"Wouldn't it be great if there was a time where when you thought of FOX, you thought of every professional final, the Triple Crown (and) the biggest of the big?" Shanks said. "That creates value not only for the broadcast network ... but also for the cable networks."
Before Rupert Murdoch, the head of News Corp., which owns FOX and would sign the checks for all those properties, gets the vapors over the prospect of all that extravagance, it should be noted Shanks was merely ruminating on the best-case scenario. He knows it's impossible for one network to have everything.
Yet, the willingness of Shanks to let his mind wander so far outside the box provides an indicator that, under his watch, the FOX Sports division that he knew from his youth won't be retreating anytime soon.
"What I see has happened (since he was a producer) is really a kind of mature focus that's come out of the past years, which is they really have a strategy around being, at least on the broadcast side ... the big event network," Shanks said.
"And that strategy has really shown (to work). You can absolutely maintain that attitude and that perspective."
Shanks, 38, is believed to be the youngest person to head a broadcast network's sports division. That youth might be problematic anywhere but FOX, where impertinence and cheekiness have been the mantra from Day One.
And Shanks, who possesses a wide range of industry experience, having served as executive vice president at DirecTV entertainment for four years after being a producer at FOX, has credibility with the troops he will lead, because he was one of them and grew up among them.
"I grew up with FOX," Shanks said. "I started working here when I was 22 years old. Every one of these directors, producers, ADs (assistant directors), I've lived with them on the road. Some of them, I've actually lived with."
"So we come into this thing and they know me and they know I'm going to respect what they do and they know that we're a team."
As a young producer at FOX, Shanks helped develop the groundbreaking yellow line in the NFL that appears on screen to denote where a team has to reach to get a first down, as well as the FOXTrax glowing hockey puck.
The puck drew the wrath of hardcore fans, but revealed a willingness to stir the pot as well as bring in innovations in an attempt to improve the broadcast.
Shanks eventually became a vice president of enhanced programming at FOX, where he produced NFL Europe coverage as well as launching Sky Sport 1 and 2 for Sky Italia. He also was involved in the creation of "The Best Damn Sports Show Period," FOX Sports Net's irreverent talk show.
Now past the "new kid on the block" stage, FOX Sports is as much a part of the establishment as anyone, but Shanks' task is to maintain the division's insouciance, while maintaining its reputation for being on the cutting edge.
"This business is not so mature that you can't come up with new ideas or new areas of focus and separate yourself from the pack. That's obvious," Shanks said. "How do you do it? Don't know. I've been here (for a week).
Shanks will have his two immediate predecessors, David Hill and Ed Goren, just down the hall to bounce ideas off. Hill, the division's first president, retains his post as chairman of FOX Sports' Media Group, which encompasses the broadcast division, as well as all 19 of the regional sports cable networks, FOX Soccer Channel, SPEED and other properties.
Goren, a former CBS producer who came to FOX as executive producer at its launch and succeeded Hill as president, has been promoted to vice chair of the media group. He and Hill will develop strategy for the entire FOX Sports empire, leaving Shanks to manage the broadcast operation.
"(With) them still doing anything and everything that they want to do, (that) gives me the benefit of 'Hey, let me take a look around the corner and see what else we can be doing now,'" Shanks said.
"Also, it gives them the luxury of me making the trains run on time, taking a look potentially structurally around here and seeing what we can do and letting them have the opportunity to be freed up to go out and say, 'What is the future, long term future, for FOX Sports.'"
In the immediate term, Shanks has a solid stable of properties, headed by the NFC portion of the NFL's Sunday afternoon package -- the one with the biggest markets -- and the World Series, and an LCS, as well as regular season coverage of Major League Baseball.
On the horizon, however, are, as Shanks puts it an "astounding" and "staggering" amount of properties that will be available between now and 2014, including some college football.
For now, FOX is the only broadcast outlet without any college football. The coming tsunami of conference changes may give the network a chance to jump in and give a young new executive his first chance to make a big splash.
"We'll have to see how that plays out and what opportunities there are for us to grab," Shanks said. "In the heartland and west of the Mississippi, there's going to be a big upheaval, if you believe what you read. That could reverberate."
The Ratings Game
Since we made a big deal over the prospects that no one would watch the French Open women's singles final between two relative unknowns, it's only fair that we point out that Saturday's NBC telecast of the Francesca Schiavone-Samantha Stosur match drew a 1.7 overnight Nielsen rating. That's 21 percent higher than the previous year's title clash between Suzy Kuznetsova and Dinara Safina.
And big ups to the NHL, whose ratings for Sunday's Game 5 of the Stanley Cup Finals were up 54 percent from the previous year's equivalent game, played on a Saturday night.
Who knows how much better the numbers would have been if the hockey game hadn't gone head-to-head with Game 2 of the NBA Finals, which was up 10 percent from Game 2 of the 2009 Finals.
Take a Number, Jim
So, it seems Miami (Fla) baseball coach Jim Morris has a beef with ESPN over scheduling.
Four words: Get over it, coach!
In the course of a press conference, following the Hurricanes' 11-7 loss to Texas A&M in an NCAA regional game Sunday, Morris implored the local faithful to turn out in bigger numbers for Monday's rematch against the Aggies.
In the process, Morris said that "the NCAA and ESPN make us play at 1 o'clock and 4 o'clock when it's 102 degrees," suggesting that as a reason that attendance for the Sunday game was down from the Miami average.
The irony is that Morris' criticism isn't all that far-fetched. The NCAA and by extension, the networks that air games, do unduly influence when games are played in all sports.
It's just that it and all the complaints from college coaches about the times they and their teams are asked to play ring hollow, since they all long ago voluntarily ceded the right to bitch when they backed up the trucks to accept the cash the networks threw at them.
If Duke men's basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski and the rest of his brethren are so worked up over 9 p.m. weeknight tip-offs, they need only give back a portion of the money CBS or ESPN or FOX offers for rights fees.
And that sound of silence you hear in the distance of coaches and athletic directors lining up to actually fork over dough is the one you'll hear every single time, and for good reason.
The dirty secret of college athletics is that those 85 football scholarships per school and those gorgeous new training facilities and stadiums and fields, not to mention those multi-million dollar coaching salaries at the big time level don't happen without the uninterrupted flow of television cash.
Just last month, the Atlantic Coast Conference just entered into a nearly $2 billion deal with ESPN for telecast rights over the next 12 years, while CBS and Turner inked a nearly $11 billion contract with the NCAA for the men's basketball tournament. That money didn't just buy goodwill; it gave television executives leave to dictate when things happen.
In recent memory, only one college coach, Indiana's Bobby Knight, seemed willing to put his school's money where his mouth was by swearing off late start times during the regular season.
Unless and until more coaches and athletic directors are willing to follow Knight's lead (and isn't that a scary thought?), their griping about start times will continue to feel like a steaming pile of hypocrisy.