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Is this move by Fox sly?

Network sets up 4-year BCS deal

College football made news yesterday with the announcement of a television deal. Fox agreed to a four-year deal with the Bowl Championship Series [excluding the Rose Bowl] that won't begin for two years (the end of the 2006 season).

Fox's deal with the BCS includes multi-media rights [radio, Internet, sponsorship, naming, signage, virtual signage, and in-game enhancements] to the Fiesta, Orange, and Sugar Bowls, plus the national title game from 2007-09. ABC retains rights to the Rose Bowl through 2014, and that site's place in the championship game rotation in 2006, 2010, and 2014.

The Fox deal is reportedly worth $80 million per year, a number Fox Sports chairman David Hill says "hopefully will allow us to make money."

Hill noted the three games in the package averaged an 11.1 rating over the past two years, which would rank them in a tie for seventh among all prime time shows this broadcast season to date. As usual, Boston lags when it comes to college ratings, with those games averaging an 8.3 here the past two years.

"Viewers have more entertainment choices than ever," said Hill. "One area that usually guarantees you'll get the bulk of the country watching is sports. The prestige of the BCS property only will get stronger as we go forward."

Better taste

ABC had scripted an opening for last night's "Monday Night Football" telecast and sent it to both the Patriots and Chiefs a week ago -- a full day before the protests over last week's Terrell Owens/"Desperate Housewives" skit created a national firestorm over what constitutes good taste in television.

Patriots Tom Brady and Tedy Bruschi, filmed separately for last night's opening, each intoned, "It's 9 p.m., Eastern Time, on Monday night. You know what that means."

The Chiefs' Trent Green and Tony Gonzalez then did a duet: "Are you ready for some football?" That led into the lengthy Hank Williams Jr. rendition of the song by that name.

Hardly controversial. The only thing ABC was promoting this week was football.

And it did it the best way possible -- by putting the ball in the hands of its signature voice, Al Michaels.

Against a background of smoke from the fireworks that followed the national anthem, Michaels smoothly set the stage for the game and set up John Madden for an easy analysis of what the Chiefs had to do to win the game.

It was a smooth intro and just what the TV Doctor ordered after last week's controversial and suggestive opener.

"Desperate Housewives," did a 17.5 national rating Sunday, its best all season in the 56 metered markets. That trend also held true in Boston, where the show did a 19.2 rating and a 27 share, beating the 19.0 rating it earned two weeks ago. Last Sunday "Desperate Housewives" was preempted in Boston, with Channel 5 airing Patriots-Bills "Sunday Night Football," which did a 27.1 rating.

It's time to get "pumped 'n' jacked" to watch tonight's "Real Sports" on HBO at 10, because one of the segments is "Re-Pete," a visit to Pete Carroll's No. 1-ranked University of Southern California football program.

Carroll, of course, is of interest in these parts because he was the Patriots' coach from 1997-1999, bridging the gap between Bill Parcells and Bill Belichick.

During his tenure, a couple of the common observations one heard were, "This guy should be a college coach," and, "If this guy ever sat in my living room, it'd be a slam dunk that he'd recruit my kid."

Carroll's Trojans are the defending co-national champions. And he remains the antithesis of the traditional hard-bitten college football coach. "I guess I'm not an authoritarian presence," he told host Bryant Gumbel. "I don't have the problem with trusting people to do things in a way that makes me look vulnerable. The other way [authoritarian] is an extraordinarily successful way. I know that and I respect the heck out of it. It just isn't me. I can't do it."

Of his days in New England (27-21 record), he said simply, "I needed to be totally in charge of the program, like I am now. And I wasn't. There were too many heads in charge of that program."

With his success at USC, Carroll again will be courted by the NFL.

Gumbel tried to get him to say he had unfinished business in the pros, but Carroll again seemed to march to his own drummer.

"I'm having more fun than you can have in the NFL, you know?" he said. "There's that level of seriousness and you know it, Bryant. That level of seriousness takes away from the game. I'm smart enough and old enough [52] now to realize what I got. And I'm thrilled to hold onto it."

Short stop
"NESN Retro" isn't going back too far tonight as it airs Raymond Bourque's induction into the Hockey Hall of Fame at 8. Tomorrow, NESN has coverage of last week's Red Sox Hall of Fame dinner at 7 p.m. Thursday, the network re-airs the Red Sox "Rolling Rally" from 3-7 p.m., followed by "Still We Believe, The Red Sox Movie." . . . The postseason DVDs are coming out fast as Major League Baseball had its premiere of "The Official 2004 World Series DVD" at the Wang Center last night. It goes on sale today at retail outlets nationwide and through and The Globe's "Boston's Greatest Sports Stories: Beyond the Headlines," a history of Boston sports written by Leigh Montville and told through the words and pictures of Globe writers and photographers, already is available at and at retail outlets. NESN's DVD review of the 2004 Sox season is due out in the next week . . . Thursday's NFL Thanksgiving menu: Colts-Lions (Channel 4, 12:30 p.m.) and Bears-Cowboys (Channel 25, 4:30 p.m.) with the networks' No. 1 broadcasting teams. In the past, you could have bet that Fox would have given us Eagles-Giants Sunday at 1; instead, we'll get a game of more interest to Patriots fans: Redskins-Steelers. The CBS Sunday lineup has Jaguars-Vikings at 1, leading into the rescheduled Ravens-Patriots game at 4:15 with Jim Nantz, Phil Simms, and Bonnie Bernstein calling the action . . . Lesley Visser returns to duty for CBS this weekend with a Sunday "The NFL Today" feature on Brett Favre's 200th consecutive game. These days, Favre is staying healthier than Visser, who had a hip replaced just before the season, and won't return to sideline duty until next year.

Eyeing Eagles
ABC is making Saturday's Boston College-Syracuse game a regional telecast to be seen here on Channel 5 at 1 p.m. . . . Sunday's NASCAR finale drew a 5.6 rating among the 56 metered Nielsen rating markets, the best the season-ending race has done against the NFL. In Boston, the rating was a respectable 4.2 . . . Tomorrow's Globe "Sportsplus" show (NESN, 6:30, 10:30 p.m.) will have a hot stove update with senior baseball writer Gordon Edes and plenty of basketbrawl talk with Bob Ryan and Kevin Paul Dupont . . . Sir Paul McCartney will be the featured entertainer during the Super Bowl Halftime Show . . . Brady's appearance on the "Late Show with David Letterman" last Friday was the highest-rated Friday night edition of the show since Sept. 21, 2001, the night it followed "America's Heroes Special." So far this TV season, it's the second-highest rated "Late Show," trailing only Johnny Damon's appearance Monday, Nov. 1 . . . More quarterbacks: Today is the 20th anniversary of "The Hail Mary Pass." Doug Flutie, who threw it, will be a guest with Eddie Andelman on WWZN (1510 AM) today at 1:05 p.m. and ESPN Classic reairs that 1984 BC-Miami game at 9 p.m.

Bill Griffith's email address is 

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