ESPN becomes The Bowl Network

When it comes to December and January, ESPN should rename themselves BPN: The Bowl Programming Network.

ESPN announced Thursday it has acquired yet another Bowl game – this time the Gator Bowl, a longtime ABC staple which recently had stops at ESPN, NBC, and most recently, CBS. The game is played at Jacksonville Municipal Stadium, which was one known as the Gator Bowl and became Alltel Stadium when the NFL’s Jacksonville Jaguars moved in.

The Gator Bowl is expected to air on New Year’s Day on ESPN 2.  Beginning in 2011, the game will pit a school from the SEC (which is very popular in Jacksonville) against one from the Big Ten.

This comes as ESPN has acquired almost every bowl game known to man, including the major BCS ones: Orange, Fiesta, Sugar, Rose, and the BCS National Championship Game. All of those bowls (with the exception of the Rose Bowl and the National Championship) aired on Fox until this year. In 2011, they all will move to ESPN. The Worldwide Leader also acquired the rights to the Texas Bowl, previously on the NFL Network.

ESPN also extended the contract of the Capital One Bowl, which is moving to the cable network from ABC. To take its place, ESPN is moving the Outback Bowl to ABC.  The Capital One Bowl is played at the Citrus Bowl (which was the actual name of the bowl game until Capital One bought the rights to it) in Orlando, Fla. (If you saw this year’s game between Penn State and LSU, it was played in the most horrid conditions you can imagine with the field tore up like a bad piece of cloth.)

The Gator, Outback, and Capital One Bowls are being played at the same time to create a “roadblock” among the ESPN family of networks to drive viewers to the Rose Bowl on ESPN, being played immediately after all those games.

There has been outcries from ABC affiliates over the move of several sporting events – notably NASCAR events and college basketball games – over from ABC to ESPN (ABC and ESPN are owned by The Walt Disney Corp.) This is happening as more and more sporting events – on both the national and local levels – are moving from broadcast to cable.

In addition to the bowls mentioned above, ESPN has the nights to the Holiday, Outback, Independence, Music City, and many, many more.

Despite ESPN airing the majority of bowl games, there are some without the brashness of the Worldwide Leader (!) Fox still has the Cotton Bowl, CBS still holds the rights to the Sun Bowl, and the NFL Network has rights to the Insight Bowl.

But enjoy these non-ESPN bowls while you can boys… because the Worldwide Leader in Cable Sports Monopolies – wants to become the College Bowl Monopoly as well.