Here’s a breakdown of the best, worst, and anywhere in between of college football broadcasters.
Turn up the volume (Best of the business)
Chris Fowler, ESPN,
Fowler is one of the classic voices of this generation. He has hosted ESPN’s College Gameday for the last 19 seasons, and now also regularly does the play-by-play for Thursday night games. He has a wealth of knowledge about the game, which helps him contribute to the conversations of his analysts. Any game that Fowler is calling is worth keeping the sound on for.
Ron Franklin, ESPN
Franklin was formerly the play-by-play for Saturday night games in the SEC, but has since moved to regional coverage of daytime games. It’s unfortunate ESPN made that switch, because Franklin and Mike Gottfried made a special pair every Saturday night. Franklin’s voice just oozes football in the south, and is one of the best play-by-play men still hanging around.
Brent Musburger, ESPN
This guy has seen it all. Over 35 years in the business and still going strong, his signature phrase “You are looking live…” is something every college football fan worth their six-pack and recliner has heard a countless number of times. After the retirement of Keith Jackson, Musburger has assumed the role of old kid on the block, and whenever he decides to hang up the microphone will mark the end of an era in college football.
Brad Nessler, ESPN
Nessler has been a staple of ESPN’s college football broadcasts for over a decade, and for good reason. He facilitates the discussion very well with his partners, often leaving much of the dialogue up to his strong analysts. He now teams up with Craig James to form a great duo that can certainly help a less-than-casual fan stay up to speed with the game.
Kirk Herbstreit, ESPN
Herbstreit got his start as the charming panelist on College Gameday, before finally getting a chance to call ESPN’s Game of the Week along with Musburger a few years ago. Herbstreit manages to overcome the mantra of good-looking TV personality to have great insight, usually giving information beyond the generalities of the game. By the time he is done, he will easily be mentioned in the same breath as Jackson and the rest of the all-time great announcers.
Gary Danielson, CBS
Danielson pairs up with Verne Lundquist to make CBS’ SEC football broadcasts an intelligent broadcast. Danielson is a brilliant football mind, and clearly always does his homework. At times, Danielson will accurately predict what play a certain team is about to run. He knows the in’s and out’s of the SEC as good as anyone on the planet.
Worth listening to (Above-average)
Verne Lundquist, CBS
Verne has his moments. He knows football, and it helps to have Danielson by his side. Lundquist just needs to expand his vocabulary a bit. “Oh my!” and “Wow!” are his classic lines, but they do get a bit old after the first 15 seasons. He still adds a good sound to the game, and has been around long enough to cement himself as a big-time announcer.
Tom Hammond, NBC
God bless Hammond for having to go around and watch Notre Dame struggle week after week. Of course, NBC is solely responsible for covering the Irish’s home games, which leaves the play-by-play duties to Hammond. He is another guy who knows plenty about the sport to actually educate some viewers about the game, and his voice is tolerable.
Mark Jones, ESPN
More on Jones’ partner later, but as a play-by-play man Jones breathes excitement and has a passion for the game. His deep voice is unmistakable, and ESPN has done a good job holding on to him all these years, as he has never really earned a prominent role in the network despite his talents.
Craig James, ESPN
James is a somewhat newcomer to the scene. Formerly an in-studio analyst for halftime and pre-game shows, he is now the lead analyst for Thursday night football and works Saturdays as well. James knows football, and was a legendary running back for SMU in the mid-1980s. With time, James should develop into one of the premier color men in the business.
Todd Blackledge, ESPN
Once the quarterback for Joe Paterno at Penn State, Blackledge has a good mind, but really has a good thing going with his “Todd’s Taste of the Town” segment every week, where he showcases a local restaurant from the hometown school. He has captured the essence of the college atmosphere by those spots, but one has to wonder: what happens soon when he’s already visited many campuses on several occasions? He is still a good analyst nonetheless.
Mute it please…no, you know what? Just turn it off (Worst of the worst)
Sean McDonough, ESPN
Viewers of McDonough’s game have no choice but to turn the volume down or risk blowing out their speakers. He has a tendency to get very excited during games, which leads to him screaming through the microphone often. Until those select moments, there is nothing wrong with his calls, but the yelling is near unbearable. His claim to fame will be the six-overtime basketball game last year in the Big East Tournament with Syracuse and Connecticut. His voice will forever be paired with the highlights of that game, but unfortunately for him, there is no such luck on the gridiron.
Thom Brennaman, FOX
Brennaman is the number one reason why Fox should never regain rights to broadcast the BCS bowls again after its current run is over. He has a tendency to forget the situation at times, and its clear his college football knowledge is a little rusty when he only gets to call one or two games at the end of the year. Thankfully, this year’s Rose Bowl and National Championship Game are on ABC/ESPN.
Lou Holtz, ESPN
Simply known as “The Lisp” to much of college football fandom, Holtz is a homer for the Notre Dame program who found his way onto ESPN when NBC must have had no vacancies. Holtz is full of gimmicky segments, like “Lou’s Pep Talk”, where he dons the hat of a certain team and gives a mock pre-game locker room speech to that team. His voice is enough to drive anyone up a wall, and his wacky antics/predictions (Notre Dame in the national championship: really?) just sink his status even lower.
Bob Davie, ESPN
Charlie Weis is about to lose his job as head coach at Notre Dame, and if history is any indication, the broadcast booth should never be in his future. Davie, like Holtz, is a former head man in South Bend, and is another analyst who is simply not tolerable. His ultra-slow dictation makes me wonder how he ever finishes a thought before the next play has already begun. He obviously knows football as a former head coach, but he has a tough time translating that knowledge into good broadcasting ability. When will ESPN get rid of him?
Jesse Palmer, ESPN
I’d rather wet the bed at night than listen to Palmer every Thursday. Apparently ESPN forgot that 95% of women in America do not sit down on Thursdays to watch mid-level ACC teams duke it out. Palmer was once on ABC’s show “The Bachelor”, and unfortunately for him his football brain does not match his looks. He played quarterback at Florida in the late 90s, but he has a long way to go before he can clearly explain the game as effortlessly as Herbstreit.
Desmond Howard, ESPN
Does this guy even know basic sentence structure? Howard was a phenomenal collegiate player for Michigan, winning the Heisman Trophy with the Wolverines, and also was named Super Bowl XXXI MVP with the Green Bay Packers. That in no way qualified him to sit alongside Herbstreit and Lee Corso on Gameday.
I’d be remiss not to mention the greatest sideline reporter in the history of the world, Erin Andrews. Don’t you dare roll your eyes; yes, this is the 19-year-old college kid coming out in me, and I’m proud of it, but Andrews is darn good, and hear me out.
There have been plenty of beauties to step in front of the camera on the sidelines of football games, but none have had the impact in this era that Andrews has had on the country. She is one of the first broadcast journalists to translate her success into celebrity.
Andrews is a hard-working journalist who is always very prepared for her game, and does a great job at getting worthwhile information out of coaches before and after halftime. She also is uncanny at picking up the events from each bench throughout the game, including coach-to-player conversations and more. Is she a sight for sore eyes? Sure she is, but she is also well respected in her field, and for good reason.