Fowler walks into some big shoes this year as the new lead play-by-play man for college football on ESPN. And since the network will air the new playoff format, including the title game, that makes him ostensibly the new voice of college football.
Fowler now will occupy the role once filled by the legendary Keith Jackson and more recently, Brent Musburger. He will work with Kirk Herbstreit on the network’s primetime games that air on ABC.
Fowler might be the best studio host in the business. However, he wanted to scratch the play-by-play itch. If things go as expect, and they should, it will be his voice stamped on the next generation of college football’s biggest games.
For starters, don’t expect Fowler to utter any “Whoa Nellies” or any other signature catch phrases.
During a conference call, I asked him about his approach to doing play-by-play.
“I don’t put a lot of thought into trying to cultivate a style,” he said. “I would say our booth will sound very conversational, comfortable. I try not to sound announcer-y. I don’t try to make it about me or catch phrases. I just try to document the action, stay out of the way when you’ve got good drama and entertain people if the drama on the field is flagging a little bit.
“I think it will sound like two guys who are very, very passionate and enthused about it and hopefully are describing really exciting games and staying out of the way when the action on the field commands your attention.”
Fowler still will retain his role as the long-time host of ESPN’s “GameDay” pregame show. On some Saturdays, that means he will do the show from one location and then fly immediately to another place to call the game that night.
While Herbstreit has been doing that routine for several years, there is considerably more effort required in navigating through a three-hour show as the host.
Fowler, though, said he will be up to the task thanks to his work on tennis tournaments for ESPN.
“I’ve had good training for this,” Fowler said. “Tennis makes you do five-, six-hour matches sometimes and you call matches in the afternoon and call another long one at night. So I feel like I will be able to do that with no problem. Time management during the week is a challenge, but I’ll sort that out.
“I’ll be able to pick my head up after about two weeks combining the U.S. Open and these two football responsibilities and once I get a breath the rest of it will seem pretty easy.”