One of the biggest media storylines of this fall will be Chris Fowler replacing Brent Musburger in the top college football booth at ESPN.  Musburger had capably taken over from Keith Jackson as the “voice of college football” over the last decade and is still at the top of his game.  Because of Fowler’s contract situation and his well-known desire to be ESPN’s top game-caller, Musburger was unceremoniously demoted to SEC Network to make room.

Make no mistake, there’s a lot of pressure on Fowler to deliver in this new role given his predecessor is a legendary figure still working within the same corporate umbrella.  His partnership with Kirk Herbstriet will be closely-watched throughout the season as fans see whether he can step into the role as college football’s lead announcer.  Fowler is one of the best and most versatile talents in the industry.  He’s an institution as the studio host of College GameDay and his work calling major championship tennis has been outstanding.  But filling Musburger’s shoes is another challenge.

In an interview with NewsDay, Fowler says he’s not going to try to replicate Big Game Brent.  Instead, he’s going to bring some of his tennis announcing style to college football:

“I’ve had good training for this,” Fowler said. “Tennis makes you do five-, six-hour matches sometimes and you call matches in the afternoon and call another long one at night. So I feel like I will be able to do that with no problem. Time management during the week is a challenge, but I’ll sort that out.

“I’ll be able to pick my head up after about two weeks combining the U.S. Open and these two football responsibilities and once I get a breath the rest of it will seem pretty easy.”

Fowler figures to be a more laid-back announcing presence than was his famously enthusiastic predecessor.

“I don’t put a lot of thought into trying to cultivate a style,” he said. “I would say our booth will sound very conversational, comfortable. I try not to sound announcer-y. I don’t try to make it about me or catch phrases. I just try to document the action, stay out of the way when you’ve got good drama and entertain people if the drama on the field is flagging a little bit.

“I think it will sound like two guys who are very, very passionate and enthused about it and hopefully are describing really exciting games and staying out of the way when the action on the field commands your attention.”

This window into Fowler’s announcing style is thought-provoking as we look to the future.  In his tenure as a Thursday night football play by play man, Fowler was steady and solid… but not really spectacular.  Fowler isn’t going to be the type of announcer to deliver a seminal “Holy Buckeye” call.  He also isn’t going to make sly references to gambling lines or ogle women in the stands.

A more comfortable “out of the way” style might work for golf or tennis or other sports, but will it work for college football?

College football, perhaps more than any other sport, invokes passion.  That’s why Brent Musburger was the perfect marriage for the sport.  From his signature lead-in to his greatest calls Musburger always channeled the natural passion and pageantry within the sport.  Can Chris Fowler and his self-described conversational style do the same and resonate with college football fans?

[NewsDay]

About Matt Yoder

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

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