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Desmond Howard, David Pollack Reflect On Evolution Of College GameDay

Two of College GameDay’s analysts explain just how different the show is now from when it started in 1993.

Derek Futterman

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It was a college football weekend to remember as the 2021 season nears its completion with the playing of the Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic in Arlington, Texas and the Capital One Orange Bowl in Miami. Neither game was particularly close in terms of the final score, as defending national champion Alabama pummeled Cincinnati 27-6 in the Cotton Bowl, while Georgia similarly crushed Michigan 34-11 in the Orange Bowl, making for an intriguing rematch (the two teams met in the 2018 Championship Game) to close out the college football season.

ESPN’s signature program College GameDay was woven throughout Friday’s action, broadcasting live from outside Hard Rock Stadium in Miam. The show, which was also broadcast on the SEC Network, was hosted by Rece Davis, and featured college football analysts Lee Corso, Kirk Herbstreit, Desmond Howard and David Pollack breaking down each matchup and making their predictions as to who would win. The show’s production and advertising have markedly changed since its launch in 1987 with Tim Brando, Beano Cook and Lee Corso, the latter of which is still on the air today.

GameDay was maybe a 90-minute show,” said Howard, who has been on the program since he joined ESPN in 2005. “Now, we have a three-hour show. It’s changed dramatically from a sponsorship deal and to the extent to which we cover college football. You have more hours to fill [and] more time to fill.”

David Pollack joined College GameDay in 2011 amid the extension of the show’s air-time with the first hour airing on ESPNU and its addition of Erin Andrews to the panel of analysts. As a three-time All-American defensive end at the University of Georgia, Pollack frequently watched GameDay and has been thrilled to be a part of it as an analyst since he made his debut.

“I watched it over the years since I was in college, and [have] seen it evolve and grow bigger and bigger and bigger,” said Pollack. “The audience and the following [have] grown bigger, [and] to be a part of it has been really cool.”

College GameDay started doing broadcasts live from college campuses in 1993, with a multitude of fans congregating around the set to express their zeal towards their team and to be seen on national television. Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic though, protocols to ensure the health and safety of all parties involved have prevented some of the prior congregation and interaction between fans and commentators from taking place.

“Before COVID, we would have fans come up and take pictures after the show was over,” explained Howard. “We had sponsors too, [and] we would have a tent where we would sign autographs. That has pretty much been eliminated because of COVID.”

Pollack added that there is no longer VIP access available backstage, and that anyone going on the set has to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19, consistent with restrictions that have been implemented across several U.S. cities, including New York City and San Francisco.

Following a two-year stretch of empty stadiums and/or restricted capacities, along with stringent protocols, a feeling of pandemic fatigue has become prevalent around the world. Undoubtedly, a sign of progress in reaching an ostensible new normal comes in seeing industries like sports media adapt to continue producing stellar content across multiple platforms to be consumed by its audience. For the commentators on College GameDay, bringing viewers coverage from bowl games and championships is something they are genuinely excited to keep doing as the world looks to cease the pandemic and transition into a new lifestyle.

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Chris Fallica Leaving ESPN for FOX

Neither FOX or ESPN would comment on the situation, but in the Awful Announcing report it’s believed that there will be a send-off of some sort for Fallica on Saturday.

Jordan Bondurant

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A prominent sports betting voice featured on ESPN’s College GameDay will be heading to rival FOX and their Big Noon Kickoff show starting in 2023. According to Awful Announcing, Chris Fallica, affectionately known as “The Bear”, will make his last appearance on GameDay will be this weekend.

Fallica has been with ESPN since 1995. Since 2013, Fallica had been featured on GameDay making betting picks with his patented “Bear’s Board”.

Neither FOX or ESPN would comment on the situation, but in the Awful Announcing report it’s believed that there will be a send-off of some sort for Fallica on Saturday.

Fallica joins Tom Rinaldi as the second former GameDay voice to jump over to FOX and be featured on Big Noon Kickoff.

Both shows have experienced incredible viewership growth this season. For GameDay, there have been several weeks this season that have seen some of the largest audiences in the show’s history.

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Tim Brando Believes Executives Look For Familiarity, Not Great Voices For Announcers

“Executives are going more for people they think they audience knows from having been in the studio. As opposed to man that’s a great voice, that guy really gets it, and his judgement is fantastic.”

Jordan Bondurant

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Tim Brando has seen the broadcasting industry has evolved in a lot of ways through the years, but one thing that’s remained constant is how infrequently some of the announcing gigs with major networks open up to younger voices.

That’s mainly because you have veteran talent already occupying those positions with no plans for the immediate future to step aside.

On a recent edition of The Sports Talkers Podcast, FOX Sports broadcaster and host Tim Brando spoke to Stephen Strom about the reality that many broadcasters face.

“Yeah there are a lot more jobs, but there are fewer great jobs,” Brando said. “A lot of guys are getting jobs, but it’s like a dead end.”

But in terms of hiring younger talent for network jobs, he thinks it’s become more about adding faces to broadcast booths rather than voices.

“There’s a tendency I think now in our business to hire more visible and perhaps more popular talent because they’ve been in the studio,” he said. “But they’re not ready to be in the booth. Not everybody can do both well.”

Tim added that there’s a nuance to calling play-by-play versus working studio coverage. Brando said that perhaps it has a lot more to do with young broadcasters bypassing getting their start in radio and going right into TV.

“It seems to me that in some circles anyway in our business, executives are going more for people they think they audience knows from having been in the studio,” he said. “As opposed to man that’s a great voice, that guy really gets it, and his judgement is fantastic.”

Brando did mention some of the younger voices at FOX who have risen to the bigger opportunities in the booth, and how they ultimately worked their way up. He said he’s had the chance to offer advice to a few of them and act as a mentor in a way, because that’s how it was for him breaking into the industry.

“I believe in pouring into the young broadcasters out there, I really do,” he said. “Because Curt Gowdy poured into me. I think there’s a responsibility and a level of accountability for the generation before to help those that are coming up that you really respect.”

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MLB Network Airing 38 Hours of Winter Meetings Coverage

Coverage will begin on Sunday at 7 p.m. with MLB Tonight leading into the announcement of the Contemporary Baseball Era Committee’s election results for the Baseball Hall of Fame.

Jordan Bondurant

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The annual winter meetings for MLB are set to take place in-person for the first time since 2019 next week, and MLB Network is ready to bring viewers all the coverage possible from San Diego.

The network is devoting 38 hours of live programming on-site, with shows like MLB Tonight, Hot Stove, High Heat, MLB Now and Intentional Talk emanating from the Manchester Grand Hyatt Hotel.

Coverage will begin on Sunday at 7 p.m. with MLB Tonight leading into the announcement of the Contemporary Baseball Era Committee’s election results for the Baseball Hall of Fame.

Fans tuning in to MLB Network can expect to see Greg Amsinger, Fran Charles, Brian Kenny, Stephen Nelson, Alanna Rizzo, Chris “Mad Dog” Russo, Lauren Shehadi and Matt Vasgersian hosting their respective shows throughout the week. Sean Casey, Mark DeRosa, Al Leiter, Cameron Maybin, Kevin Millar, Dan O’Dowd, Steve Phillips and Harold Reynolds will contribute coverage as analysts.

MLB Network will also carry coverage of the inaugural draft lottery from the winter meetings on Tuesday, December 6 at 8:30 p.m.

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