A glassy-eyed Taaffe rates the networks currently doing national college games
ABC—Late-afternoon CFA games. A-1 in terms of announcing and production values, although those sideline interviews with the coaches at the end of the half are absurd. The coaches are always in a rush, never have a thing to say and seem to be praying that Tim Brant will just go away. Easily the best halftime show. Beano Cook may not have blow-dried hair, but he doesn't have a blow-dried brain, either.
CBS—Early-or late-afternoon Big Ten and Pac-10 games. Brent Musburger, having grown antsy in the studio, is calling some games. He's cool and proper, not at all the huckster he was on NBA play-byplay. The melodramatic Gary Bender sounds as if he's narrating another installment of Victory At Sea. Lindsey Nelson's "Echoes of College Football" is a nice touch at halftime. but Pat O'Brien is a weak presence behind the anchor desk.
ESPN—Prime-time package of second-choice CFA games. Expert commentator Paul Maguire has emerged as the equal of ABC's Frank Broyles. Maguire is irreverent, humorous, unpredictable and unpretentious. He's also downright prescient when it comes to predicting plays. Also, ESPN shows you the bands at half-time. Good for ESPN!
USA Network—Early-afternoon games of Big Eight and other schools. Eddie Doucette, play-by-play, and Kyle Rote Jr., analysis, are undistinguished. Doucette gives you the score—"It's 7-0 on USA Sports"—without telling you who's winning. And how does Rote, a former soccer star, suddenly qualify as an expert on football? Because of the Jr.?
WTBS—Early-afternoon SEC games. Ted Turner ought to hire himself some directors who know how to shoot replays. It's pointless to shoot them so tightly that all you see is the ballcarrier and no advancing tacklers. Jowly, bifocaled Paul Hornung looks like a young Charles Laughton playing a Southern senator. He's the only announcer on a college wraparound show who picks (with 56% accuracy) NFL games against the spread.