In the military, Army leaders plan, prepare, execute, and assess operations by analyzing the operational environment in terms of mission variables. There are many variables we analyze but no two operational environments are identical and every environment changes over time. Variables evolve frequently and affect many things that contribute to the overall strategic purpose of our Army and our nation. Translation? We do whatever it takes to drive policy and protect our nation’s interests. ESPN is not too different. ESPN consistently uses strategic marketing to protect its financial investment, support its agenda for the Heisman trophy, the NCAA College Football Playoff, and ultimately the National Championship.
Anyone that understands marketing with product placement in television and film production understands if you place the product in front of the audience long enough, eventually the consumer will buy whatever it is you’re selling. This method serves as the most successful means of marketing in the industry. This is exactly what catapulted the SEC conference to the forefront of the national championship towards the end of the BCS era.
ESPN, its producers, and the CFB Playoff committee leadership have made a substantial investment and will do and say whatever it takes during its programming to protect that investment. ESPN has a $6 Billion investment through its media rights deal with the SEC over the next 20 years, which amounts to $300 million per year for the conference, more than any other conference. The Big 12 receives approximately $1.6 billion over 13 years which amounts to $100 million per year with its media rights deal with ESPN.
With the invention of the digital video recorder (DVR), advertising and marketing saw consumers skipping through commercials like never before. Viewers were no longer seeing advertisements that were once a bedrock of the marketing business. As a result, product placement in television shows went up. In large, sports are the only DVR-proof event on television today. This is partially why advertising rates during live sporting events are at an all time high. The viewer is physically in front of their TV, which increases the odds the product will be viewed by the consumer rather than skipped over.
ESPN’s use of product placement as well as marionette-style puppetry through its most effective mouthpieces on its most popular college football program, College Gameday, helped vault the SEC to the forefront as “the strongest conference.” This method also vaulted Ohio State past TCU at the end of last season. Yet in most cases, when those SEC teams are put on the field with major contenders from the Big 12, Big 10, ACC, or Pac 12, the SEC has crumbled, (see Ohio State vs. Alabama and Ole Miss vs. TCU, and nearly every other post-season SEC game last season).
ESPN’s propaganda-machine and strategic marketing is attempting to vault an SEC player to the forefront of the Heisman race and has all year. Don’t get me wrong, Leonard Fournette is a talented running back as are Derrick Henry and Ezekiel Elliot. But they are not the best college football players in America. When Fournette was stunted during the past two games against better opponents, ESPN started pushing Derek Henry, another SEC running back. Now, it appears they favor Ezekiel Elliot, another good running back, but not the best college football player in America.
What about the Heisman frontrunner going into the season? Through ten games, Trevone Boykin has his team sitting at 9-1, while throwing for 3,427 passing yards, 29 pass TDs, 596 yards rushing and 8 rushing TDs, (4,023 yards and 37 TDs). Despite an injury versus Kansas last week and missing the entire second half, Boykin is second in the nation in QBR and 5th in total passing yards. He leads the nation in total yards through 10 games. The Heisman Trophy used to be an award to recognize the best college football player in America. With the injuries this TCU team has faced this year, no player has meant more to his team than Trevone Boykin. Despite the injury, no player has taken control of and dominated the game like Trevone Boykin. How about what Luke Falk is doing at Washington State? Patrick Mahomes at Texas Tech? Paxton Lynch at Memphis? Yet ESPN rarely highlights these athletes because it does not fit its agenda.
With a $7.3 billion dollar investment in the CFB playoff, ESPN will do whatever it takes to protect its interests and garner the largest advertising revenue possible during the season and the playoff. As I wrote above, live sports are the last DVR-proof television event. This is why College Gameday and the other shows on ESPN consistently pimp the SEC, B1G, and ACC conferences.
We were sold that the CFB playoff would find the best college football team. We were lied to. If ESPN truly cared about finding the best team in college football, and truly cared about giving the Heisman to the best college football player in America, the CFB playoff would be an 8-team playoff with automatic bids for the Power 5 conference championship teams and 3 at-large bids. But this would not guarantee ESPN’s desired outcome.
ESPN is the CNN of college football. They provide biased reporting and pander to the teams with the largest fan base. Its propaganda-driven broadcasting is damaging the sport of college football and once again successfully turning this amazing sport into a greater gap of the haves and have-nots. The haves are any team with a national presence and fan base large enough to pay for the sizeable investment ESPN has made in the CFP playoff. The have-nots are any team or player that does not fit that description (see OSU, TCU, Baylor, Memphis, Houston)
ESPN consistently devalues the strength of the Big 12 and anyone that opposes the SEC, Big 10, or occasionally the ACC and Pac12. Their treatment of TCU this season is a perfect example. Last year, Ohio State’s resiliency was celebrated after their key injuries despite a weak schedule. This year, with 23+ injuries to this talented squad, ESPN and the CFB playoff committee vilifies Trevone Boykin and throws them to the side of the curb like a mid-major program. Every conference has a few really good teams. Unfortunately, we only get to see these teams prove ESPN’s propaganda-based, agenda-biased theories wrong during bowl season. Hey, maybe one year we will finally find out who the best team truly is in college football.
The views presented above are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of DoD or its components.
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