By SHARON GINN
© St. Petersburg Times, published September 14, 2001
CBS Sports producers, on-air talent and crew were making their way to Gainesville by bus and automobile when word came Thursday from the home office in New York: turn around and head home.
The Southeastern Conference postponed its football games around mid-afternoon, leaving the network -- set to televise the Florida-Tennessee game -- with another programming hole to fill. Across the dial, the story's the same: With very few events planned for the weekend, networks are trying to figure out what will go on the airwaves instead of sports.
The most likely candidate seems to be news; after all, there are literally thousands of stories from Tuesday's terrorist attacks for the networks to tell. Fox is letting its affiliates decide how to plug the holes left by baseball, NFL and Fox NFL Sunday. In the Tampa Bay area, of course, weather coverage also could dominate.
But on ESPN, some programming will go on. Though it used ABC's news feed for most of Tuesday, ESPN and ESPN2 since have gone back to their own programming, much of it SportsCenter or live coverage of sports stories relating to the terrorist attacks.
"We're reacting to everything that's going on," said Rob Tobias, an ESPN spokesman. "We're scrambling a little bit."
With all five of its college games and Sunday night's NFL games postponed, ESPN will continue with programming similar to what it has run in recent days. It also will replay some editions of its SportsCentury series.
ESPN's College GameDay, scheduled to air from Tallahassee, has been canceled. But at noon Sunday the network will air a one-hour edition of NFL Countdown.
"It may not be a full crew, but there is news coming out of the NFL," Tobias said. "We're just going to recap what has happened."
HORSE RACING: The National Thoroughbred Racing Association and the New York Racing Association canceled the scheduled weekend broadcasts of several races from Belmont Park.
NBC was to have the Jerome Handicap, Belmont Breeders' Cup and Ruffian Handicap at 4 p.m. Saturday. CNBC was to have a Sunday telecast from Belmont featuring the Futurity at 4 p.m.
The races will be held as scheduled, after a three-day moratorium prompted by Tuesday's terrorist attacks.
An ESPN broadcast, originally scheduled as a live telecast of the Matron from Belmont at 3 p.m. Sunday, will air from NTRA production studios and include live coverage of the Futurity, and highlights of Saturday's stakes races from Belmont.
MORE BUCS SHOWS: The weekday Bucs shows on WWBA-AM 1040 were omitted from the Times' list of radio and television appearances by the Bucs, published last week. Two Bucs will have their own shows: Shelton Quarles (6-8 p.m. Mondays) and Anthony McFarland (6-7 p.m. Thursdays). On Tuesdays (6-8 p.m.) the station will feature a different linebacker; on Wednesdays (6-7 p.m.) it will feature different Bucs; and on Fridays (6-8 p.m.) the station will have a special-teams show.
- Times staff writer Brant James contributed to this report.