Fan Central Mailbag: How fans can watch the FCS playoffs; The overall depth of ESPN’s offerings

Welcome to another edition of the Fan Central Mailbag. Remember, if you have an ESPN-related question, follow us @ESPN_FanCentral and use #FanCentralMB to tweet your questions. You can also e-mail them to FanCentral@ESPN.com.

We’ll start off this week by addressing an issue that has been the subject of fan emails and tweets over the past week or so: ESPN’s coverage plans for the 2012 NCAA FCS playoffs (formerly Division I-AA).

To start, every first, second and quarterfinal round game of the FCS playoffs will be shown exclusively on ESPN3, which is available at no additional cost to fans who receive their Internet or video subscription from an affiliated provider (see full list of providers). To accommodate fans who are not with these affiliated providers, the following second round games are available on GamePlan tomorrow:

• South Dakota State vs. North Dakota State, 4 p.m. ET
• Stony Brook vs. Montana State, 7 p.m.

ESPN, ESPN2 and ESPNU will televise quarterfinal and semifinal games beginning a week from today (click for full schedule). Finally, the 2012 NCAA FCS Championship game will be on ESPN2 on Saturday, Jan. 5, at 1 p.m.

Why does ESPN focus so much on debate these days? – Kige

Kige, your question is one we have heard in recent months and we appreciate you posing it in this forum so we can discuss it.

Yes, whether you’re talking about Pardon the Interruption (started in 2001), Around the Horn (2002) or First Take (2007), among others, debate shows have been and continue to be mainstays on the ESPN schedule. In addition to ESPN’s debate shows, debate-style interactions are regular features on SportsCenter. Why? We posed the question to ESPN’s Senior Vice President and Executive Producer Mark Gross:

Pardon the Interruption co-hosts Tony Kornheiser (L) and Michael Wilbon. (Randy Sager / ESPN Images)

“Debate is just one element of what we do along with investigative journalism, commentary, analysis, distinctive highlights and more,” Gross said. “As for debate, it has forever been a core part of sports. I bet everyone of us had some sort of sports debate last week during Thanksgiving: Notre Dame or Alabama or Georgia? Colin Kaepernick or Alex Smith? NBA Rivalries: Dead or Alive? Those are the questions that sports fans are constantly debating.

“So, in our ongoing effort to serve sports fans, we help facilitate that debate, especially these days with all of the ways social media allows fans to interact with our experts,” he said. “As we have done for over 30 years, we balance news and information with discussion and debate in a manner our fans have come to expect and one that, according to our research, resonates with viewers.”

As important as they are, however, remember debate shows are just a small part of the programming we provide fans 24/7, 365 days a year. Consider this: Over the past year, there were 17,600 hours of live event programming, and 9,500 hours of live studio programming on the ESPN networks. Debate-style programming consumed just a small portion of this time.

NOTE: A new Saturday edition of First Take (with host Cari Champion, Rob Parker and guest panelists) will air weekly from 8-10 a.m. ET beginning next Saturday, Dec. 8.

I’m watching Sunday NFL Countdown and I see people send in pictures of their team jerseys to be shown on TV. I’d like to send a jersey picture in also, but I’m not sure where to send the picture. Can you help me out? – Marsha

Sure Marsha, to be part of the #CountdownToKickoff festivities, you can tweet pictures of yourself in your favorite team’s jersey to @ESPNNFL using the aforementioned #CountdownToKickoff hashtag. Then be sure to watch Countdown (Sundays, 10 a.m., ESPN) to see if your picture makes the show.

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  • Mike

    I love I-AA football!!!