit to ESPN in doing that? 

The other option for ACC schools would be to bang the departure drum. Almost all legal analysts have painted a very grim picture for the schools that would be itching to leave. The exit fee is $120 million and may get the schools some nice parting gifts but does not give them their media rights. Their home game broadcast rights will still be a part of the ESPN deal with ACC. That greatly reduces a departing school’s value to any other conference.

Maybe ESPN is willing to broker a deal for a departing school if it is going to a conference, such as the SEC, that has a large rights deal with ESPN. If one of the schools desires a departure to the Big Ten, who has large deals with networks not named ESPN, one would have to think The Worldwide Leader would be in less of a deal-making mood.

Some league athletics directors, led by Florida State’s Michael Alford, are suggesting teams be incentivized for success. Breaking the code; rather than equal distribution, the power schools want a bigger share of the money. This is where Wake Forest points out that it is all they can do to exceed football expectations on their current stipend, what will become of them if that money shrinks? It seems that conferences and leagues that steer away from an equally shared revenue model have had a difficult time making that work long term.

Maybe the ACC teams that are ready to punch out could flash back to the period of time our country was in with the events we started this column remembering. They have a team in Boston, go throw some tea in the harbor and revolt, have a modern day Boston Tea Party. As it stands now, there are several ACC members that want to leave the party they are part of. Their only problem is they are all dressed up with nowhere to go.

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