Whit Watson has worked for the Worldwide Leader trading catch phrases and highlights with the best on ESPNEWS.
And he knows that when it comes to covering sports, no one does it better or more comprehensively than the ESPN empire.
As a result, he understands better than most the art of competing against his former employer.
"We offer something ESPN doesn't," said Watson, now one of the faces of college football for Sunshine Network.
That something is hyper-regionalized coverage of Florida and Florida State, as well as other state schools not quite ready for ESPN's primetime coverage. Sunshine is continuing to beef up its popular pre- and postgame coverage, entering its second season of Tailgate Saturday coverage.
"It's different what were doing," Watson said. "Nobody else can do that, and that's what was so cool about last year. We have guys in the locker room, coaches press conferences live. I was at ESPN for 61/2 years, and their college football coverage is outstanding. But they are trying to give everybody a little bit of everything and appeal to 250-million viewers nationwide. We're telling the football fan in Florida, "Hey, this is all about you.' "
Sunshine's coverage will include a pregame show at 9:30 a.m. Saturdays, followed by extensive postgame coverage from onsite reporters at Florida, Florida State and occasionally some of the state's other schools.
Sunshine said it received a great response to last year's show, and the ability to promote their college offerings during the Lightning's popular run to the Stanley Cup should help increase the audience.
Perhaps the biggest compliment Sunshine's coverage has received is this: regional rival Fox Sports Net is adding a similar program this year. It has last year's Sunshine host, Frank Frangie, as well as the title sponsor, Bubba Burger.
But don't get confused. While Sunshine saturates its Saturday slate with coverage, including Bobby Bowden's and Ron Zook's postgame news conferences live, FSN's show will air just one hour a week.
It does have the bigger names - 1992 Heisman Trophy winner Gino Torretta, former FSU defensive back LeRoy Butler and former Gator and Buc Brad Culpepper - but Sunshine has embedded reporters that will be in the locker rooms after games, next-day replays and a plan to build on last year's successful start.
SOMETHING NEW, SOMETHING OLD: ESPN's wildly popular College GameDay returns for its 18th season with host Chris Fowler and analysts Lee Corso and Kirk Herbstreit, kicking off the 2004 campaign Saturday in Baton Rouge.
GameDay, coming off its best season in ratings, will have a few new touches. This year the show will have a demonstration artificial turf field, new reporter Jill Arrington and new opening music by Southern rapper Bubba Sparxxx.
The field will be 25-by-40-yards and will travel with the show each week. The idea is the same as the one on Fox NFL Sunday. Arrington, a former CBS Sports lead college sideline reporter, will be the show's primary reporter. Raghib Ismail and Tom Rinaldi are back as contributors, and a segment called "Hidden Gem" featuring Mel Kiper's look at some of the obscure talent in the game, will be a weekly feature.
GO WEST, YOUNG VIEWERS: FSN will carry a 30-game schedule this year, bringing viewers 17 Big 12 games and 13 Pac-10 games.
Coverage begins Saturday with the Colorado-Colorado State rivalry.
MULTIPLE CHOICES: Fox College Sports Pacific, FCS Central and FCS Atlantic are expected to make their debut Saturday, sooner than expected.
The channels will be provided with programming by Fox Sports Net and its affiliated regional sports network.
FCS is expected to televise about 70 live or delayed collegiate football, soccer and volleyball events, and 80 coaches, studio or magazine shows in its first month. It is expected to announce its schedule soon, but it will include Patriot League and Southland and Southern Conference football, as well as Big 12, Pac-10 and WAC football.