Awful Announcing has learned that Chris Fallica, affectionately known as “The Bear”, will soon be leaving ESPN and headed to Fox. It is believed this Saturday will be his final appearance on College GameDay where there may be a sendoff for the long-time ESPN employee.
It’s believed that Fallica will be joining Big Noon Kickoff, Fox’s College GameDay competitor, which would be the second notable name to make the ESPN and Gameday switch over to Fox and Big Noon Kickoff (the other being Tom Rinaldi).
Big Noon Kickoff has been a growing priority for Fox as the four-year-old show has joined GameDay as a traveling circus for college football fans.
Unlike its ESPN competitor, BNK only travels to campuses of games they are broadcasting, and almost exclusively games they air at noon, which sometimes dilutes the “Big” part of Big Noon Kickoff. Case in point, this past year the show traveled to four games showcasing Indiana or Iowa playing. The average margin of victory in those games was 30 points, but even with some of these lackluster locations in terms of game quality, ratings were unaffected.
As noted by Fox’s Executive Vice President of Strategy and Analytics, Mike Mulvihill, both shows saw audience growth compared to last year. Depending on who you talk to GameDay vs. Big Noon Kickoff (and really by extension both networks’ college football coverage as a whole) has become a source of rivalry between the two networks, or at the very least has all the makings to become one.
Have to also say congrats to the crew @CollegeGameDay on another season of growth. It has to be a good thing for CFB that over 4m people now routinely watch FOX+ESPN pre-games from 11a-kickoff. Wasn't that long ago that 4m weren't watching the Noon *games* let alone pregames.
— Michael Mulvihill (@mulvihill79) November 30, 2022
Fallica also does the popular podcast Stanford Steve and the Bear which focuses on college football and sports betting. In some earlier episodes this year, Stanford Steve made some critical comments about the quality of Fox’s college football coverage and the quality of games Big Noon/Big Noon Kickoff goes to (a fair criticism that we hear often). Fallica generally didn’t comment or entertain those thoughts, which now makes a lot more sense.
Fallica’s new role at FOX beyond Big Noon Kickoff is believed to be focused on sports betting. Fox was quick to jump into sports betting content with the show Lock It In, which was later rebranded to Fox Bet Live. However, that show was throttled down in terms of the number of episodes in 2021 and not picked up in 2022. It will be interesting to see what Fox has in mind for Fallica as he’s shown himself as a valuable content creator spanning podcasts, television, and writing.
ESPN had no comment for this article. We’re told GameDay is a pretty tight-knit group and saddened to hear about Fallica’s departure as he’s been with the network since 1995. One source to AA said “Chris is great to work with and he makes the shows better. It’s definitely a loss that will be felt.”
I’ve been working on an article looking at the strategies and challenges ahead for Big Noon Kickoff and GameDay, similar to the one below I did a few years ago. Since that article, Big Noon Kickoff has certainly only scaled up its ambitions by matching GameDay as a traveling show, adding Rinaldi and now Fallica.
Pulling Fallica into the fold and away from ESPN is undoubtedly a smart move and one that only further adds intrigue to college football pregame show rivalry between the two networks going forward.