ESPN plans Monday ‘Night Football’-level coverage for BCS Championship Game

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — Approximately 72,000 fans are expected to pay hundreds and even thousands of dollars for tickets to Monday night’s BCS Championship Game at Sun Life Stadium.

If you’re not one of them, you’ll have plenty to watch at home.

ESPN is making sure of that, devoting the same resources to college football’s main event as it does to its NFL “Monday Night Football” telecasts.

That means around 40 cameras inside and outside the stadium. Six production trucks. Thirty replay angles. Five hundred staffers to bring it all together. From Monday’s first SportsCenter hit, well before dawn, to the close of the last camera at 3 a.m. Tuesday, ESPN will cover this year’s title game like no previous college football event.

“There’s going to be cameras on all the time,” ESPN producer Bill Bonnell said.

And why not? Though last year’s title game between LSU and Alabama drew the lowest overnight rating (13.8) in the 14-year history of the BCS, no one’s expecting this game to be a snoozer.

It’s two name-brand programs: Notre Dame (12-0), the polarizing powerhouse that hasn’t had a chance at a national title since 1988, against Alabama (12-1), the defending national champion, perennial contender and king of the most powerful conference.

“It has the potential to be a monster game for ESPN,” Sports Illustrated media columnist Richard Deitsch said.

He predicted that 30 million viewers could tune in if the game is close in the fourth quarter. With that kind of potential, commercials are costly. While ESPN doesn’t comment on pricing, AdWeek reported that media buyers were paying $1 million for a 30-second spot packaged with ads on ESPN’s digital properties.

For perspective, last year’s Super Bowl drew 111 million viewers. On average, ads cost a record $3.5 million for 30 seconds and are expected to top $4 million this year.

Between 825 and 850 media credentials have been issued, said Larry Wahl, the Orange Bowl’s vice president of communications. Almost as many credential requests were refused (325) as were issued for last week’s Orange Bowl (336) between Florida State and Northern Illinois.

The game will be shown in more than 100 countries on six continents. ESPN will broadcast the game in 3D on its dedicated channel, show replays on the web and stream it to mobile devices on its WatchESPN app.

No matter where you watch, turn up the volume. As it did for last week’s Rose Bowl, ESPN will broadcast in 5.1 surround sound. High-quality microphones will be all over the stadium — near the bands, in the locker rooms and on the field. There’s even a soundproof trailer on-site where ESPN executives will monitor the mix, a first for ESPN for a game broadcast.

A familiar sound on Monday: Brent Musburger, who will call his sixth consecutive BCS title game, all with analyst Kirk Herbstreit. At 73, the Jupiter resident still has big-game pipes and said he’ll work the national championship game “as long as they’ll have me.”

He’ll benefit from the work of ESPN’s coolest toy, SpiderCam. New to ESPN football coverage, SpiderCam goes anywhere in the stadium, flying on wires attached to posts at the top of the stadium. It can get cinematic wide-angle shots and overhead replays. According to game director Derek Mobley, it’s faster and more stable than any aerial camera in the industry.

“It’s just an amazing piece of equipment,” Bonnell said.

In the production truck, it’s known as “Jet,” one of dozens of angles Bonnell, the producer, can call on during the game. He’s akin to a quarterback of ESPN’s production team, and every game requires a different plan. Because the Notre Dame offense works fast, they’ll “hold back a little bit on replays and make sure that we don’t miss any of the action,” he said.