With the ESPNization of the SEC’s TV coverage, every team in the conference can count on every game being televised on broadcast or cable each season except for one game reserved for possible pay-per-view (in other words, the weakest nonconference gimme matchup, this year being Tennessee Tech for Georgia).
Last season, 12 of the Dogs’ games were televised, including the bowl. Over the past seven years, Georgia has never had less than 10 games on the tube and usually 11 or 12.
Remember when having a game televised live was something special? If you’re of my son’s generation who grew up in the 1990s, no, you don’t. The last time less than half the Bulldogs’ schedule was televised was 1993, when we got to see only five games. And the last time less than that were televised was 10 years earlier, when only four games were covered by television.
Incredibly, during the national championship season of 1980, Herschel Walker and the Dawgs were on TV only three times on commercial networks: the South Carolina matchup with George Rogers, the “Run, Lindsay” game in Jacksonville and the Sugar Bowl win over Notre Dame. No wonder Larry Munson’s radio broadcasts were so important to us.
Back before college football became big business, the game of the week was literally the game of the week! I remember what a big deal it was when ABC came to Athens to televise the 1965 season opener against national champion Alabama. Yeah, the flea-flicker win being televised to the entire nation was a big leg up for Vince Dooley in elevating the Georgia program. That was only the fourth Georgia game ever seen on TV up to that point.
Actually, the Bulldogs and Crimson Tide made TV history five years earlier, when Bama beat Wally Butts’ last Bulldog team 21-6 in Birmingham in the first college football game ever televised by ABC Sports. That was the first regular-season Georgia football game to be televised.
The first UGA game seen on TV at all was on Jan. 1, 1960, when Fran Tarkenton led his team over Missouri 14-0 in the Orange Bowl on CBS. I remember I woke up with a bad case of the mumps that New Year’s Day, but my Mom still let me watch the Dogs on TV.
It’s strange to think back to what a thrill that was. Now we take college football on TV for granted and can even while away the entire day watching just games from one conference.
In that regard, Mike Slive is right about one thing: This is the SEC’s golden era.