The SEC on CBS (known for sponsorship purposes as The Home Depot SEC on CBS) is a presentation of the college football television package owned by CBS Sports. The television network broadcasts games in the Southeastern Conference of Division I FBS NCAA football.
CBS has been televising college football games since it launched a sports division, and did so on a weekly basis during a period from the 1950s to 1966, when ABC gained exclusive rights to all NCAA regular season games. CBS was reduced to airing the Cotton Bowl Classic, which it had aired since 1958. It added the Sun Bowl in 1968, which remains on CBS to this day. From 1974 to 1980, it also aired the Fiesta Bowl, and from 1978 to 1986 it carried the Peach Bowl (now the Chick-fil-A Bowl).
For the 1982 season, CBS was made an additional partner in the NCAA contract, and regular season coverage returned. CBS and ABC would alternate the 12:30 and 3:30 slots from week to week during the seasons, carrying either a national game or several regional games in those frames, and also occasionally aired games in primetime, and on Black Friday. CBS broadcast games from every major conference, as well as the games of the then major independents such as Penn State, Notre Dame, and Miami. As required by the NCAA, the network also televised Division I-AA, II and III games to very small audiences, giving teams such as The Citadel and Clarion State some major-network exposure. The pregame show was titled The NCAA Today in the vein of its pro football counterpart The NFL Today. Both shows were hosted by Brent Musburger. However for the NCAA pregame show, Pat O'Brien and Ara Parseghian were the analysts/feature reporters, although Lesley Visser made occasional appearances on the show. Gary Bender was the lead play-by-play man for game coverage, working with analysts such as Pat Haden and Steve Davis. Other CBS game commetators were Verne Lundquist, Lindsey Nelson, Frank Herzog, Jack Snow, and Dennis Franklin. This arrangement was in place during the 1982 and 1983 seasons.
In 1984, after the US Supreme court invalidated the NCAA contract in NCAA v. Board of Regents of Univ. of Oklahoma, the College Football Association was formed to handle affairs between television networks and College Football programs, the result was an exclusive contract with ABC that granted the network rights to all CFA partner conference games and the games of most major independents. However the Big Ten and Pac-Ten conferences were not included in this package, and signed their own agreement with CBS. Miami also reached an agreement for CBS to televise its most important home games, and in 1985, the Atlantic Coast Conference was added to CBS' list of College Football properties. In 1985, Musburger took over the role of lead play-by-play voice, with Parseghian moving to the booth with him. Jim Nantz succeeded Musburger as studio host.
In 1987, CBS took over the CFA contract, which it would hold until 1990. CBS' tendency during this period was to air one marquee game each week, such as the legendary 1988 "Catholics vs Convicts" matchup between Notre Dame and Miami, though regional telecasts would occasionally be aired. For 1987 and 1988, Pat Haden joined Musberger in the booth, with John Dockery manning the sidelines. Nantz hosted what was now known as the "Prudential College Football Report", which was mostly a roundup of the day's scores (not always limited to college football) and top headlines, though sometimes key figures in the sport would be interviewed. Verne Lundquist, Tim Brant, Dick Stockton, and Steve Zabriskie also called games for CBS during the CFA period. In 1989, Nantz became lead play-by-play man, but Haden remained the lead analyst for that year, being replaced by Brant in 1990. After 1990, ABC obtained exclusive network coverage of regular season college football, as it won back the CFA and retained the Pac-10/Big Ten rights.
As the 1990s began, CBS' Division I-A college football coverage was reduced to its bowl game contracts, which it had with the then-John Hancock (reverted to Sun Bowl in 1994), Cotton and the then-Blockbuster bowls. However, it lost the Cotton Bowl to NBC after the 1992 game, leaving the network with just two bowl games to round out its college football coverage. CBS televised Major League Baseball from 1990–1993, thus the network was not without major sports coverage on fall Saturdays after the loss of college football.
For 1995, CBS re-acquired the rights to the Cotton Bowl Classic, as well as acquiring the rights to two of the three bowl games in the newly formed Bowl Alliance, which was formed following the season to help determine an undisputed national champion (as a precursor to the Bowl Championship Series). Under the terms of the contract, which ran from 1995 through 1997, CBS aired the Fiesta Bowl and Orange Bowl, which guaranteed the network two opportunities to air a national championship game (CBS did not gain rights to the Sugar Bowl, the third bowl in the Bowl Alliance, as those were retained by ABC). CBS was the first network to air a Bowl Alliance national championship game, as Nebraska defeated Florida in the 1996 Fiesta Bowl. (On the same token, CBS also aired the last Bowl Alliance national championship game, where Nebraska defeated Tennessee in the 1998 Orange Bowl to split that year's national championship vote as Michigan, who was #1 in both the AP and coaches' polls going into the bowls, with the latter contractually obligated to name the Nebraska–Tennessee winner as the national champion, was obligated to play in that year's Rose Bowl.) CBS also continued to air the Sun Bowl, but lost the rights to the Carquest Bowl after the game was moved from New Year's Day following the Orange Bowl's move to the home of the Carquest Bowl, Joe Robbie Stadium.
CBS returned to full-time college football coverage in 1996, as the network signed television contracts with the Big East and SEC to be the exclusive national television home of their in-conference schedules. The coverage was originally branded College Football on CBS, sponsored initially by Nasdaq, a tag it retains for non-SEC games broadcasted over the network. In addition to its contracts with the conferences CBS also became the exclusive home of the annual Army-Navy Game (succeeding ABC), a contract it has retained since. It also has the rights to the annual Notre Dame–Navy game in even numbered years, when Navy is the home team.
CBS lost the rights to three of its bowl games following the 1997 season, as ABC gained the rights to the Orange and Fiesta Bowls as the exclusive television home of the newly formed Bowl Championship Series and Fox bought the rights to the Cotton Bowl Classic. However, beginning in 2001 CBS became the home of the SEC Championship Game, the rights to which had been retained by ABC following the SEC's move. Following the 2000 season, the Big East decided not to renew its contract with CBS and instead signed with ABC. Shortly thereafter, CBS' SEC football coverage was rebranded to show its exclusivity. CBS aired the Gator Bowl from 2007–2010, its biggest bowl pick-up since the Orange and Fiesta Bowls.
Today CBS airs the top SEC weekly in-conference games as well as rivalry games with various other conferences when the SEC team is the home team. The network shares the rights to SEC conference games with the ESPN family of networks, which also airs the interconference rivalry games when the SEC team is not the home team (with the exception of Notre Dame), as well as all Pacific-12-SEC regular season games. CBS has retained its yearly broadcast contracts with the Army-Navy game and the Sun Bowl, as well as its biannual contract with Notre Dame and Navy.
In 2011, in addition to Army-Navy CBS also broadcast the other two service academy games – Navy-Air Force on October 1 and Army-Air Force November 5, 2011.
Currently, CBS generally does not air games in the first two weeks of the college football season due to its commitment to air coverage of the US Open tennis tournament. This will change in 2015, when the ESPN family of networks will start covering the tournament exclusively, allowing CBS to air college football in its regular time slot in the first two weeks of the season.][
The games aired on this package are the premiere SEC matchups of the week. Top teams like the Alabama Crimson Tide, Auburn Tigers, Florida Gators, Georgia Bulldogs, Tennessee Volunteers, Arkansas Razorbacks, and LSU Tigers usually appear on these telecasts. Since 1996 Florida has the most appearances with 78, followed by Alabama with 65, LSU with 63, and both Georgia and Tennessee with 58. The ESPN family of networks gets the subsequent picks of games among the SEC's national television partners. Since 2001, the SEC Championship Game has been televised by CBS.
The Vanderbilt Commodores have appeared on the CBS package only four times, and not at all since 2001, although the team's recent success will likely result in more games in their future package. Mississippi State has had six CBS games as part of the package, the last being in 2011 (vs. Arkansas).
During the regular season, typical games that are shown almost every year include Florida-Tennessee (aired for the 16th straight year in 2011), Georgia-Florida (all but 2002), the Auburn-Alabama (2000–2002, 2004–2006, 2008–2012z), LSU-Florida (1999, 2001, 2003, 2005–2009, 2011-2012), LSU-Ole Miss (2003, 2007–2010, 2012), and LSU-Arkansas (all but 2009), the last of which is traditionally aired the day after Thanksgiving. In addition, the interconference rivalry games, Florida-Florida State and Georgia-Georgia Tech, often air on the network when the SEC schools host the games (otherwise, those games air on ABC or the ESPN family of networks, as the ACC's contracts dictate). When the interconference rivalries air on CBS, the broadcasts are generally branded as College Football on CBS instead of SEC on CBS. In addition, CBS will occasionally televise games where SEC schools host marquee non-conference foes, such as the Miami Hurricanes and Notre Dame Fighting Irish.
CBS Sports Network re-airs the previous Saturday game several times throughout the following week.
Since 1996 – does not include bowl games
The current #1 commentators for the telecasts, which traditionally air either Saturday afternoons or evenings, are Verne Lundquist (play-by-play), Gary Danielson (color), and Tracy Wolfson (sideline reporter). Tim Brando or Adam Zucker (host) and Spencer Tillman (analyst) make up the studio team with Archie Manning, Tony Barnhart of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and Tim Brewster. The current #2 commentators are Tim Brando (play-by-play), Steve Beuerlein(color) and Marty Snider (sideline reporter), who announce three games in odd years, and four games in even years when CBS televises the Notre Dame-Navy game. Don Criqui and Dan Fouts called the 2008 LSU-Arkansas game in Little Rock, their only CBS college football assignment to date together. Don Criqui also announced the 1998 and 2000 LSU-Arkansas game in Little Rock. Ian Eagle and Randy Cross called Air Force Falcons vs Navy Midshipmen as part of Saturday afternoon and night Tripleheader. Verne Lundquist and Gary Danielson called Notre Dame-Navy game in Ireland on September 1, 2012.
Former commentators on the telecasts include Craig Bolerjack, Sean McDonough (1997–1999) and Todd Blackledge (1998–2005); both of whom are currently working for ESPN and ABC on their college football coverage. Lewis Johnson is now a sideline reporter on ESPN and ABC.
In addition, CBS Sports Network aired the hour-long SEC Post-Game Show Presented by Geico at 7:00 p.m. Eastern Time, featuring the wrapup of the CBS SEC game.