ESPN’s “College GameDay” will take place in Boone, North Carolina this weekend. File it under “Things I never thought I’d hear.” But after Appalachia State’s 17-14 stunner at No. 6-ranked Texas A&M, the Mountaineers was too good a story for ESPN to pass up.

Amazon’s “Just Walk Out” is aptly named. When you shop at a market with “Just Walk Out” technology, you are literally meant to walk out. But there is something behavioral that tells you not to.

We are conditioned to pay for our items once our purchases are complete. But with Amazon’s technology, consumers first swipe their card, enter the store, collect their items, and “Just Walk Out.” It’s counter-intuitive at first, but once the shoppers have moved on, it’s a cinch. Retailers call this a contactless or frictionless shopping experience. The only time the consumer interacts with store employees is when verifying liquor purchase identification.

My introduction to the concept came at Texas A&M on Saturday. Seamlessly, I was there to watch my alma mater, Appalachian State, play the Aggies. But A&M assistant manager Chris Park and Levy Restaurants vice president Chris Warner met with me before the game to test out what they call “March In and Out.”

A&M has three dealership spaces that they added this season using Amazon technology. Kyle Field is the first university location where it is in effect. A&M dealer Levy Restaurants introduced the technology to the school and the response was outstanding. This essentially cuts the shopping time in half.

Warner: “As a company, we are committed to reducing queues and waiting times, making things more convenient and accessible. … If you look at the stadium experience, from parking to security, from food and drink to restrooms, the easier we can make those areas, the better for everyone.

Levy and A&M share the overhead associated with new markets, from cameras that monitor buyers to transaction fees.

It’s not yet clear whether Levy will attempt to take Amazon technology into other stages where it is the dealership. Warner said they are currently evaluating it.

Texas A&M’s Kyle Field is the first academic institution to implement Amazon’s “Just Walk Out” technology

College football continued its upward trajectory in Week 2, notes my colleague Austin Karp.

Alabama’s late win over Texas on Fox in the Big Noon Saturday window was by far the most-watched game of Week 2, drawing 10.6 million viewers. The game is the best audience this season so far on any network, and Fox’s fourth-best CFB game of all time (behind just three iterations of the Ohio State-Michigan game).

The game was 80% better than Big Noon Saturday on average last season (which was a record for Fox). Bama-Texas also delivered an average viewership of 243,708 viewers per minute, marking the second highest streaming audience for a CFB game on Fox (behind only OSU-Michigan last season at 276,412). Fox CFB is averaging 4.82 million viewers to date, up 4% from the same point last season (a record for Fox).

Week 2 was also up 24% for the ABC, ESPN, ESPN2 and ESPNU combo. ESPN Digital also had its third-best traffic day ever on Saturday. Some highlights of the Bristol family or networks:

  • Kentucky’s victory over Florida drew 4.33 million viewers on Saturday, marking ESPN’s best Saturday game in September since 2018.
  • BYU’s victory over Baylor at 10:35 p.m. ET averaged 2.37 million viewers, which is ESPN’s best late-night window since Texas-Cal averaged 2.45 million on the 17th. September 2016.
  • ESPN2 prime time averaged 1.85 million viewers for Louisville-UCF, marking the Deuce’s best regular season game since 2017 (and best Friday night game since 2013).

Big Ten Network had its second-best day ever in terms of overall viewership (three regionalized windows) on Saturday. The day was fueled by coverage at 12 p.m. ET (Ohio State-Arkansas State and Western Illinois-Minnesota averaged 1.44 million). The best day remains October 10, 2015 (it was Week 6 that season, with games like Maryland-Ohio State, Michigan State-Rutgers, and Northwestern-Michigan).

After two weeks, according to Michael Mulvihill of Fox Sports, viewing of ESPN college football games was up 60%, while ESPN2 was up 31%, FS1 was up 42% and BTN was up 125%.

Sun Belt on Saturday stole all the headlines after upset wins for Appalachian State (over Texas A&M), Marshall (over Notre Dame) and Georgia Southern (over Nebraska). They also generated these TV audience figures:

  • FS1 averaged 1.24 million viewers for Georgia Southern’s prime-time loss to Nebraska. That’s a 30% increase over last year’s Big Ten Saturday average on the cable network. Head-to-head, Georgia Southern-Nebraska also topped ESPN’s Arizona State-Oklahoma State game, which averaged 1.02 million.
  • ESPN2 Saturday afternoon averaged 1.77 million viewers for Appalachia State’s win over Texas A&M. For comparison, that audience was the same one ESPN drew in the same window for the US Open women’s final on Saturday.
  • NBC averaged 2.48 million viewers for Marshall’s victory at Notre Dame on Saturday afternoon. The network’s first game of 2021, against Purdue, averaged 2.58 million. NBC’s first Irish game against Duke in 2020 averaged 4.32 million.

TurnkeyZRG, the company assisting the NCAA in its search for a new president, posted a compelling job description on its website. Despite the clear migration to a more professionalized model of intercollegiate athletics, the educational component will remain at the heart of the president’s mission.

The right person for the job is a unifier and a visionary, someone who knows how to navigate a government-regulated industry and has navigated through unique changes in a generation. Experience in technology, media and revenue generation could be beneficial.

“The collegiate model will need to be more fully resourced to meet higher costs, which means the NCAA will need to be innovative to attract more revenue, and perhaps even capital,” Len said. Perna, CEO of TurnkeyZRG. wrote. “But it won’t be for the pros. It’s for students who want to play sports AND get an education. … It’s time to “dare to be awesome”.

TurnkeyZRG completed a “listening phase” which included sessions with 79 groups and meetings with over 300 stakeholders, as well as an online survey. The NCAA Board of Governors will make the final decision on the rental.

When NIL came into effect 15 months ago, a widely held expectation was that jerseys could be an immediate source of income for players. It took a while, but college football jerseys with player names are here now.

Fanatics, through a partnership with OneTeam Partners and Compass, launched the program last week and fans can now order authentic-looking jerseys from Fanatics for $140 with the player’s name on the back. I caught up with OneTeam Acting CEO Malaika Underwood to get her thoughts on the jerseys finally hitting the market.

“This is an important moment in the movement for athletes,” she said. “We had NIL on July 1 of last year and on July 2 people wanted video games on the shelves and jerseys on the market. But the reality is that it took time to set up a infrastructure to do it at scale. But here we are with a program that is the largest group licensing program to date with over 4,000 football and other sports players on the way.

“It’s still very early to tell what the demand for a customizable jersey program will be, but there are definitely some top players who will sell a significant number of shirts and I’m sure we’ll see some interesting trends develop as well. It may not generate a ton of revenue for every athlete, but we will learn from the first year and grow the program from there.

“We work with professional athletes in these areas and take these key learnings and apply them in college to maximize the collective value of all athletes. There will be varying contract terms and those contract terms depend on a number of different things – product categories, distribution channels, etc. There are also opportunities for athletes to be included in multiple agreements. They can participate in as many group license agreements as they want. We encourage athletes to maximize their portfolio.

“We will be launching men’s and women’s basketball jerseys this winter, and then spring sports with baseball and softball. It will be a very strong program. We are talking about tens of thousands of athletes in these programs. We focus on creating something that can be sustainable. We want it to be a movement, not a moment.

Players such as Alabama’s Bryce Young now have named jerseys for sale at school sites

Fans of the opposing team always ask me questions, especially when Appalachian State plays on the road against a Power Five opponent:

  1. Where is the state of Appalachia?
  2. Good? Where is Boon?
  3. Is it near the beach?
  4. Are you good?
  5. How do you pronounce that?

  • ESPN/ESPN’s “College GameDay” and Fox’s “Big Noon Kickoff” both aired from Austin for the Alabama-Texas game on Saturday. “GameDay” in its final hour at 11 a.m. ET averaged 2.7 million viewers, while Fox in the same window averaged 1.61 million viewers, notes SBJ’s Austin Karp. The full three-hour “GameDay” averaged 2.1 million people, up 19% from week 2 last year.
  • Brad Edwards is quitting his role as George Mason AD to become CEO of NFL Alumni. Edwards, a former NFL player, will succeed Beasley Reece, who announced his retirement earlier this year.
  • The MoneyLion mobile banking app has entered into a new financial education agreement with the INFLCR. Student-athletes will now be able to watch short financial literacy videos on INFLCR courtesy of MoneyLion.