I follow The Gainesville Sun on Twitter. I follow the Sun's sports section's account, too — and of course I follow longtime Sun scribe Pat Dooley, who has more followers than both his paper and its sports desk.
So it was with interest that I clicked a link — from the @GainesvilleSun account, I believe, though it might have been @Gator_sports — on Wednesday that teased the headline "Will all 12 Gator games be televised?" Surely this cannot be a serious article, I thought.
But it is, sort of: That headline is appended to this Dooley article, which discusses when each of the eight Florida football games in 2015 without an announced start time and channel — that information for the three Gators games of the fall has been announced, as has the information for Florida's game against Georgia — could be televised, but never makes mention of the possibility that any of the games could not be televised.
The shortest writeup any of the games gets is this brief assessment of Florida's November 21 non-conference game against Florida Atlantic:
FAU: Almost surely SEC Network.
The article is, as Dooley writes in his lede, "mere conjecture" and "simply guesses" on when Florida's games will be played, with some mention of what channels will be televising those games. This is because every Florida game will be televised on a broadcast channel, along with every other football game featuring an SEC team this fall and (in theory) every fall through the 2034 end date of the SEC's 20-year SEC Network deal with ESPN.
Among the many things that SEC Network deal effectuated was the transfer of schools' local television rights from an assortment of rights holders to ESPN. Prior to 2014, SEC schools retained "third-tier" rights to one football game per year that was not selected to be televised by either CBS or the ESPN/ABC family of networks, and often produced pay-per-view broadcasts of those games; Florida did this with its November game against a non-conference foe in every season from 2007 to 2013, most notably banishing what would become Florida's 2013 loss to Georgia Southern to a pay-per-view broadcast.
Third-tier rights have also changed over time: In 2006, Florida began the season with two pay-per-view games against non-conference foes, then aired a third against Western Carolina in November. It may seem unbelievable now, but a quarter of the regular season games in Florida's second national championship campaign — which happened less than a decade ago — were not available on a broadcast network.
But no Florida game was broadcast on a pay-per-view basis in 2014, and no Florida game will be broadcast on a pay-per-view basis in 2015, or in 2016, or in 2017, or in 2018, or in 2019, or ... you get it. Essentially, the furthest from the CBS spotlight any given SEC football game can get now is a slot on one of the SEC Network alternate channels, a fate that will befall four games over the first three weeks of the 2015 season, none involving Florida — and that's still emphatically a televised broadcast. (ESPN could sell or lease the rights to any of these third-tier games to another network, technically, but that is almost certainly not worth it to any party involved.)
The Sun's headline, then, is either a massive oversimplification of the questions Dooley's article is asking ("When will Florida's 2015 games be televised, and by what channels?" or "Will Florida's 2015 games be televised by CBS and ESPN?") or simply a false question posed for the purpose of baiting clicks. And while one could argue that the headline is condensed for space (it fits on one line on the Sun's site), many Sun articles carry headlines that stretch to multiple lines.
Dooley's story is just speculation, and seems neither particularly informed nor useful; were I to write a similar story, I'd probably include the schedule of SEC games on each day, and try to project which games would end up on which channels, but I'm a verbose overachiever, and mostly incapable of brevity. There's nothing "wrong" with the story itself, other than it being light on information: It's benign.
Its headline, however, is misleading, whether it exists by dint of deliberate "Let's confuse 'em!" chicanery or innocent miscommunication and/or oversight.
And the Sun should change it.