Hello, college football/Big Ten/Illinois Fighting Illini fans!
FOX is known for Big Noon Saturday, often putting their showcase game of the week in the noon ET time slot. I often refer to it as the "Big Nooner". Since FOX signed a contract with the Big Ten for television rights, the Ohio State Buckeyes and Michigan Wolverines have annually (pandemic year excluded) aired on FOX and in the noon slot. Last year, Ohio State and the Penn State Nittany Lions also aired as a Big Nooner on FOX. This season, Michigan at Penn State will also be a Big Nooner.
In 2019, FOX introduced "Big Noon Kickoff". The goal of the show in most weeks was to hype up the Big Nooner game to follow. Many weeks Big Noon Kickoff has taken their show on the road and broadcast on location at the site of the game. It hasn't always been the noon game but it has always been a FOX controlled game.
Back in May of this year, Penn State at Illinois was announced as the Big Nooner for this upcoming Saturday, September 16. The assumption was that Big Noon Kickoff would also originate from Champaign that week. Illinois, according to Champaign-Urbana, Illinois's News Gazette newspaper, had been publicizing Big Noon Saturday coming and mentioned "Grange Grove" as the location.
Then last Saturday, Big Noon Kickoff announced they wouldn't be coming to Illinois next Saturday, the pregame show would be originating from Boulder, Colorado (University of Colorado) instead. Penn State-Illinois is still the "Big Nooner" on FOX next Saturday and all indications are that FOX's #1 announcer, Gus Johnson, will still call the game. I did see an ad for the game on FOX's NFL pregame show and don't remember FOX's other Big Ten game, Western Kentucky at Ohio State, being publicized.
According to the News Gazette, "Since debuting in 2019, the show has been to 10 Big Ten campuses — Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Michigan State, Minnesota, Nebraska, Ohio State, Penn State, Purdue and Wisconsin — but never to Illinois." The fact that Big Noon Kickoff rejected coming to Illinois is a big blow to Illinois and their fans. You can say Illinois lost the right to host Big Noon Kickoff by losing to Kansas. But last year Indiana hosted and they were 4-8. Why didn't FOX take Gameday from them?
So the decision to take Big Noon Kickoff from Illinois makes Illinois the loser. So is Colorado the winner? In the words of ESPN's College Gameday's Lee Corso, "Not so fast my friend!" I'm pretty sure FOX decided to go to Boulder this Saturday first but of course ESPN is on their way to Boulder this weekend for Gameday as well and unlike FOX who is going there for back to back weeks, it will be Gameday's first appearance in Boulder since 1996! Gameday is the older, more established pregame show and ratings are usually higher. If you are from Colorado and you had a choice to go to the FOX Big Noon Kickoff set or the College Gameday set, which one are you going to? Of course you are going to Gameday! Also, ESPN is broadcasting the game! It is a given that Gameday will have a far larger and more enthusiastic crowd this Saturday. By originating from Boulder, FOX is giving publicity to Colorado's game which is airing on ESPN and helping their ratings. Now we know that Gameday has originated from games broadcasted from FOX as well as CBS and NBC but they are usually big games like Michigan-Ohio State that will likely draw huge ratings whether Gameday goes there or not. Colorado State-Colorado is hardly the biggest game on next week's schedule. If FOX plugs this game, it only helps ESPN. Luckily for FOX the game airs late night and it won't hurt them too much. But why help ESPN at all? If Illinois isn't good enough for Big Noon Kickoff, why not go to TCU-Houston and let Houston experience Gameday for the first time (of course they lost to Rice and probably suck worse than Illinois)? Or just go to Ohio State again (it is vs. Western Kentucky but at least it's a FOX game).
What separates FOX's Big Noon Kickoff from ESPN's College Gameday is that they concentrate on their noon games (or other FOX games). If they decide to just go to the "Game of the Week" like ESPN does, fans have no reason to watch Big Noon Kickoff as opposed to College Gameday. The reason Big Noon Kickoff has separated themselves is the fact that they give an audience to games and schools that ESPN doesn't or doesn't as often. They've been to ten Big Ten schools since 2019. I doubt ESPN has. College Gameday hasn't been to Iowa since 2006 and since Purdue since 2004. Big Noon Kickoff going to FOX tells those schools that they mean something to FOX. Gameday has never been to Champaign. If FOX came to Illinois, they could have won over Illinois. ESPN (and ABC) are probably the bigger names in college football. FOX needs to build an audience and other than the big brands like the "Big Three" (Ohio State, Michigan, and Penn State) which sell themselves, the way FOX can separate themselves from ESPN is to be the network for the rest of the Big Ten. This is a lost opportunity for FOX. And the last thing FOX should be doing is helping ESPN. If Colorado State-Colorado gains outdraws Penn State-Illinois in viewers, then going to Boulder on Saturday would be absolutely stupid. If FOX thinks Colorado State-Colorado is a bigger game than Penn State-Illinois, why should fans think otherwise? If ESPN thinks Michigan-Ohio State is a bigger game than ABC's or ESPN's Rivalry Week games, well duh, it is.
Yes I'm an Illinois alum and I feel like my school and its fans were shafted. But this move doesn't only hurt Illinois I feel it hurts FOX as well and helps their direct competitor. I have a saying something doesn't have to make sense if it makes CENTS. But this move doesn't make sense or cents.