13 March 2014

Brent Musburger to the SEC Network, Chris Fowler replaces him

(Getty Images)
It was only a couple of months ago, after the 2014 BCS National Championship, where we discussed what the future was for Brent Musburger as the lead voice for ESPN's college football coverage. His contract had expired, the contract for Chris Fowler was expiring (Rece Davis's is expiring soon too), leaving both with some leverage to push for a higher position. It had also been reported that ESPN was looking to move Musburger to become the new lead voice for the SEC Network, launching this August, but it was unclear what he would do.

Now it has become official, Musburger will become lead play-by-play commentator for the aforementioned SEC Network, and he will be working alongside current ABC studio analyst Jesse Palmer. He will no longer be calling the championship, which becomes the College Football Playoff this year.

Now what does all of this mean? I'll try to answer that after the break.

While I did think that ESPN was going to punt and keep Musburger in the top spot and continue working alongside Kirk Herbstreit on the top crew, I am not totally surprised that ESPN is making this move. Yes, Musburger is far from being over the hill despite his upcoming 75th birthday, but with Fowler's contract and thus to keep them from potentially leaving, ESPN was going to have to dangle a carrot to both to keep them in town, meaning a promotion would be in order.

For his part, Musburger has shown nothing but class in what is in all terms a demotion. He gave an interview to Richard Deitsch of SI and was very optimistic about his future. He even gave us a money quote:
"This is not, 'Oh my goodness, I'm not doing the national championship game.' I'm going to spend that night, in fact, with my wife and sons in Montana. We'll sell (betting) squares, and have a great time. I'm in a very good place. I'm an old man with a three-year contract and I can afford to buy my own beer."
Deitsch reports that his new role will include 15 regular season games, and a bowl game involving an SEC team not in a national semifinal. While it is clearly a downgrade, it's not like he's doing Division II games on ESPN3. It's still a solid gig and he gets a solid partner in Palmer, who will continue doing Thursday night contests.

Now ESPN has not made it official who will be Musburger's replacement, it is clear that it is now down to Fowler and Davis for the top spot. I do think that Fowler has the inside line for the spot, given his already familiarity with Herbstreit through College GameDay, and that promoting Davis to the top spots from the dredges of doing studio with Lou Holtz and Mark May would leave Fowler in the same spot as before. Neither would not surprise me in the end, but if I had to put money on the matter, I would put it on Fowler, with Davis seamlessly replacing Fowler on GameDay.

UPDATE: Fowler is indeed replacing Musburger, and will also be keeping his GameDay duties.

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