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Tessitore set to host "SEC Nation"

Friday, May 23, 2014
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A Schenectady native will be the face of a new network devoted to Southeastern Conference sports.

Joe Tessitore is looking forward to being the face of SEC Network when it debuts Aug. 14. SEC Network is a joint venture of ESPN and the Southeastern Conference.

Tessitore, a Christian Brothers Academy graduate, will be the host of “SEC Nation,” the network’s signature show.

“It will be the SEC Network’s version of ‘College GameDay,’ ” Tessitore said. “I’ll be in that Chris Fowler role. ‘SEC Nation’ will be a brand, and that brand will be attached to SEC media days week in July, which has been, in recent years, the unofficial kickoff of football.”

Tessitore had discussions with ESPN executives about being involved with SEC Network. He is excited to be involved with the new project.

“I did my homework on this one,” Tessitore said. “This wasn’t something that I went in trying to figure out. When I saw which executives were involved, and knew that SEC commissioner Michael Slive and his commitment and what it meant to him, it was really a no-brainer. To me, bar none, the most loyal, passionate, brand-loyal fans in all of sports, not [just] college sports, that we have in this country are SEC football fans. It’s just different. When you cover that league week in and week out and do those Saturday night games like I do, you see it and you start to realize that nothing we have in American sports comes close. The only thing that I’ve ever witnessed that comes close is European club soccer.

“It’s a different level of fan passion and interest. It is more than just who they root for. It is their identity. So any top-tier TV product that’s going to solely focus on that is going to win. It’s going to be successful.”

SEC football certainly has been dominant. The last eight BCS national championship games featured an SEC team. SEC teams won seven in a row before Florida State of the ACC knocked off Auburn, 34-31. The 2012 title game was an all-SEC affair, with Alabama beating LSU, 21-0.

On “SEC Nation,” Tessitore will be working with former Florida and NFL quarterback Tim Tebow. The two worked together previewing the BCS title game in January.

Tessitore, who has the same agent as Tebow, was impressed with his effort.

“And it’s not what most people would think,” Tessitore said. “What impressed me most, he called and the very first voicemail he left after signing with ESPN was a voicemail would tell you all you need to know about Tim. It was how excited and enthusiastic he was for the challenge, can I please get in touch with him immediately and start emailing him my boards, notes and prep materials. . . . He buried his head in watching film and going back-and-forth with me for seven to eight days of preparation.

“Tim’s a one-name celebrity in this country, ‘Tebow.’ He’s a different level of celebrity. Typically, when you have that level of celebrity that gets involved in sports broadcasting, you’re not impressed with their sports broadcasting. They are not very analytical, they’re often not prepared. They just show up, and because of their level of fame, that’s all that has to happen. That doesn’t last long, and you get exposed quickly.

“Tim went on the air the day of the Auburn-Florida State national championship game and he’s out there with major league pitching all day long. He was seamless and right at everybody’s level, and making some analytical points that were wowing people.”

Tessitore will continue to call SEC football games this season on ESPN or ESPN2. The experience of not only calling an SEC football game, but soaking in the atmosphere surrounding the game, is something Tessitore believes college football fans should experience.

“It should be number one on your bucket list,” Tessitore said. “Attending a Saturday night SEC game is bucket-list stuff. It’s just a different experience.”

 
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