WEEKLY MEDIA COLUMN
Expect to see a bunch of changes in television coverage of college football this weekend, none more significant than the mantle being passed from Brent Musburger to Chris Fowler on ABC’s lead announcing team, alongside Kirk Herbstreit, beginning with FSU-Oklahoma State on Saturday night.
Though Musburger is still proficient at his job --- albeit a target for criticism because he injects opinions more than most play-by-play men --- ESPN executives believed the time was right for a change for several reasons:
Both announcers had expiring contracts, and several networks were courting Fowler, who had strong interest in doing play-by-play. At 52, Fowler is 23 years younger than Musburger.
And the launch of the ESPN-owned SEC Network allowed Musburger’s employers to give him a job he could feel good about, as the fledgling network’s lead play-by-play voice on Saturday night games, paired with Jesse Palmer, and select other games, including Thursday’s South Carolina-Texas A&M opener. Musburger’s games often will be the weekend’s third-best SEC matchup.
Fowler has handled football play-by-play before, calling Thursday night games for ESPN from 2006 through 2009. He’s better in the studio, but he’s smart, well-prepared and should be highly competent in his new role.
“I try not to sound announcery,” he said. “I don’t try to make it about me or catchphrases. I try to document the action and stay out of the way. Our booth will sound conversational.”
Fowler made his new gig more challenging by asking to continue anchoring College GameDay on Saturday mornings. Fowler and Herbstreit then will fly from the GameDay site to the site of the Saturday night game when the broadcasts are in different cities.
Other notable changes:
### With Palmer leaving his studio job, ABC replaced him with two analysts: former FSU quarterback Danny Kanell and ex-Texas coach Mack Brown.
### Two coaches with past ties to UM landed prominent studio gigs: Dave Wannstedt, the former Dolphins’ coach, with Fox, and Butch Davis with ESPN2. Davis replaces draft analyst Todd McShay, who said he requested a move to a sideline reporter role.
### Tim Tebow –-- awaiting another NFL opportunity --- will be a studio analyst on SEC Network, which launched this month in more than 90 million homes.
### CBS, which doesn’t begin its Southeastern Conference coverage until Georgia-South Carolina on Sept. 13, changed hosts, replacing Tim Brando with Adam Zucker. Brando recently joined Fox for a college play-by-play job.
### FYI: ESPN assigned Rece Davis, Palmer and David Pollack to Monday’s UM-Louisville game.
### Some fans assuredly will celebrate Bill Simmons’ decision to leave ABC’s and ESPN’s NBA studio to host his own NBA program on ESPN. Because he offered a perspective different from ex-jocks and ex-coaches, Simmons’ presence on NBA Countdown didn’t annoy this viewer to the extent it did others.
But some of his observations were dubious (especially when he wondered if LeBron James was distracted in Game 2 of the Indiana series because Cleveland won the draft lottery), and he too often dominated the conversation, which resulted in Doug Collins not getting enough time to speak.
For now, ABC/ESPN is leaning against adding a fourth person alongside Collins, Jalen Rose and Sage Steele. Polarizing Stephen A. Smith would lure some viewers but probably drive others away.
### Somebody must have forgotten to tell the networks that the Lakers probably aren’t going to be very good.
They were given 20 ABC/ESPN/TNT games, compared with 19 for the champion Spurs. Yes, the Lakers draw higher ratings than most, but that much exposure isn’t warranted.
Eight teams have more national TV games than the Heat’s 16: Chicago, Cleveland and Oklahoma City (25 each), the Clippers (23), the Lakers, Spurs, Golden State (19) and Houston (17). Portland also has 16.
### A year after its launch, ESPN2 is moving Keith Olbermann’s show from 11 p.m. to 5 p.m., beginning Sept. 8, and slicing it from 60 minutes to 30. Olbermann said he also will host SportsCenter “now and then.”
### Can’t blame Rams coach Jeff Fisher for criticizing reporter Josina Anderson for being “very, very unprofessional” in asking Rams players this week about the showering habits of openly gay Rams defensive end Michael Sam. Raising the issue on air was unseemly, and ESPN apologized.
### Tidbits: Marlins ratings are up 25 percent, to a 1.6, from last year, when the team was dreadful… ESPN built a studio at the Clevelander in South Beach for Dan Le Batard to do his TV and radio shows, beginning next week. The public cannot watch in person because of lack of space on site…
FIU hired Mike Levine, who had been working UM baseball on WQAM with Joe Zagacki, as its new English-language football announcer on ESPN Deportes 1210, alongside Pete Pelegrin…Channel 33 in Miami agreed today to carry FIU's opener against Bethune Cookman at 8 p.m. Saturday, on one-hour tape-delay. That will air opposite the FSU game on ABC, the UF-Idaho game on ESPNU and a bunch of other games... NBC 6 is searching for a new No. 2 sportscaster to replace Courtney Fallon, who is leaving for a college football sideline job on CBS Sports Net.
### This is the last U.S. Open tennis championship on CBS, which has carried the tournament for 46 years. The entire event moves next year to ESPN, which now carries weekday matches. Appropriately, CBS is bringing back Dick Enberg to call matches on Sunday and provide a retrospective on the network's coverage over the years.
The upshot is CBS, after this year, will no longer be limited to airing only 1 p.m. games on the first Sunday of the NFL season, which is necessary now to accommodate the men's U.S. Open final at 4:30 p.m. on that Sunday.
### Good move by 790/104.3 The Ticket to pair Josh Friedman with Chris Wittyngham on its evening show on weekdays. They’re rational, reasonable and can discuss issues with balance and perspective, without yelling or over-the-top criticism.