Perhaps it was only a matter of time. As ESPN has steadily co-opted more and more mainstream television ideas and tried to adapt them for their own purposes -- remember Dream Job (American Idol, etc.) and the ongoing E:60 (60 Minutes) -- the Bristol big wigs finally turned on their television on a Sunday night and noticed that Extreme Makeover: Home Edition is quite the hit.
You can guess what happened next: In fall 2011, a new program called "RISE UP" will document ESPN's attempt to renovate and rebuild athletic facilities at four different schools across the country. As one might expect, the schools receiving the new gyms span the geographic and demographic spectrum, with schools in inner-city Boston and Chicago receiving new gymnasiums, just as one in rural Washington and Ohio will, as well.
One pilot of the future show has already been completed, focusing on work at a high school in New Orleans. You can see a clip from that episode directly above.
The Seattle Times reported that none of the four schools actually applied for the aid, and were instead chosen by ESPN officials. While it's unknown exactly what criteria ESPN used in scouring the country for ideal rebuilding projects, they admitted that they were targeting projects which could be completed in the course of a single summer.
The school in Washington, Ingraham (Wash.) High, was picked for a number of reasons, though ESPN officials told the Times that the network's gut instinct that the school's students and faculty would take good care of their improved facilities played a big part.
"It really has a lot to do with the spirit we sense," said Mitch Wright, senior producer for ESPN content development.
Work at Ingraham is expected to start shortly after July 4, with all labor and materials to be provided by ESPN. As for when to watch the forthcoming Ingraham episode, keep your eyes peeled on ESPN scheduling come September. Whether the program is deemed worthy of a role on the network's flagship channel (traditional ESPN) or only suited for one of its subsidiaries (likely ESPNU) remains to be seen.
Regardless of whether this is another step toward ESPN firmly jumping the shark once and for all remains to be seen, but at least it's for a good cause. No one is going to argue with a free -- and much needed -- gym renovation, at no cost to public taxpayers.