A little less exposure
TUSCALOOSA, Apr 13, 2012 (The Decatur Daily - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) --
In a few short years, A-Day went from a gathering to a happening.
Nick Saban's arrival in 2007 packed Bryant-Denny Stadium and was televised live on CSS. That fueled national interest and expanded coverage.
For the past three years, the ESPN family of networks beamed the A-Day signal coast to coast.
Now it's back on the regional CSS network for Alabama's final spring rehearsal set for 2 p.m. Saturday. The cable channel isn't offered by every Alabama cable company and reaches 6 million total homes in 13 states. Cable operators who offer CSS include Comcast, Charter, Knology and a few other local operations.
ESPN opted against continuing its live spring game coverage, so the spotlight will dim slightly in Bryant-Denny Stadium.
The broadcast will still air live online at ESPN3.com, but it will likely be blacked out in Southeastern states where CSS is offered.
Saban noticed the programming change.
"I think the exposure is great, but I think some people have cut back a little on that this year and most of the games are being done regionally," Saban said. "But I do think anytime there's any kind of exposure, it benefits the players. It gives the players exposure. ... I think it's a real positive."
Tide offensive lineman Anthony Steen had no idea ESPN wasn't coming to town this weekend until told by a reporter Thursday.
"I figured it was," he said. "That is disappointing."
For CSS (Comcast Sports Southeast), it's a chance to pick up extra viewers.
"It's obviously huge because they're returning national champions, but I think we look at all our spring games the same," CSS spokeswoman Liz Veyhl said. "We're excited to carry a lot of the top SEC and ACC programs."
The network will air eight games this spring, up from six last year, including four on Saturday. Auburn plays its A-Day game Saturday at 2 p.m. as well, but the CSS will tape delay the broadcast at 8 that evening.
Chris Stewart and former Tide quarterback Tyler Watts will call the scrimmage from the booth for CSS. On the sideline will be Alabama graduate Nikki Noto, who co-hosted ESPNU's "Road Trip" last season.
Stewart remembers sitting in the booth calling the 2007 A-Day phenomenon live on CSS.
"I never forget the scene of that stadium filling up section by section," he said. "We'd look up and see the upper deck fill up. It was like ants covering a picnic table. It was incredible to see."
Each of the 92,000 seats were filled that day, and no fewer than 78,000 have packed Bryant-Denny since then.
With fewer homes receiving the live telecast and nice weather in the forecast, crowds could near the record 92,310 who saw last season's scrimmage.
Those who watch on television can expect a more relaxed broadcast compared to a regular-season game.
"You're talking even more than usual about players than you are about the game itself," said Stewart, also the radio voice of the Alabama men's basketball team. "The outcome is something very few people outside of the players themselves will remember for a couple weeks after they get the winners' meal and bragging rights."
And safety Vinnie Sunseri confirmed that.
ESPN? CSS? It doesn't matter to the rising sophomore.
"No, we're still going to play as hard as we can," he said. "Everyone wants to eat steak at the end of the day."
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