Erin Andrews Is Back, If You Didn't Blink

College football season started Thursday night (finally), and in the first game back on ESPN, it didn’t take long for the Worldwide Leader to work sideline star Erin Andrews into the telecast. ↵

↵ESPN didn’t do anything different with their Thursday Night football coverage, other than Sean McDonough filling in for Chris Fowler for the game between South Carolina and N.C. State. But from an Erin Andrews standpoint, it was business as usual. ↵

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↵And it should be. The fact of the matter is, what happened to Andrews was terrible, but if ESPN is going to throw Andrews out there, they can’t treat her -- or her role on college football telecasts -- any differently than they did in the past. Let her do Oprah, let the legal process play out, and let’s cover some football games. ↵

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↵With that in mind, McDonough threw it down to Andrews for her first sideline standup of the new season just after kickoff. Lasting all of 30 seconds -- 18 of which you could see her on your screen -- Andrews was back, seemingly no worse for the wear after a ‘nightmare’ offseason. ↵

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↵And that was that. College Football is back on the field and Erin Andrews is back on the sidelines. Story over, right? ↵

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↵Wrong. Let’s leave aside the fact that Andrews will be on Oprah next Friday (I’m sure ESPN’s people wanted the show to air, not just tape, before her first game) which will undoubtedly perpetuate the story into another news cycle. Instead, think about her role on the ESPN telecast. By my count, Andrews was on camera for roughly two minutes, and when adding in a few audio-only reports, you might be getting three minutes of Andrews on a three-hour football telecast. ↵

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↵The moral of the story: the sideline reporter role is superfluous, especially when you have a three-man booth. ESPN jettisoned the sideline reporters for Monday Night Football last season because there was just not enough time in the game for play-by-play, two color analysts getting in their talking points and someone chiming in on the sideline. If you add in all the promos, bumpers and highlights of other games, there’s just about 2-3 minutes of face time for any sideline reporter, and much of that is spent interviewing the leading coach at the half and winning coach at game’s end. ↵

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↵The South Carolina-N.C. State game was terrible, but at least it was competitive, and close games are always harder for the sideline reporter to get into the show. Blowouts allow for more ‘fluff’ stories and any good sideline reporter has five or six of them in the back pocket just in case the game gets out of hand. But really, two things help the sideline reporter -- injuries and celebrities. If there are no A or B-Listers or a few starters on crutches, good luck finding air time. Trust me, I spent nearly 10 years on the sidelines of college football games, and Andrews works as hard as any sideline reporter in the business, but if there’s a three-man booth and no sideline hook ESPN needs to work in, she’ll get two minutes of face time in a three-hour show. ↵

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↵Andrews is a name and an attraction for both the TV viewers and fans in the stands, even before what happened this summer. But with more focus than ever on the sideline reporters – in large part to Andrews’ growing fame – the paradigm needs to change. ↵

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↵If ESPN wants to maximize Andrews’ value, they’ll need to think about transitioning her to another role, perhaps a studio show or part of the College Gameday crew. Andrews is a top-five property at ESPN – bigger than The Sports Guy or Mike & Mike or PTI or probably anyone not named Dick Vitale – so why limit her exposure to a handful of stand-ups during the game? Why is Erik Kuselias getting more college football face time this season than Erin Andrews? Keeping her on the sidelines of Clemson at Georgia Tech and Cincinnati at South Florida just doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. ↵

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↵Look, blog readers and sports fans all know Erin Andrews, but after next Friday, nearly every woman in America will know her and sympathize with her story. So for Andrews, maybe this offseason has proven she’s grown out of this role and she needs to move on. ‘She’s told GQ that ‘no doubt’ she’d like to someday work the NFL sidelines, but as we mentioned before, that probably won’t be at ESPN. But don’t worry, there’s job for her, and she can stay within the Disney family. I hear there’s a morning show on ABC that’s looking for someone. It might just be the perfect fit. ↵

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This post originally appeared on the Sporting Blog. For more, see The Sporting Blog Archives.

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