ESPN analyst Rece Davis during the FedEx Orange Bowl National Championship at Pro Player Stadium in Miami, Florida on January 4, 2005. (Photo by A. Messerschmidt/Getty Images)

Late last night the news broke that Rece Davis would be replacing Chris Fowler on College GameDay.  Fowler became the #1 college football play by play man for ESPN this year and pulled off the impressive double duty of hosting GameDay in the morning and calling the ABC primetime game at night.

Fowler signed a new mega-contract with ESPN last year through 2023 (to the tune of a reported $35 million) that gave him everything he could ever want.  Now it’s Davis’ turn.  Shortly after the news broke about Davis hosting GameDay, the network announced a new contract extension through 2021 for the venerable studio host.

ESPN veteran host and play-by-play caller, Rece Davis, has signed a multi-year agreement with ESPN through 2021 that includes taking over full-time hosting duties from Chris Fowler for the network’s popular College GameDay Built by The Home Depot in 2015. In addition, he will continue to host ESPN’s College GameDay Covered by State Farm basketball road show. Davis will relinquish his role in the Thursday night ESPN College Football Primetime booth but call select bowl games and retain his weekly play-by-play duties for college basketball.

John Wildhack, ESPN executive vice president, programming and production, said, “This agreement reflects our belief that Rece Davis is one of the very best in the industry. He’s established himself as a versatile and polished pro. Chris Fowler was instrumental in building College GameDay into an award-winning and iconic program that transcends sports with its excellence, relevance and influence on the public discourse. With Rece on board, we know College GameDay will remain the show of record for college football fans.”

Davis, who has been with ESPN since 1995, will increase his overall presence for the network’s College Football Playoff studio coverage again hosting the Tuesday night rankings show, the Sunday selection show and anchor coverage on-site at the College Football Playoff semifinals and national championship. Also, he will continue to serve as lead host of the network’s Men’s Final Four coverage.

Most importantly in all of this – he’s finally free of Lou Holtz and Mark May!  I think that’s worthy of celebration.

Davis’ re-signing ends one of the more intriguing games of musical chairs in sports media.  ESPN was faced with both of their main college sports studio hosts needing new contracts – Fowler and Davis.  To keep Fowler, the network basically gave him everything he would ever want.  Not only would they cast Brent Musburger aside to SEC Network and give him the top play by play gig, they’d allow him to continue to host GameDay.  That setup appeared to leave Davis out in the cold.

But with Fowler agreeing to step aside and Davis being elevated to the host of College GameDay, this is the scenario that has always made the most sense for all parties involved.  GameDay is either #1 or #1A as far as the best and most popular studio shows in sports (along with Inside the NBA) and is the premier role that Davis has deserved for a long time after sitting behind Fowler in the host rotation.

Davis will be great on the football version of College GameDay and the show theoretically shouldn’t miss a beat.  And even though there’s still a sentimental wish to see Brent Musburger rescued from the SEC Network wilderness, Fowler really shined in the play by play role during the College Football Playoff.  After a season where he really didn’t do enough to win over skeptics or fans of Musburger, it was a different story during the playoff.   It really felt like Fowler owned the football play by play role for the first time in January and his energy and enthusiasm during the championship game especially stepped up to the plate in a big way.

In the end, ESPN couldn’t be happier with how this entire scenario worked out in being able to promote from within and keep two of their most respected, long-time employees on board for the long term.

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