ESPN College GameDay Adds Third Hour, More Erin Andrews
The suits at ESPN have wisely merged two of their hottest properties ahead of the upcoming college football season. ESPN announced Monday it will expand its College GameDay show with a third, earlier hour on ESPNU, hosted by Erin Andrews.
In addition, former Heisman Trophy winner Desmond Howard will become the fourth anchored member of the College GameDay lineup alongside Chris Fowler, Lee Corso and Kirk Herbstreit. Fowler and Andrews will also take on additional roles as their respective stars rise. Fowler will contribute college football pieces to SportsCenter on Monday and Tuesday, while Andrews will provide occasional reports on Good Morning America.
Fowler actually loses his telecast role on the increasingly popular Thursday night football games, but will be replaced by the very capable Rece Davis. New face Jenn Brown, who was seemingly everywhere on ESPN this summer, jumps into Andrews' role as the Thursday sideline reporter.
Finally, longtime personality John Saunders will continue his role as an ABC studio host on Saturdays as well as the host of College Football Live on weekdays.
Overall, ESPN's changes are more evolutionary than revolutionary. But they signal a tangible ascent for both Andrews and Fowler, who diligently handled ESPN/ABC's Wimbledon and World Cup broadcasts during the offseason.
The move to a third hour of Gameday makes a ton of sense, as ESPN can completely commandeer eyeballs that may have wandered into other programming ahead of GameDay's usual start. College football fans have seemingly moved into soccer fan territory for fanaticism, gobbling up content year-round, despite the lengthy offseason. If they want content, what better content to give them than an additional hour of GameDay, no?
Several other personalities were probably better choices to host that additional hour, but ESPN can't lose Andrews, and we'll quickly be able to judge her talents and passion for the game now that she's able to step away from the fairly generic world of sideline reporting.
Now, for the quibbles:
Although Fowler is a fantastic table-setter and prepared host, he's become preachy in recent years and rides the anti-BCS horse to death. Davis' occasional turn at host has been a breath of fresh air and the show seems to take on a more positive, jovial tone when he's guest hosting. Davis seems to give way a bit more to the show's real star in Herbstreit, who seems more deferential to Fowler. This sentiment is in the minority here, but eventually I'd love to see Fowler step aside for Davis, who has roots at one of college football's true powers, Alabama, and isn't so quick to hit his cynical button on every issue.
Elsewhere, adding Howard as a permanent feature to the studio crew is a nice move. However, he's a second Big Ten voice alongside Herbstreit's when, after the summer of expansion, it's clear the Pac-10 is attempting to claim a greater prominence in college football. At some point in the near future, someone like Rod Gilmore -- a former Stanford defensive back -- makes sense to add, as he's been excellent in his appearances on College Football Live this offseason. GameDay has made strides in recent years to overcome a certain lack of attention paid to Pac-10 and western football, and eventually adding a personality like Gilmore could further strengthen that commitment.