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Media column: A look at the changes in NFL, college football TV coverage this season; Butch Davis returns; The Ticket mulls post-Le Batard PM options

FRIDAY MEDIA COLUMN

News and views on assorted changes planned for NFL and college football broadcasts this season:

### ESPN's college studio.

In his first season as Brent Musburger’s replacement on ABC’s lead announcing team, Chris Fowler made the job considerably more challenging by retaining his host duties on ESPN’s popular College GameDay on Saturday mornings. That often required anchoring a show in one city and flying to another to announce a Saturday night game.

ESPN ultimately concluded that workload wasn’t worth the trouble for Fowler. So Rece Davis becomes the new host of GameDay, alongside Kirk Herbstreit (Fowler’s partner on games), Lee Corso, David Pollack and Desmond Howard.

But the changes don’t stop there. ESPN and Lou Holtz parted ways and the network re-assigned Mark May to ABC’s studio, alongside former Texas coach Mack Brown. That means ESPN will have an entirely new primary studio team: Adnan Virk, Danny Kanell and Joey Galloway.

The view here: Generally like all the moves. Holtz talked a lot but said very little and the Holtz/May combo had become stale and predictable. Davis very much deserved the promotion; he’s perhaps the most underrated studio host in sports television.

### College game announcing changes.

Charles Davis, who gave Fox a very credible lead analyst alongside screamin’ Gus Johnson, is shifting to NFL games to replace Donovan McNabb, who has been benched by Fox after a second DUI arrest.

That means Joel Klatt, a Denver talk show host and former University of Colorado quarterback, becomes Fox’s lead college football analyst.

The other significant move: NBC dumped Mike Mayock as the analyst on Notre Dame home games, replacing him with Doug Flutie.

Mayock, an excellent draft analyst, admitted to SI.com that he knows he talks too much, and NBC was troubled by his excessive use of football jargon that sometimes seems better suited to a coaching seminar than a game broadcast.

Meanwhile, Matt Millen bolted ESPN to become the lead game analyst on the Big 10 Network. CBS Sports Net hired former Dolphins kicker Jay Feely as the analyst on Army and Mid-American Conference games.

And deep-piped Joe Tessitore replaces Davis on the call of Thursday night ESPN games, alongside Jesse Palmer and Pollack. That Thursday package includes UM-Cincinnati on Oct. 1.

The view here: Disagree with the Mayock move; he’s an acquired taste because of the overuse of football vernacular, but he’s still a better analyst than Flutie.

Klatt, always well-prepared, has thrived in every assignment Fox has given him and warrants a larger role. Millen? He simply hasn’t been nearly as insightful in his second go-around as a broadcaster since his disastrous run as an executive with the Detroit Lions.

### Internet-only NFL broadcast.

As an experiment of sorts, the NFL granted Yahoo! the rights to the Oct. 25 Bills-Jaguars game from London, a 9:30 a.m. Eastern Time kickoff. Yahoo! will stream the game free of charge and it will be available on TV only in the Buffalo and Jacksonville markets.

The view here: Shame on the NFL for not making the game available on DirecTV’s Sunday Ticket, for those who buy the out-of-market package and aren’t interested in watching a game on their computer.

### NFL studio changes.

Fox is expanding its pre-game show to two hours, with its 11 a.m. to noon cast not yet announced, beyond Colin Cowherd.

Also, Showtime made two big changes on Inside the NFL: Adam Schein, host of CBS Sports Net's NFL pre-game show, replaces Greg Gumbel as host. And Ed Reed was dropped after one season because Showtime wants a smaller cast (Phil Simms, Boomer Esiason, Brandon Marshall), with Michael Irvin filling in when Simms or Marshall is unavailable. 

Meanwhile, NBCSN dumped Jason Taylor from Pro Football Talk at 6 p.m. weeknights after Rodney Harrison decided to do the show every weeknight.

The view here: Disappointed to see Taylor go; he was generally candid as an analyst. He said he will take this season off.

### NFL schedule tweaks.

Two minor ones: 1) Last season, the league scheduled a Week 16 Saturday double-header and no other Saturday games. This season, there are single-headers on two Saturdays: Jets-Cowboys Dec. 19, Redskins-Eagles Dec. 26.

2) Last season, CBS and NFL Network simulcast Thursday games during Weeks 2 through 9. This season, CBS and NFL Net will both air the games in Weeks 2 through 8 (concluding with Dolphins-Patriots).

But instead of televising the Week 9 Cleveland-Cincinnati Thursday night game on Nov. 5, CBS instead will skip that one and return in early December for a far more attractive game: Lions-Packers. All the Thursday night games will air on NFL Net except the season opener and Thanksgiving game, which are both exclusive to NBC.

The view here: Can’t understand why the NFL doesn’t schedule Saturday double-headers the final three weeks of the season, after the college season ends.

### One other notable network change: NFL announcers Daryl Johnston and Tony Siragusa, affectionately dubbed Moose and Goose, were separated after eight years together at Fox, with Siragusa assigned to the Thom Brennaman/Charles Davis team. 

BUTCH RETURNS

Though he would never say it publicly, associates say ESPN analyst Butch Davis would love to return to UM as coach (the odds are against that), and a lot of Canes fans would love for that to happen. That subplot adds a layer of intrigue to Davis’ new weekly 30-minute call-in show with Jonathan Zaslow, Joy Taylor and his former player Brett Romberg on 790 The Ticket’s morning show at 7:30 Mondays.

When I interviewed Davis last December, he was critical of UM’s coaching, saying, among other things, that: “Either they can’t evaluate players or players have jumped ship or flunked out or whatever the deal…. The reality is somebody has to recruit and have an eye for talent and somebody has to coach the [expletive] out of them.”

In the debut of his radio show on Monday, Davis didn’t toss any barbs toward the UM staff. He said he “absolutely” misses coaching, “very much so.”

### South Florida's first locally-based weekly fantasy sports radio show debuts at 8 a.m. Sunday on The Ticket, with Craig Mish hosting.

### For those who missed it, ESPN this week removed Curt Schilling from its Sunday night MLB and Little League World Series coverage after he tweeted out a meme that read: "Only 5-10% of Muslims are extremists. In 1940, only 7% of Germans were Nazis. How'd that go?" 

THE TICKET MULLS OPTIONS

After privately expressing a great deal of interest in former Bleacher Report NBA writer Ethan Skolnick and ESPN's Israel Gutierrez as Dan Le Batard's successors in afternoon drive, The Ticket has decided to open up the search and consider other options, in addition to those two former Miami Herald sports writers.

"There are a bunch of options, lot of intriguing options," said general manager Doug Abernathy, saying he is in no rush to make a decision. "We'll consider all possibilities."

Abernathy declined to name candidates. But we hear there are lots of names that have been tossed around, including Skolnick, Gutierrez, Josh Friedman, Chris Wittyngham and Romberg, among others.

Le Batard is expected to shift to the 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. slot after Labor Day, with the final three hours also airing nationally on ESPN Radio.

### Smart move by the Panthers and Fox to restore Craig Minervini as Panthers pre-game, post game and between periods host. Minervini has a lot more personality than Drew Goldfarb, who held the job last season.

### Best wishes to former Herald colleague Joe Goodman, who's joining his hometown Birmingham News in Alabama as a columnist and enterprise writer.

Twitter: @flasportsbuzz

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