If Brent Musberger Leaves for SEC Network, Who Should Replace Him at ESPN?
ESPN's college football coverage could undergo a major talent shakeup for next season.
Namely, play-by-play broadcaster Brent Musburger could move from Saturday Night Football to the lead college football announcer for ESPN's upcoming SEC Network. The current contract for Musburger, 74, will end later this year, according to Sports Illustrated's Richard Deitsch. In any case, Deitsch indicates that Musburger's future with Saturday Night Football is coming to a close:
As first reported by James Andrew Miller, Musburger has been offered the job of lead college football announcer for the upcoming SEC Network, which debuts at the end of August. It is unclear whether Musburger will take that offer, as some sources I spoke with noted he is unhappy with how the process is shaking out. What seems clear is that Musburger is being pulled from the lead announcer spot for ABC's Saturday Night Football, which is ESPN's top game each week.
ESPN has a number of directions it can go from there. When it comes to college football coverage, there's no shortage of talent for the World Wide Leader.
Not everything is so cut-and-dry, however; moving one broadcaster could result in a domino effect of talent moving around. With that said, here are some potential replacements for Musburger if/when a change comes to fruition.
In many ways, Chris Fowler feels like a no-brainer to succeed Musburger.
If Fowler isn't already the face of ESPN's college football coverage, he's quickly approaching that status. Every Saturday, Fowler leads ESPN's College GameDay, one of the best pregame sports shows anywhere. Though he's known for his work on-set, Fowler used to call college football's Thursday games until 2009. He also covers tennis for ESPN.
Deitsch reports in his latest SI media column that, like Musburger, Fowler's contract expires later this year. In an interview with SI last August, Fowler made it clear that he still has a love for play-by-play.
"I really have a passion to document live events as they happen. Hosting is wonderful and remains really satisfying but the joy for me is calling big matches."
Saturday Night Football would certainly fit that description. And if ESPN wants to keep Fowler, they may have to give him what he wants.
However, Deitsch also writes that that ESPN brass may not want Fowler doing GameDay and Saturday Night Football on the same day.
There are a couple of catches: Some in ESPN management do not want Fowler to host both GameDay and call a college football game the same night. Herbstreit performs the double as an analyst, but Fowler's responsibility on GameDay are much more demanding than Herbstreit's.
A lot would have to happen to make it work, but Fowler would have to be in the discussion.
Rece Davis is a lot like Fowler in that he does on-set work—he holds down the fort in studio every Saturday with Lou Holtz and Mark May—and play-by-play (Thursday Night Football).
Also like Fowler, Davis is a natural in the booth. Getting him out of the ESPN studio may be simpler than juggling Fowler and GameDay.
The other possibility for Davis, according to both Deitsch and Jason McIntyre of The Big Lead, is that he moves to GameDay while Fowler slides into Saturday Night Football.
It would appear that all signs point to Fowler and Davis being a 1A/1B option of sorts.
Nessler is a longtime play-by-play announcer with ABC/ESPN, and more recently, the NFL Network. He also has past experience at CBS.
Nessler is great at what he does, yet he was interestingly absent from Deitsch's media column on potential replacements for Musburger. There's nothing preventing him contractually or logistically from succeeding Musburger; rather, Nessler's simply not as high on the short list as Davis or Fowler.
If any of the aforementioned options fall through, however, Nessler seems like a natural replacement.
Sean McDonough has worn a ton of hats for ESPN, calling everything from college basketball to baseball and golf. During college football season, he occupies the Saturday afternoon ABC college football with Chris Spielman.
Like Nessler, McDonough is probably further down the list of candidates to replace Musburger. Still, he's a solid play-by-play broadcaster who has developed great chemistry with Spielman.
McDonough gained additional press in 2012 when he underwent surgery for superior canal dehiscence syndrome. Literally speaking, McDonough had a hole in his head. "When I'm in a real quiet place, I can hear my eyeballs move," McDonough told the USA Today.
McDonough has since returned from surgery and is better than ever.