When UM plays at FAU at 8 p.m. Friday, the announcers calling the game for Fox Sports 1 will be 2700 miles away, sitting in a studio in Century City, a neighborhood in Los Angeles’ Westside.
This type of arrangement isn’t unusual for international soccer broadcasts or NBA games held overseas. But it’s highly unusual for college football.
So why is Fox having Rob Stone, Dave Wannstedt and Matt Leinart announce both Thursday’s Louisiana Tech-Western Kentucky game and Friday’s UM-FAU game from a studio in California?
### The network wants to give Wannstedt and Leinart an opportunity to be game analysts, but it would be difficult if not impossible for them to work Friday’s game in Boca Raton and then be back in Los Angeles to handle their main job as Fox college studio analysts on a 4 p.m. pre-game show.
With Wannstedt having worked at UM, “he was a no-brainer to use [on this game],” said Brad Zager, Fox’s vice president of remote operations. “We have a group in studio that could really call a good game.”
Sideline reporter Petros Papadakis will be Fox’s only on-air presence at Friday’s game.
### Zager said handling game production from the studio --- as well as keeping the announcers there --- allows Fox to use additional technical toys.
“We can use virtual graphics, stuff that isn’t available on a Conference USA broadcast,” Zager said. “Wannstedt can draw plays on a greaseboard and Leinart can do demonstrations.”
Fox insists this isn’t an attempt to save money and Zager said Fox won’t attempt to conceal that the announcers are in California.
“It’s an experiment,” Zager said. “Can we do a college game and have the viewer not lose anything by having the announcers and camera in studio? It’s an opportunity to see if it’s something that works.”
Now that UM’s pseudo-preseason game is over (no disrespect to Bethune Cookman), we’ll get a slightly better sense of where UM stands Friday against FAU and a much better idea on Sept. 19 against Nebraska. We assembled a panel of three UM-savvy ESPN analysts to assess the state of the Canes program: Desmond Howard, who lives in Miami; Danny Kanell, who follows UM closely; and Brock Huard, who worked five Hurricanes games last season.
A couple of questions from separate conversations with each:
### Do you think Al Golden can turn this around and how much does coaching have to do with their problems?
Kanell: “I have to believe Miami needs to contend in the Coastal if not win the division to buy the staff some time. You inherited a rough situation with [the NCAA], but it’s a bottom-line business, especially in a program like Miami, and you have to win games. It definitely seems like it’s time for those results to start showing in the win/loss column…. I like Al Golden. When they hired him, I thought he was the right one for the job.
“[But] coaching is definitely a fair criticism. Fans watching at home can look and say, ‘Why aren’t there eight or nine guys in the box when you’re playing Georgia Tech, which runs a Triple option and runs the ball 80 or 90 percent of the time, and especially when you’re a team that struggled on the defensive line?’ That’s frustrating to watch….
“Brad Kaaya played incredible in the first half against Florida State and then the coaching staff got a little too conservative. If they had kept the pressure on, they probably would have beaten Florida State…
“They’ve been very susceptible against the run. They haven’t been able to generate much pass rush [last season]. The trenches to me will determine the success of this team.”
Huard: “Al’s got to win this year. Anytime you go 6-7, the buck stops with you. When I spoke to Al last season [after several losses], he said, ‘We’re not doing our job. We’re not winning in the defining moments.’ It comes down to winning in the fourth quarter, to your quarterback, to coaching, to finding difference makers….
“Too often schematically, they’re letting a lot of people dictate to them. … I don’t think there is any fan base or any of the local media I have heard from more following games than Miami games. They underachieved last year. There is not a ton to debate with that. One through 22, they were pretty good. That could have been an 8 or 9 win-team. You would never say they were outclassed with talent, outside of inexperience in the wrong spots.”
Howard: “How do you make [6-7] make sense with that team? How do you rationalize that? People say we’ve had the type of talent that should be reflected in our record. I still think Al’s a good coach. They have to win the games they’re supposed to win. If they did just that last year, you have nine, maybe 10 wins.
“They’ll be above .500 this year. I would be shocked if they’re not. Nebraska will tell us where they are. If Mark D’Onofrio gets that defense to where they need to be, FSU can be an exciting game because Everett Golson has always been turnover-prone.”
### What other factors would you cite for UM’s decline, besides the residual effects of the NCAA investigation?
Huard: Deficient depth and “a real dormant atmosphere” at games, as well as facilities he says simply don’t measure up with some other schools despite recent upgrades.
Asked if he sees a difference in facilities when he visits other campuses, Huard chuckled. “Oh yeah. You go to Fayetteville, Arkansas or Starkville, Mississippi and you see what the money in that conference has done; it’s elevated everyone. The way you compete is to build a Taj Mahal. But if you win, you can overcome it, like Pete Carroll did at USC.”
### Do you see Brad Kaaya becoming an elite quarterback?
Huard: “I would say he could be better than pretty good. But I can’t say great. He needs to make strides physically to grow his game. When things were clean in front of him, he’s really good. When it’s not clean, and he needed to be a difference maker, it wasn’t there. Talking to offensive coordinator [James] Coley, he has to avoid peoples’ mistakes in front of him. To be great is a high standard. I don’t know if he can be aMarcus Mariota or Jameis Winston.”
Kanell: “I think he can be great. What impressed me the most was his composure, poise, confidence, playing in big-time situations. I feel like Kaaya could be the guy to get Miami out of this downturn. The sky really is the limit for him.”
Howard: “I don’t like to jump the gun but he’s going to be a really good quarterback. Really mature for his age.”
AROUND THE DIAL
### A year after UM declined HBO’s offer to be the subject for a full-season college version of the NFL series Hard Knocks, the Pacific-12 instructed Arizona turn down HBO’s offer because the Pac-12 Network is doing a similar show.
### The Steelers' coach-to-coach communication was disrupted during tonight's opener at New England when the Patriots' radio broadcast started blaring in the Pittsburgh coaches' headsets.
To which NBC's Cris Collinsworth had a great response: "Every team that I know of has some story about what happens to them in this stadium."
In fact, this week's ESPN piece that detailed the Patriots' long history of cheating noted that "at Gillette Stadium, the scrambling and jamming of the opponents' coach-to-quarterback radio line... occurred so often that one team asked a league official to sit in the coaches' box during the game and wait for it to happen. Sure enough, on a key third down, the headset went out."
### Among ESPN’s 48 NFL commentators, former NFL cornerback Eric Allen is the only one who's predicting the Dolphins will win the AFC; he has them losing to Seattle in the Super Bowl. Jon Gruden predicts Miami will win the AFC East.
### ESPN faces a tough call on whether to bring back baseball analyst Curt Schilling next season after two incidents in the past three weeks.
He was suspended after comparing radical Muslims with Nazis on Twitter, saying "It's said that only 5-10% of Muslims are extremists. In 1940, only 7% of Germans were Nazis. How'd that go?" He accompanied that with a picture of Adolph Hitler.
Then he was banished for the remainder of the season and playoffs after he wrote an angry letter to a writer from AwfulAnnouncing.com in which he criticized the web site’s coverage of him and more significantly, questioned the credibility of ESPN NFL reporter Chris Mortensen. ESPN has little tolerance for ESPN-on-ESPN crime.
### Craig Minervini fills in alongside Tommy Hutton on Marlins-Nationals games on FS-Florida on Friday and Saturday because Rich Waltz received permission to call an Arizona-Nevada college football game on CBS Sports Network.