Thursday December 7, 2023

Fox’s ‘Big Noon Kickoff’ Challenging ESPN’s ‘College GameDay’

  • Fox is expected to add long-time ESPN fixture Chris ‘The Bear’ Fallica.
  • Last year, Fox nabbed Tom Rinaldi from their Bristol rivals.
Iowa fans gather ahead of Fox's "Big Noon Kickoff" coverage
Joseph Cress/Iowa City Press-Citizen
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One of the fiercest college football rivalries is taking place off the field, with Fox Sports’ “Big Noon Kickoff” pregame show challenging ESPN’s “College GameDay.”

In the latest development, Fox is poaching Chris “The Bear” Fallica for “Big Noon Kickoff,” according to Awful Announcing

Fallica may appear in one final “GameDay” episode Saturday in Arlington, Texas, before the Big 12 Championship between TCU and Kansas State.

Once he joins Fox, Fallica will focus on “Big Noon Kickoff” and sports betting, according to the report.

This will be the second shot fired across the bow of “GameDay” in as many years. 

Last year, Fox recruited reporter and essayist Tom Rinaldi after 18 years at ESPN. Rinaldi now appears on all Fox’s marquee events, including NFL games and the FIFA World Cup in Qatar.

Fox’s recent raids on ESPN talent are being orchestrated by executive producer Brad Zager, said sources. 

Over the last decade, Fox has repeatedly poached talent including Colin Cowherd, Skip Bayless, Erin Andrews, Emmanuel Acho, Mark Sanchez, Jonathan Vilma and Adam Amin.

“Zager doubled Rinaldi’s salary. Now he’s going after Fallica — who appeals to average Joes,” according to a source. 

The 35-year-old “GameDay” is the granddaddy of college football pregame programs. 

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The show has served as a launching pad for ESPN talent, ranging from Chris Fowler and Andrews to Maria Taylor and Samantha Ponder.  The traveling roadshow serves as a “three-hour infomercial” for host schools.

But it’s not the only game in town anymore. The four-year-old “Big Noon Kickoff” has made inroads. The pregame show has also done a nice job setting the table for Fox’s early game window.

Fox programmer Michael Mulvihill tweeted “Big Noon Kickoff” is averaging 1.6 million views from 11 a.m. to 12 noon ET this year, up 12% over the comparable period in 2021. 

Bolstered by record TV ratings for Michigan vs. Ohio State, Fox’s “Big Noon Saturday” game window is averaging 6.2 million viewers this year, up 6% from 2021. 

“Fall Saturdays are just plain better now that there are three marquee broadcast windows,” tweeted Mulvihill.

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Fallica and Rinaldi aside, Fox has a long way to go before it catches up to “GameDay.” 

It’s arguably one of the three greatest sports studio shows in TV history, alongside TNT’s “Inside the NBA” and ESPN’s “NFL PrimeTime.”

With the venerable coach Lee Corso nearing retirement, ESPN added Pat McAfee to the cast this season. 

ESPN also added football insider Pete Thamel. He brings a newsier element to the show. 

Saturday’s episode from Columbus before the Buckeyes vs. Wolverines was “GameDay’s” most-watched of the season. 

The episode averaged 2,370,000 viewers — peaking at 3.1 million in the final hour.

Despite the challenge from Fox, “GameDay” is on track to post the most-watched season in its long history.

The show is averaging 2.1 million viewers this season, up 10% from last year. Overall, “GameDay’s” audience is estimated to be 75% greater than “Big Noon Kickoff’s” during the last hour of each show.

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