Veteran announcer Verne Lundquist’s upcoming 17th season as the play-by-play voice of the SEC on CBS will be his last. CBS announced Tuesday that after the 2016 season, Lundquist will be handing over the reins to Brad Nessler, who’s rejoining CBS now after a 24-year career at ESPN. This fits in with what Fox’s Clay Travis tweeted in April:
Told Brad Nessler will leave ESPN and do NFL for CBS, until he takes over SEC for Uncle Verne.
— Clay Travis (@ClayTravis) April 25, 2016
The rest of the SEC on CBS on-air team will remain the same in 2017, with Nessler joining analyst Gary Danielson and reporter Allie LaForce. Nessler will also call select SEC games this season in weeks where CBS has two games, and he’ll call the 2016 Sun Bowl and select college basketball games. CBS’ NFL team for 2016 hasn’t yet been announced, so it’s not clear if Nessler will have a role there as well, but he certainly has plenty of broadcasting experience. He even worked for CBS for a couple of years beginning in 1990, doing college football, men’s and women’s college basketball, the NFL and Olympic speed skating before joining ESPN in 1992. He’s been with ESPN and ABC since then, focusing on college football and basketball, and also did Thursday Night Football play-by-play for the NFL Network from 2011-13. Here’s what CBS Sports chairman Sean McManus, Lundquist and Nessler each had to say in the release:
“Verne has set the standard for college football broadcasting,” said McManus. “Together with Gary Danielson he has played a key role in making the SEC ON CBS the highest-rated college football package in America. After an incredible 17 years, he will be handing the reigns off to Brad, who in his own right is highly acclaimed and respected as one of the premier play-by-play broadcasters in the business. I am very pleased that Verne will still have a prominent role in our college basketball and major championship golf coverage. We are fortunate to have one more football season to appreciate Verne’s one-of-a-kind storytelling as we pave the way for a seamless and smooth transition to Brad.”
“Being a part of the SEC ON CBS since 2000 has been the most significant assignment I’ve been given in my more than five decades in this business,” said Lundquist. “Now, it’s time to step back and take in the aroma of those tulips, those roses, and those daffodils that friends have been telling me about for years. In 2017, I’ll happily step aside from college football and welcome Brad to the booth. I’ve known Brad for more than 30 years and have always admired his work ethic and his on-air presence. He shares the same passion for college football that I do. The SEC ON CBS is in great hands. Brad and Gary will form a great partnership in the years ahead.”
“Verne has been a friend for over 30 years and someone I’ve always looked up to in this business,” said Nessler. “I’m not replacing him as it would be impossible to replace Verne. I am truly honored to carry on where he leaves off and work to maintain the standard of excellence he has set calling the SEC ON CBS. I am excited to rejoin the CBS Sports team this season and look forward to working alongside Gary again in 2017.”
The 75-year-old Lundquist has been the lead voice of the SEC on CBS since 2000 and has spent 53 years in television. He’ll continue doing regular-season college basketball, the NCAA Tournament and golf for CBS in 2017. There definitely will be plenty of people who miss Lundquist’s announcing, but CBS is getting a proven replacement here, and one with substantial college football experience. They’re also securing their future: Nessler is 59, so he should be set to handle SEC on CBS duties for the foreseeable future (the SEC-CBS contract runs through 2023-24), and his versatility and experience with college football, college basketball and the NFL in particular should make him a great fit for the rights CBS has.
This is another big play-by-play loss for ESPN, though, following the move Monday Night Football announcer Mike Tirico made to NBC last month. Nessler played a large role on their college football coverage, including calling one of the College Football Playoff semifinals this year, and he won’t be easy to replace. It’s also notable that ESPN college football is down two of their main play-by-play voices, as Sean McDonough will be replacing Tirico on the NFL side. It will be interesting to see how they fill those holes.