By Barry Janoff
August 30, 2013: College football is the third most popular sport in the U.S. behind the NFL and MLB, according to The Harris Poll, with more than 50 million attending games during the college football season.
But for the countless other fans who could not attend games in person last season, former University of Oklahoma head football coach Barry Switzer fronted a weekly Webcast, Coaches' Cabana, that brought Sooners games to them on a myriad of second screens.
Coaches Cabana had Switzer sitting in a cabana in his backyard on game day, commentating on the action as it appeared on computers, laptops, tablets and mobile devices. Switzer brought his own insight — 16 years as head coach at Oklahoma, compiling a 157-29-4 record — and off-the-cuff and largely uncensored observations.
Guests included former Oklahoma players such as Billy Simms and Brian Bosworth.
Coaches' Cabana was so successful that it has now expanded to included 13 other schools, with weekly game-day Webcasts hosted from the respective coach's homes or from locations near each university.
In addition to Switzer, coaches this year include Bill Olivers (Alabama), Jack Crowe (Auburn), Danny Ford (Clemson), Galen Hall (Florida), Ray Goff (Georgia), John Forcade (former QB for LSU), Max Howell (Mississippi), Milt Tenopir (Nebraska), Pat Jones (Oklahoma State), Johnny Majors (Tennessee), Jackie Sherrill (Texas A&M), Fred Akers (Texas) and Jay Paterno (Penn State), son of the late Joe Paterno and a quarterbacks coach under his father.
The venture is owned by Second Screen Media, a company founded by Switzer, former CBS president Neal Pilson and others. It streams games live over Rivals.com, a division of Yahoo!
"Not everyone has a cabana in their backyard like I do, but the casual location and the inside knowledge of the coaches is what makes this unique," said Switzer, who was also head coach of the NFL's Dallas Cowboys when they defeated the Pittsburgh Steelers in Super Bowl XXX. "You can't take your TV everywhere you go, but you can watch games on mobile and tablets, So this is the wave of the future."
Coaches' Cabana expects to live-stream some 200 college football games this season. Last year, in addition to his backyard, Switzer also hosted a Webcast from a Buffalo Wild Wings and another from Cowboys Stadium with Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones as a guest. Sponsors included Coca-Cola and Jack Daniel's.
Remote locations will again be utilized this season.
Social media has become a big part of the Webcasts, with Switzer and the other hosts responsing on-air to as many tweets as they can. "That adds a lot to the [Webcasts]," said Switzer. "The purpose is to interact with fans and bring a unique aspect of the games to them, wherever they are."
Switzer is planning for 50 coaches to conduct weekly Coaches' Cabana Webcasts next season.