A 5-0 start has ratings soaring for Notre Dame’s games on NBC. And with the Irish suddenly relevant, ESPN isn’t wasting any time.The network is hustling Chris Fowler, Lee Corso, Kirk Herbstreit, Desmond Howard and the rest of the GameDay crew to South Bend Saturday.
Herbstreit can’t believe it has been seven years since GameDay did a show from Notre Dame.
“It’s been way, way too long since we’ve been there,” Herbstreit said.
NBC also is bulking up. For the first time, NBC Sports’ college football studio show featuring Liam McHugh, Doug Flutie and Hines Ward will go on the road and broadcast on-site from Notre Dame Stadium. Prior to the game, a special NFL Films- produced behind-the-scenes look at Notre Dame Football, Onward Notre Dame: South Bend to Soldier Field, will air at 2:30 p.m. ET on NBC.
With all the pregame build-up, NBC should generate another strong rating for the Irish’s game against Stanford.
Through three games, NBC’s rating is up 45% vs. last year (4.2 million vs. 2.9 million). Primetime coverage of the Miami-Notre Dame from Soldier Field last Saturday night was watched by 3.7 million viewers, up 131% vs. last year’s third game on NBC (Air Force, 1.6 million) and up 76% vs. last year’s second Notre Dame primetime game on NBC (Maryland at FedExField, 2.1 million).
All in all, it’s a huge jump from what NBC faced last fall. Home games against Air Force and Navy only generated a 1.1 rating, a record low for Irish games on the network.
How long has Notre Dame been a relative non-factor? Saturday’s trip will mark GameDay’s first to the Domers since Charlie Weis’ first year in 2005. That’s incredible considering the Irish’s stature in college football.
Naturally, Herbstreit is excited about returning to South Bend.
“It’s awesome,” Herbstreit said. “Any time, Notre Dame is up there in the rankings, it’s good for the sport. They are a polarizing team. You either love them or hate them. For us, for people who love the sport, when you have teams like Notre Dame and USC, Texas, the high profile schools out there that have great years, it makes it a lot of fun.
“Selfishly, to have GameDay back in South Bend, it’s great. It’s nice to see that they have a high-profile game at home. It’ll add to the atmosphere on Saturday. They are very deserving.”
I know it’s early, but I asked Herbstreit if Irish fans can start dreaming about a BCS bowl?
“They took the nation by storm (with the win over Michigan State),” Herbstreit said. ”A lot of people walked away from that game saying, ‘Notre Dame is one of the top defenses in the country.’ To follow it up with the way they corraled Denard Robinson, and the way they played against Miami…Their front seven might be playing as well as anyone in the country.
“Without a doubt they will be in discussion for the BCS. Brian Kelly, though, will be the first one to tell you there’s still a long way to go. When you look at who they still have to play, beginning with Stanford….They’re on the road against Oklahoma and USC. Their fans are pointing to those games as three of the most challenging. If they’re able to get able through Stanford, it’s time to start bracing yourself if you’re a Notre Dame fan. Then you’re just a couple games away.”
Of course, it all could slip away with a loss to Stanford Saturday. But who wants to ruin a good story on Wednesday?
Keep sipping that Kool-Aid.