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Southern Football Nostalgia: An Ode to Jefferson Pilot Sports

If you were a Southern college football fan in the 1990's and 2000's, there's a good chance JP Sports were a big part of your Saturday traditions.

Joshua S. Kelly-USA TODAY Sports

It may be hard to believe, but just a mere 10 years ago, the way we watched college football was completely different. Today, fans can enjoy a plethora of games from the variety of sports channels offered from their cable/satellite/online streaming service. And there's also the games that come on the local channels. As much as I love this, I still will always have a soft spot in my heart for Jefferson Pilot Sports. If you didn't live in the South or follow Southern sports during the '90's and '00's, you may wonder what Jefferson Pilot (or JP,for short) Sports was? I'll try to explain, but it's hard to convey exactly what JP Sports was and what it means to people.

For college fans watching football at home, a bar, or a tailgate if they're doing it right, their routines will probably be similar. Get up, eat breakfast, maybe crack open that first beer or have something more "appropriate" for breakfast, like a mimosa, and watch Gameday. Once Corso puts on that mascot head, you'll then probably keep your TV on ESPN or flip to the channel that has the game that interests you the most, which is most likely broadcasted on an ESPN network. While the routine was similar back in the JP Era, there were some differences. For one, Gameday was only a two hour show, meaning they would back more content into it instead of padding out 3-4 hours with filler and depressing Tom Rinaldi stories. Gameday would begin at 10 o'clock with the greatest intro song of any show ever. Take a minute to process that. At one point, ESPN's best and arguably most popular show used Bubba Sparxxx for its theme song. How perfect was that? Anyway, after 2 hours of football talk and borderline obscene signs made by college kids (ESPN's security must not have been as strict back then), Corso would put on the mascot head, and that meant it was time for JP to shine.

JP would broadcast on 2 local channels; one channel had their SEC game of the week, the other had their ACC game of the week. Would these games be the best? No. Usually they were either a top team in the conference playing a cellar dweller. Or, it may have been to middle tier teams fighting it out on the road to a seven win season and an early December trip to Boise for the Humanitarian Crucial Technology MPC Computers bowl in Boise with the blue turf. The quality of the video? Not great either, even for a time where HD wasn't a common thing. Their graphics were also a bit outdated, but their yellow first down line was so bright you couldn't miss it! They also tended to be a bit behind on their bottom scoreboard, even with their games from the other conference. Maybe during a commercial break from that riveting UNC-Wake Forest game, you decide to flip over to the SEC game to see how Auburn is doing against mighty Vanderbilt. You see that Auburn is up 24-3 in the third quarter, and turn it back, only to see JP's bottom-line scoreboard telling you that Auburn is leading 7-3 at the end if the 1st quarter. Now, either their scoreboard was behind or someone on the Plains invented time travel and didn't tell us. But through all that you kept watching. Why? Because your options were limited. Typically ABC and CBS wouldn't have a game until 3:30. If Notre Dame was at home, NBC might have their game later in the day. ESPN and ESPN2 had games, but there's a chance they weren't of any interest to you. In 2005, ESPN debuted ESPN U, however for the first few years so few people could actually get it that it was jokingly referred to as "ESPN Unavailable". So, JP was the Southern fans best choice.

But, for all the joking and griping about JP, it provided us with some great moments in college football history. In 2002, it gave us LSU's 74 yard last second touchdown to beat Kentucky in what was called "the Bluegrass Miracle." For us Tiger fans, JP was there for many of our memories. It broadcast Kevin Youngblood's overtime touchdown from Charlie Whitehurst to beat UVA. It gave us the infamous 2004 Clemson-South Carolina brawl. It gave us David Dunham destroying Matt Ryan with a hit that still gets GIF'd to this day. JP got a makeover in the 2006 season and became Lincoln Financial Sports. The graphics were updated a bit. Instead of the neon yellow first down line, they had the "Nexium Purple Pill Line," which, as you can guess, was a purple line. Eventually, Lincoln Financial would morph into the ACC and SEC Networks. The SEC Network got it's own ESPN channel while the ACC Network is still broadcast on local stations (thanks, Swoffy), leaving generations to come not knowing the glory and hilarity of Jefferson Pilot Sports.