Well friends, we have finally made it to August, which means we are mercifully one step closer to the start of football season. July can be a pretty rough month on the sports calendar, but the fall is now right around the corner.
You know we’re close to the upcoming season because the networks are starting to announce their coverage plans for the year to come. One of the most noteworthy announcements from a media perspective is ESPN’s release of their massive roster of college football announcers.
College football is one of ESPN’s most steadfast and successful properties as the network that not only televises the playoff, but also many key games throughout the season. Although ESPN has had several notable changes throughout the past few years, especially in their top play by play men, they return a strong lineup for 2017.
First, the full list, then notes on some of the changes you will see for the new season.
* Starting at the top, there is a change on the sidelines. With Sam Ponder moving to anchoring Sunday NFL Countdown, Maria Taylor becomes the top sideline reporter joining Chris Fowler and Kirk Herbstreit to form the network’s new trio. It’s the third change in as many years after Ponder replaced Heather Cox last season.
* With Brent Musburger’s retirement and Jesse Palmer moving to the studio to replace Danny Kanell, it also means the SEC Network will have an entirely new trio calling their Saturday night package in Tom Hart, Jordan Rodgers of The Bachelorette fame, and Cole Cubelic. Maybe there’s a rule that all SEC Network analysts have to have appeared on either The Bachelor or The Bachelorette to qualify for the position.
* The first big new face to mention is former Auburn and Cincinnati head coach Tommy Tuberville. He gets paired with longtime ESPN play by play man Mike Patrick. Tuberville replaces Ed Cunningham, who doesn’t seem to have a broadcasting assignment for 2017. We’ll see if he shows up in the studio.
* ESPN will try something new with their Thursday Night Football package. Dave Flemming returns to the play by play position, but will be joined by a rotating set of analysts throughout the season. In the past, the Thursday night package has been a place where some of ESPN’s top analysts would get a chance to call games like David Pollack and Palmer. It’ll be interesting to see who ESPN pegs for that slot and when as their Thursday primetime package is usually a pretty big deal.
* Once we get to MACtion late in the season we’ll see a couple of SportsCenter anchors step into the booth to do play by play in Kevin Negandhi and Chris Cotter. Negandhi will have a big presence on ESPN’s college football coverage as he also steps in to anchor the ABC studio on Saturdays.