As the Bowl Championship Series nears its final act and I ready myself to see my beloved Ohio State Buckeyes take the field against the Clemson Tigers in the Discover Orange Bowl, I think back on the entire history of the Bowl Championship Series…from that first matchup between UCLA and Wisconsin in the 1999 Rose Bowl Game presented by AT&T all the way up to now. I’m reminded, in particularly, of perhaps the most famous of all the contests during this 16-year era: the 2006 Rose Bowl presented by Citi. It was the final college football game broadcast under the ABC Sports umbrella and the last game that the venerable Keith Jackson called. I remember the introduction to that game and how it got my heart pumping for the action, though I didn’t have a dog in the fight.
How I first came across this moment? I, like 22% of the households in America, tuned into my local ABC station to watch the finale of the 2005-2006 college football season. It was a marquee national championship game that pitted the teams that were #1 and #2 for the entirety of the season against each other. It had star power with Vince Young, Reggie Bush, Matt Leinart, Mack Brown, Pete Carroll, and even a young Jamaal Charles. It was a battle between the charter schools of the most fertile recruiting grounds in the nation—Southern California and Texas. Above all, it was the Rose Bowl. How could you not watch the Rose Bowl? I mean, the field art alone is worth the watch to me. I remember tuning in my local ABC station back in Valdosta, Georgia a couple of minutes before the broadcast started and at 8PM, the screen turned black and the intro followed.
What it meant to me then? At the time, the intro didn’t mean a whole lot to me. It just pumped me up for the game much like Brent Musberger’s intro got me amped up for the Fiesta Bowl between Ohio State and Notre Dame a few days earlier.
What it means to me now? What I didn’t know as I watched that game intro on January 4, 2006 was that it would be the final game I’d ever see or hear Keith Jackson call. From the time I could comprehend the ins and outs of college football, he’d been the voice of the sport to me. I’d heard so many of his game calls as an Ohio State football fan. The fact that he did the intro means so much because this was literally his last moment on the sport’s stage. What I didn’t know on January 4, 2006 was that the 2006 Rose Bowl would be the final BCS game carried under the ABC Sports umbrella. A few months later, FOX Sports managed to pry the television rights from ABC, leading to an incredibly diluted product. A few months after that, ESPN swallowed ABC Sports and the brand became ESPN on ABC. I was kind of hurt by that. I actually loved the ABC presentation and I was just a natural fan of college football on ABC period. What I didn’t know on January 4, 2006 was that the next year, a stand-alone BCS National Championship Game would be added to the equation, lessening the value of the individual BCS games. Looking back, some 8 years later, I feel that night was the end of the glory era for the Bowl Championship Series. Though the BCS would go on to survive for 2 more cycles, it was never the same after that night. And for me, it was never the same after that intro.