They say the only constant is change, but that’s not usually the case in sports broadcasting. Especially when it comes to the top play by play announcers in sports, there comes a certain expectation of longevity in the broadcast booth.

Look at the major broadcast networks where you can immediately name the key faces of network sports coverage for multiple decades. Joe Buck has been the lead voice for Fox’s MLB coverage since the mid-90’s. Jim Nantz has been doing the NCAA Tournament and the Masters for CBS for about 30 years each. Bob Costas has been the face of NBC Sports since before most of our readers were born. And of course Al Michaels has been ever-present on NBC and ABC calling some of the biggest games and events in sports going all the way back to the Miracle on Ice in 1980 and beyond.

This longevity amongst the elite play by play voices makes the situation at ESPN all the more unique. The network has seen (and continues to see) a remarkable amount of turnover at the play by play position for the biggest sports they cover. Here’s a sampling:

College Football

This week ESPN released their lineup of college football announcers. Just take a look at the list of commentators from 2013 and you’ll see just how different it is. In fact, you could argue that the top four play by play announcers calling college football for ESPN are no longer doing so. Brent Musburger retired, Brad Nessler moved to CBS to take over for Verne Lundquist calling the SEC, Sean McDonough went to Monday Night Football (more on that in a minute), and Rece Davis replaced Chris Fowler on College GameDay a year after Fowler replaced Musburger.

Whew.

It’s been almost a generational shift for ESPN’s college football coverage. And what it’s done is create opportunities for the next wave of play by play announcers to become household names. Dave Pasch and Joe Tessitore are two names that come to mind as moving up the ladder at ESPN and calling big games every week. Tessitore even drew a Gus Johnson-like reputation for calling close games and has earned a spot calling one of the playoff semifinals.

Even further down the list though, there are names like Adam Amin, Anish Shroff, Bob Wischusen, Jason Benetti, and Dave Flemming who have taken on roles of increased significance in the last couple years and could definitely be names to watch for the future.

NBA/NFL (The Tirico Effect)

One of the most surprising moves in recent years was Mike Tirico leaving ESPN after over 20 years of service in Bristol to move to NBC Sports and become the heir apparent for Al Michaels and Bob Costas. Tirico was not only the lead announcer for Monday Night Football, but also the network’s #2 voice for the NBA. As mentioned previously, Sean McDonough moved up from the network’s NCAA coverage to become their lead NFL voice and partner with Jon Gruden. On the NBA side, Mark Jones, Dave Pasch, and Ryan Ruocco have all seen increased visibility at the play by play slot.

Tirico had been announcing MNF on ESPN for so long that he was there way back in the Tony Kornheiser days. (Yes, that was a thing that happened for all you younger readers out there.) And although it’s only one game a year, ESPN also made the high-profile move to replace Chris Berman with Beth Mowins for the season opening MNF doubleheader.

On the NBA side, Mike Breen has adeptly handled the lead announcing role for the NBA on ESPN for several years, but Tirico’s departure definitely opened the door for others at the network in varying phases of their careers like the longtime veteran Jones and newcomer Ruocco.

MLB

The turnover isn’t over yet. After this season, Dan Shulman will exit the Sunday Night Baseball broadcast booth and leave ESPN in search of a new voice for their premier MLB weekly series. Shulman will still do a full season of NCAA basketball coverage where he’s also the network’s lead announcer alongside Jay Bilas. Who replaces Shulman on ESPN’s MLB coverage will be one of the major questions for ESPN heading into 2018 and it will be another great opportunity for someone new. Perhaps it’ll be someone who has called MLB games on ESPN and has a track record with fans, or maybe it will be someone completely unexpected making a transition at the network. Just as long as it’s not Stephen A. Smith we’ll be ok.

Looking at all these moves, it’s usually the case that a network has a major decision like this to make maybe once every few years where a top announcer has to be replaced. And yet, in what is arguably the four biggest properties that ESPN broadcasts, they’ve had to make changes thanks to retirements and announcers leaving for greener pastures. Which names will we put alongside Musburger, Tirico, Nessler, Shulman, and others in 10 years as this new generation of ESPN play by play announcers comes to the forefront?

About Matt Yoder

Award winning sportswriter at The Comeback and Awful Announcing. The biggest cat in the whole wide world.

  • Dale Moog

    Folwer had been with ESPN for close to twenty years and was already calling Thursday night games and Bowl games so this was not a newcomer he had done Game Day from its start. and McDonough had been with ESPN for 15 years after years with CBS. He called the MLB NFL and College basketball and Football for CBS then did NHL MLB and college football and Basketball for ABC and ESPN as well as Golf. Not exactly a newbie he has been around since the 1980’s I would also say Jones is not new to ESPN he was the number 3 NBA guy for years he also called College basketball and Football for ABC and ESPN since the 1990’s not exactly a newbie either. I will give you credit for Rucco, pash, Davis and Joe Tess even though Joe has been at ESPN for almost 20 years he did Boxing and Horse racing early so no one knew who he was. Mowins is also a new face even though she has been calling EVERY sport at the network for close to 20 years.

    • Matt Galvin

      Fowler did College Basketball before. I say they use one of MLB Network guys or higher a former guy who does regional coverage.

  • Walt_Gekko

    For baseball, I would go a route that might bring more female viewers to Sunday Night Baseball: Move Aaron Boone to another night and replace Shulman with Beth Mowins, making for an all-female booth with Jessica Mendoza (they have worked together for years on women’s softball). Having an all-woman booth on what is the real “Game of the Week” for MLB would probably bring more notoriety and attract many more casual fans just because it would be two women calling most of the games.

    • Johnny America

      Would be god awful and would get no ratings. I love the ideas of precious little snowlakes like yourself!

      • Walt_Gekko

        YOU may not like it, but some of us know that having female announcers who actually know what they are talking about can and will bring female viewers over.

        • Johnny America

          No most of us turn the channel now because they have one female know it all on there. SNB ratings are in the trash can. So instead of fixing this and firing the woman the snowflakes would like us to think the solution is to add more women. What a disaster! Shes almost as bad as Doris Burke is with bball coverage but nobody can be quite that bad!

        • Royberto

          And lose the male audienc? IT doesna’t matter how many females you bring over to watch if you lose a ton of your main audience.

          • Walt_Gekko

            Do you REALLY think men would not watch a baseball game because it has female announcers? I suspect many would watch anyway, but advertisers would love it because female viewers are often more valuable to them.

          • Royberto

            Actually, yes. Many men already have a problem with female play by play announcers on mens games. AN all female commentary team would make them tune out completely. Advertisers target the male 18-49 demo with sports. Doing something that alienates that would not make the advertisers happy.

          • Walt_Gekko

            My experiences tell me otherwise. Men will watch anyway, women are more likely to watch with women working the games.

          • Johnny America

            This is a historically bad idea. Everyone has told you that. IF you made an all female announce team the already terrible ratings for SNB would further go into the trash can. If you REALLY believe this will help you aren’t trolling you have to be the most precious little snowflake I’ve met on the Internet yet. If you don’t understand far more people will turn off SNB because of the announce change than those who will watch it because of it then you are beyond help. Just take your L and move on.

          • blakecpa

            Yes, Walt, we WILL turn off the TV when a horrible female announcer is thrust upon us. I absolutely refuse to watch a game the minute I hear Beth Mowins’ abhorrent voice calling it. Seriously. She has ruined Big-10 morning viewing for me. I literally turn off the game. I’m willing to bet I’m not alone on this.

        • blakecpa

          Walt, with all due respect, you are completely wrong. No woman is going to start liking MLB because they hear some chick calling the game. Should we start having All My Children run more truck and pizza ads to increase the male viewership of soap operas? Come on, man….

    • Shawn Diiorio

      has Mowins even done an MLB game? I don’t think it would work, I don’t see her voice meshing with Boone and Mendoza. My guess is we end up getting Karl Ravech, Adnan Virk or Jon Sciambi in that spot.

      • Walt_Gekko

        Mowins has worked with Mendoza on women’s softball (including the Women’s College World Series) for I believe a decade now. They have developed a good chemistry there that I think could carry over to SNB.

        My idea was actually for an all-female booth of Mowins and Mendoza with Boone moved to say Monday nights.

        • Shawn Diiorio

          I highly doubt that’s going to happen. Sorry, but I don’t think Mowins is strong enough to be a lead announcer. And I guarantee sexist males, which is most of baseball’s demo at this point, is going to turn off the tv.

        • Keurig Jones

          Click!!

    • blakecpa

      This would be a great way to completely wreck the ratings for Sunday Night Baseball. What in the hell would Beth Mowins know about Major League Baseball? I don’t seem to remember her MLB playing career, or any woman having played in that league. For the love of God, let’s focus on logic instead of being PC. Put baseball people on baseball games. On another note: listening to Beth Mowins broadcast ANYTHING is enough to make someone want to light themselves on fire. I was actually hoping she’d be one of the hundreds at ESPN to get fired.

    • Morrill Turpitude

      You’re nuts. Beth Mowins is barely competent at calling college football. The best that can be said about her is she is not as bad at it as Pam Ward. And Jessica Mendoza does not belong in a baseball booth. Most of what she says sounds like it is being spoonfed to her from the truck. Baseball absolutely requires more knowledge of the intricacies of the sport and its history from a broadcaster than any other sport. Neither Mowins nor Mendoza show any evidence of it. Playing softball does not mean you know baseball.

    • Keurig Jones

      ESPN baseball is so over managed it makes no difference who announces the games. Men and women have turned off the broadcasts!

  • Keith P.

    On the Sunday Night Baseball PxP vacancy, any of their existing baseball PxP voices would be fine except for Karl Ravech. Personally I prefer Jon Sciambi.

  • Brent Garrison

    I vote for Dave Flemming.

  • BobLee Says

    Unless someone is REALLY obnoxious (Vitale) I have no clue who is “doing the game”. I’ve no clue who 90% of those names mentioned in this article are…. Change all their names to “Robert Lee”. That would be fun.