The 2013 college football season begins today and what better way to mark the occasion than with the Ultimate College Football Broadcaster Draft. If you've been longtime AA followers, you may recall the NFL version that appeared at this site and the college basketball version at Sports Illustrated.
Returning for the college football edition are Richard Deitsch of Sports Illustrated and John Ourand of Sports Business Journal. Our third draftee is esteemed college football blogger and AA contributor Allen Kenney. And rounding out the lineup is me, because I need the money and nobody will pay for my autographs.
Once again, this draft lasted nine rounds and each of us were tasked with filling the following positions to create our own college football network empire:
2 Announce teams (Play by Play, Game Analyst)
1 Studio Host
2 Studio Analysts
1 Wild Card
Without further ado, roll fantasy draft…
1) Ourand: Chris Fowler, ESPN, studio host
With so many games on TV, the best way to stand out is with a pre- or post-game show. College GameDay is the best show covering college sports today, and Fowler is the best anchor. This is the easiest pick of the draft.
2) Deitsch: Kirk Herbstreit, ESPN, game analyst
Luck or RGIII? Fowler and Herbstreit were going 1-2 in this draft in some order and with the GameDay host going first overall, this was an easy selection. Herbstreit is versatile enough to excel in either the studio or game format, and he'll do both for my network.
3) Kenney: Rece Davis, ESPN, studio host
I was hoping to get either Davis or Fowler, because the gulf between these two and the remaining studio hosts is huge. Davis has the misfortune of being paired with the clownish duo of Mark May and Lou Holtz on ESPN's wrap-up show, which means I generally don't see that much of him on Saturdays. There has to be a better way to utilize his considerable talents.
4) Yoder: Mark May, ESPN, studio analyst
No wait, that's a joke…
4) Yoder: Gus Johnson, Fox, play by play
My lead play by play man was an excruciating pick, but I went with Gus over Brent Musburger & Verne Lundquist. I don't know how much longer I'll have some of those other top names so I'm looking both short and long term with this pick. Gus has received much more hype for his college basketball and soccer work (for better and worse) but his enthusiasm and style is a great fit for college football.
5) Yoder: Todd Blackledge, ESPN, game analyst
Blackledge may be the single most underrated game analyst in not just college football, but in all of sports. He gets lost in the shuffle of the big personalities at ESPN, but he's the steady hand I want alongside Gus Johnson to form my top broadcast team.
6) Kenney: Mike Mayock, NBC, game analyst
I prefer a game-watching experience with minimal shtick, and Mayock is as shtick-less as you get for an analyst. I consider him the best color commentator going right now based not only on his insight into the game, but his economy of language and ability to give informed analysis quickly without stepping on the in-game action. He's the anti-Phil Simms.
7) Deitsch: Scott Van Pelt, ESPN, studio host
The studio host in college football is a vital hire for any network given the tonnage of games, conferences, players, and the muck that the sport always produces. With Fowler and Davis gone, I need someone I can count on who is ego-free enough to set up analysts and thoughtful enough to offer viewers smart takes. I know have that.
8) Ourand: David Pollack, ESPN, studio analyst
There’s not a lot of depth for studio analysts for college football. Pollack is someone who flies under the radar, but that should end soon. If he were as enterprising as Herbstreit, he’d be the next Herbstreit.
9) Ourand: Desmond Howard, ESPN, studio analyst
On a crowded GameDay set, he’s effectively carved out his own identity and delivers on-point analysis with personality.
10) Deitsch: Brent Musburger, ESPN, play by play
Had I not selected Herbstreit, Sean McDonough would be the pick here. But chemistry isn't easy to capture in a booth and Herbstreit-Musburger already have it. I also like having a team with national championship experience.
11) Kenney: Brad Nessler, ESPN, play by play
I was tempted to go with the sentimental play-by-play choice in Verne Lundquist for my No. 1 booth team, but watching Mayock have a coronary as Lundquist tries to pronounce "Cyrus Kouandjio" makes for bad TV. Nessler is the consummate pro, and I suspect his chemistry with my lead analyst would be just right.
12) Yoder: Charles Davis, Fox, studio analyst
John is right that the studio analyst category is the weakest on the depth chart, although it's not quite as bad as Maryland's QB situation last year. I'm placing Fox's lead game analyst in the studio, where he's done great work at the draft for NFL Network. He checks all the right boxes for a studio analyst – affable, smart, and opinionated.
13) Yoder: Sam Ponder, ESPN, reporter
After losing out on the run of studio hosts, I'm making my move for the best of the sideline reporters, ESPN's Samantha Ponder. She's brought her own personality and likability to one of the most challenging positions in sports. More importantly – she's really good on the sidelines, doing features, or even hosting.
14) Kenney: Joel Klatt, Fox Sports 1, studio analyst
As a Big 12 fan, I can understand why Fox has moved Klatt up the ranks so quickly. He did color commentary for Fox's regional networks for a few years before getting called up to The Show, and I always thought he projected a good combination of being both personable and intelligent. I'm putting him in the studio with Davis.
15) Deitsch: Sean McDonough, ESPN, play by play
A no-brainer here. Always professional.
16) Ourand: Verne Lundquist, CBS, play by play
Verne is the modern day Keith Jackson of college football. He calls a good game, interacts well with his analysts and never tries to become bigger than the game. I’m happy to have him.
17) Ourand: Paul Finebaum, ESPN, wild card
The SEC is the top college football conference. Nobody knows it better than Finebaum. He is versatile. I can put him in the studio, in the broadcast booth or on the sideline. His profile will grow with the coming launch of SEC Network. But I’m calling him up now.
18) Deitsch: Rod Gilmore, ESPN, studio analyst
I was looking for someone with a law degree from Cal and an English degree from Stanford. Voila, Gilmore is my guy. He'll be good with Van Pelt in the studio. (By the way, Ourand is drinking some serious Alabama moonshine if he thinks Finebaum is getting assigned to the booth or the sidelines.)
19) Kenney: Kevin Carter, ESPNU, studio analyst
My gamble that Lundquist would still be there in this round didn't pay off. I was sure Uncle Verne was too colloquial for Deitsch and not Hollywood enough for Ourand – partial credit. I'll take another up-and-comer for my fifth pick in Carter. The Worldwide Leader seems to have him relegated to its backwaters, but I doubt he'll be toiling in obscurity for too long. Carter's bright and articulate and should be in line for bigger things pretty soon.
20) Yoder: Joe Tessitore, ESPN, play by play
How could I pass on the opportunity to have the Tessitore Effect and the Gus Effect under one roof? With these two as my play by play announcers I'm guaranteed to have the most exciting games every single week, while successfully shutting out my competitors. Enjoy those Alabama-Kentucky blowouts, fellas.
21) Yoder: Chris Spielman, ESPN, game analyst
As far as my second game analyst goes, I love what the former Buckeye linebacker brings to the table in the broadcast booth. Spielman delivers a natural fire to the role, is good at breaking down X's and O's, and isn't afraid to be critical. His chemistry with Tess should be just as good as it is with Sean McDonough, who I was hoping to land like everyone else it seems.
22) Kenney: Rick Neuheisel, Pac 12 Networks, game analyst
Even when he was still coaching, Pistol Rick came off as a natural on TV. A big plus with having Neuheisel in the mix is that he'd bring a West Coast background to my team. That viewpoint tends to get lost amid the deluge of SEC and Big Ten personalities that seem to dominate college football punditry today.
23) Deitsch: Gary Danielson, CBS, game analyst
Relax, SEC fan. I know how you feel about Gary D: He hates your team, no matter your team. And, yes, Big 10 fan, you relax too. I know how you feel: He's a shill for the SEC, no matter the team. Here's the deal: I want an experienced analyst with SEC bona fides who does the prep. Danielson is it.
24) Ourand: Jesse Palmer, ESPN, game analyst
This selection should bring in the casual fan, right? Palmer, who moves easily between the booth and the studio, calls games the way I like: understated and smart.
25) Ourand: Mike Bellotti, ESPN, game analyst
The former Oregon coach doesn’t kill viewers with coach-speak. He gives smart, cogent analysis and would be great paired with Verne.
26) Deitsch: Tom Rinaldi, ESPN, reporter
The enabling of coaches by sideline reporters is extraordinarily high in college sports. With Rinaldi, I'll get a minimum of this. I'll also get an actual reporter and not a sideline personality. The added bonus is he's a gifted writer and guaranteed to do at least one piece a season that makes you cry.
27) Kenney: Mark Jones, ESPN, play by play
Is Jones a great play-by-play announcer? No, but he's really not that bad. That's better than you can say for the majority of his counterparts.
28) Yoder: Archie Manning, CBS, studio analyst
The Manning family patriarch makes occasional appearances on CBS for SEC coverage, but I've always wondered why he's not used more. He's comfortable in front of the camera and brings a sense of gravitas and football knowledge to the set. And if I ever need to shoot some comedic promo spots, he's my man.
29) Yoder: Wright Thompson, ESPN, wild card
One of the best sportswriters going has had a hot streak this summer with fascinating stories on Johnny Manziel, Dan Gable, and Italian soccer. He's much more than a writer though, see his fabulous documentary 30 for 30 The Ghosts of Ole Miss, and has a lot to offer in front of the camera. In building my college football coverage, Thompson is a huge asset because of his uniqueness. From his look to his perspective to his storytelling, he can bring a distinguishing dimension to my network's college football coverage.
30) Kenney: Chris Brown, Smart Football, wild card
Honestly, I'd like a whole team of wildcard picks. For example, imagine a studio show with Bill Connelly, Bomani Jones, Spencer Hall, Barry Switzer and Michael Felder. I'd take that over GameDay in a heartbeat. But I digress. Brown skillfully walks the line between doing football analysis with an academic bent and not condescending to his audience. I feel like I learn far more from his work than anything I take away from the typical TV spot.
31) Deitsch: Brad Edwards, ESPN, studio analyst
Anyone who listens to ESPN Radio's coverage of college football knows how sharp Edwards is when it comes to the sport. He's been a go-to voice on the BCS Rankings with his background in research. For the Deitsch Network, he gets on the main studio team with Van Pelt and Gilmore.
32) Ourand: Tracy Wolfson, CBS, sideline reporter
I’ve never seen Wolfson ask anything but good, timely, coherent questions. What more do you want from a sideline reporter?
33) Ourand: Tim Brant, Raycom, play by play, Raycom
My team needs some Terp karma, and this Maryland graduate has been a quality broadcaster for years, even if he’s stayed under the national radar with his focus on ACC football.
34) Deitsch: Kelly Naqi, ESPN, wild card
We will cover all the pageantry, the great plays and players but if we want to be taken seriously as a network, we must cover the muck of college football as well. My wildcard selection is Naqi, a journalist with stones who never fails to impress with her reporting on camera and off.
35) Kenney: Jeannine Edwards, ESPN, reporter
The sideline reporters all blur together for me. This is a name that I remember, so that must count for something.
36) Yoder: Liam McHugh, NBC, studio host
After the early run on studio hosts, I was able to wait for Liam McHugh to be our Mr. Irrelevant. McHugh may not have the name recognition of Fowler, SVP or Davis, but he's quickly becoming one of NBC's top personalities already hosting the Stanley Cup Final and Olympics. He's everything I want in a studio host – quick and witty enough to carry on an interesting conversation and smart enough to know when to back away and let the analysts do their thing.
Overview: With such a glut of college football games on television, networks have two main ways to stand out. Through the on-field games or through studio programming. We didn’t draft conferences. So I focused my draft on the studio show, and I think I ended up with the best of the bunch. Fowler’s the best by far; Pollack and Howard are two of the best studio analysts; and Finebaum brings a built-in audience. My announcing crews are understated and allow the players to be the stars. I’m particularly happy that I could get Lundquist in the fourth round. When you hear his voice, you know it’s a big game.
Booth #1: Verne Lundquist & Mike Bellotti
Reporter: Tracy Wolfson
Booth #2: Tim Brant & Jesse Palmer
Studio: Chris Fowler, David Pollack & Desmond Howard
Wild Card: Paul Finebaum
Overview: Be a pro. Treat viewers like adults. Have fun. These are the precepts of our broadcasting company and I have no doubt the men and women selected to work for DBC will fulfill our charter with aplomb.
Booth #1: Brent Musburger & Kirk Herbstreit
Reporter: Tom Rinaldi
Booth #2: Sean McDonough & Gary Danielson
Studio: Scott Van Pelt, Rod Gilmore & Brad Edwards
Wild Card: Kelly Naqi
Overview: I approached this draft as a dedicated college football fan whose picks may not be what you'd sell to a broader audience. Honestly, I find most of the popular college football TV options out there now pretty uninspiring. GameDay, for instance, is too much Tom Rinaldi and Kenny Chesney and not enough Desmond Howard and David Pollack. The crew I've assembled lacks pizzazz – I can't imagine you'll ever see Mike Mayock shooting off guns on the set or Kevin Carter putting together a "boob draft." Even so, I do think that my team of announcers would at least boost viewers' knowledge about the game on the field, rather than getting bogged down in so many of the sideshows.
Booth #1: Brad Nessler & Mike Mayock
Reporter: Jeannine Edwards
Booth #2: Mark Jones & Rick Neuheisel
Studio: Rece Davis, Joel Klatt & Kevin Carter
Wild Card: Chris Brown
Overview: Let's be honest, to be a college football fan in 2013 you have to suspend disbelief. To truly embrace and enjoy college football, you have to overlook the sport's inherent troubles and conflicts. With that in mind, I wanted a broadcast team that could bring to life those reasons why we love college football so much – the tradition, excitement, and cultural significance – while also carrying enough credibility to be introspective when the time calls for it.
Booth #1: Gus Johnson & Todd Blackledge
Reporter: Sam Ponder
Booth #2: Joe Tessitore & Chris Spielman
Studio: Liam McHugh, Charles Davis & Archie Manning
Wild Card: Wright Thompson