"I’d rather be lucky than good." — 7-time All-Star pitcher Lefty Gomez (1908-1989)
Was CBS College Sports good or was it lucky? The network began its free, 2-week preview for operators and fans October 25 with a week of special programs highlighting the football programs of the Army, Navy and Air Force academies, culminating with a triple header of service games Oct 30. But coming up to the final hours of its preview, it had #3 TCU meeting #5 Utah (Sat, Nov 6, 3:30pm ET) sandwiched between Air Force at Army (noon ET) and followed by Tennessee at Memphis (8pm ET).
We asked CBS College Sports Network’s chief Steve Herbst about all this.
CFAX: You’ve got #3 TCU at #5 Utah from Salt Lake City. When did you set your schedule? How much of getting these top-ranked teams on your screen is luck and how much is work?
Herbst: There’s a bit of luck involved in that we work with all our conference partners back in the beginning of the year, February, March, April. You’re working on your football schedules. You’re doing the best you can in terms of your homework, your research, looking at which games will be available to you.
We have Mountain West football, but the MoutainWest Sports Network obviously has some games, VERSUS Network has some games. So there’s a little bit of back and forth on who gets what games.
[Regarding the rankings] there’s a bit of luck involved. Both Utah and TCU had tough games but both came out unscathed and we’re fortunate to have them.
So, there’s a bit of homework, a bit of research, some risk taking and, yes, a bit of luck as well.
CFAX: These are the highest-ranked 2 teams you’ve ever had on your network, right?
Herbst: Yes. Far and away this is the most impactful football game we’ve ever had on our network. It’s just a testament to the Mountain West Conference that flies under the radar but produces quality teams every year. It’s striving to take be a BCS conference, it’s striving to take that next step, but every year they keep churning out winning football teams… this game, I think, will go a long way in determining who will play in that national championship game and those other BCS games.
CFAX: Take us back a bit. You and [distribution chief] Bob Rose sit down months ago and plan this 2-week network preview. Did you realize your best game ever will sit within the preview? Could you have imagined you’d have a #3 and #5 during your preview weeks?
Herbst: No. The football schedule is done so far in advance. While other networks have some flex scheduling, we are really set in stone when we do our schedule in March and April…there are so many pieces, what with our other fall sports…our programming department is trying to piece together different days.
So then you say, well, if we can get Army, Navy, Air Force on October 30th right there we’ve built our armed forces week. And then what do you know, look what’s churning for November 6. We’ve got an Army-Air Force game that could be very impactful, Utah-TCU looking good and then Tennessee, a team you don’t normally see on our air, a big SEC team like that we don’t normally get. That all fell together on back-to-back weeks. Then you say, ‘OK, this would be perfect for a free preview.’
CFAX: So when do you decide what weeks will be the preview period?
Herbst: Over the summer. Just as we look at what the opportunities are; we’re tying the weeks together. We’re trying to come up with themes that make sense, too. We like to say we give you a little bit of everything. We give you academy football, which shows off the great men and women of the service academies. But, hey, terrific, high-ranked national football, as well. We were sort of fortunate it all fell together for us in back-to-back weeks.