Chris Fowler aims for laid-back approach with college football play-by-play

ESPN's Chris Fowler on the set of College ESPN's Chris Fowler on the set of College GameDay at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis on Dec. 7, 2013. Photo Credit: ESPN/Allen Kee

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The biggest change in college football this season is the debut of a playoff system to determine a national champion, and the biggest change in college football television is in the announcing booth that will call the championship game.

With Chris Fowler's contract with ABC/ESPN up this year, the network moved to keep one of its stars happy, both by re-signing him to a lucrative, long-term new deal and assigning him to its No. 1 college football booth.

Fowler will work alongside analyst Kirk Herbstreit starting with the Aug. 30 opener featuring Florida State against Oklahoma State at AT&T Stadium.

To make the move ESPN, had to remove Brent Musburger, 75, who had filled the role since Keith Jackson left in 2006, switching Musburger to the new SEC Network's No. 1 booth with Jesse Palmer.

Musburger still is at or near the top of his game, but by accommodating Fowler, who turned 52 on Saturday, the network set itself up for a potentially long run for Fowler and Herbstreit, 45.

Few in the industry doubt Fowler's ability to handle the play-by-play job, but there is intrigue over his intention to continue as host of "College GameDay" on Saturday mornings before calling the prime time game, which often takes place in a different city. (Herbstreit has made that commute in recent years.)

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"I feel great about the challenge," Fowler said on a conference call with reporters. "Saturdays should be busy. I'm stepping in with a guy I've worked with for 19 years and who does the job fantastically well and a very talented group of production people, so I feel very comfortable that I can just stay in my lane and do the job.

"Listen, there is nothing you would rather be doing if you love the sport than getting people ready for games in the morning and calling a game at night."

Fowler drew a comparison to his work calling tennis matches.

"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."

Fowler figures to be a more laid-back announcing presence than was his famously enthusiastic predecessor.

"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."

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