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Changes at ESPN's College Gameday?

UPDATE:  Courtesy of EDSBS and, ahem, actual journalism:

After some actual talking to our sources, the rumor of any changes to Gameday is mostly crap, with the only salient piece of information being the annual speculation over Lee Corso’s retirement.

Glad that's settled.


From the SEC Live News via EDSBS, the best pregame show on television, College Gameday Live, might be changing personnel.  Since its inception, I've always thought that College Gameday Live (CGL) was unique in a couple ways.  First, it pioneered the "go to a live venue and let students go crazy" format that is now standard for other sports, NCAA Basketball specifically.  Second, it remains damn near the only show on ESPN that remains fun, inviting, and exciting.  Think about it.  You turn on your TV and tune to ESPN, and if Sportscenter isn't on, you get four "regional" sports reporters trying to be funny, Jim Rome yelling at you and making you feel bad (I have a fragile self esteem), a bunch of reporters taking their job waaaay to seriously, or - if you're lucky - PTI will be on, in which case you can watch a stale format that probably won't include one of the two hosts that spurned the original brilliance. Those are your options.  The network, much to the chagrin of folks like me, has become bloated and self-important; determined to make the story instead of tell it.

That's where College Gameday is/was different.  it's impossible to take yourself too seriously when a bunch of drunk frat boys are in the background holding up a sign that, for no reason what so ever, says "Lee Corso once caught a 12 lbs. bass."  It becomes even more impossible (if that's possible) to take yourself too seriously when it's clear that you derive a great deal of joy from the sport you're covering.  Fowler, Herbstreit, and Corso are most assuredly not the most polished team in existence on the air.  Corso often forgets what he's trying to say and nearly always picks the wrong team to win, Herbstreit smiles and looks pretty and generally does a good job of playing the foil to Corso's antics, and Fowler somehow keeps it all together.  But it sure does look like those three are having a ton of fun up there.  It's a show that, even if you don't know much about college football, draws you in because, hey, they're having fun and why shouldn't I?  Instead of the "FOOTBALL ARMEGGEDON" shows of the NFL, CGL takes what makes college football great - the pageantry - and jumps from there.  College football, a great deal of the time, doesn't make too much sense.  There are 116 teams to cover with varying degrees of resources at their disposal and at the end a stupid system spits out a champion that may or may not be batshit insane.  But CGL thrived on that principal, saying "this might not make a whole lotta sense, but damn it, we're gonna have fun."

Now we're getting wind that ESPN, in their infinite wisdom, might be ready to yank Corso and Fowler off the set.  Their replacements?  Lou Holtz and Karl Ravech.  I like Ravech, I like baseball tonight, and generally I think he'll do a fine job in Fowlers seat.  My problem is that Fowler didn't need replacing.  He is the most consistently likable personality on the entire network.

My relationship to Corso is a little tougher to explain.  I love Corso in the way that I love Vitale and Madden.  They're not always right, they're huge characters, they often say stupid things, but it's clear that they absolutely love what they're doing, which I'll take every day and twice on Saturday from the funeral-era Joe Buck style we're getting from others.  Corso often bugs the shit out of me, and his eyes are waaaay too close together for him to be human.  But damn it, he loves putting on that stupid mascot head and making the crowd either boo or cheer depending on the species.  And you're going to replace him with Holtz?  Holtz is a doddering idiot who takes the stupidity often displayed by Corso, dresses it up in serious clothes, and parades it around with a lisp and a prayer.  At least Corso's stupidity was often done in a tongue in cheek manner designed to get a rise out of the crowd, Herbstreit, or Fowler.  Holtz really thinks that Notre Dame is going to win 10 games (uh, this year they might...but the point still stands).  He really thinks that the Gamecocks are legitimate contenders in the SEC.  Guess what?  He USED TO COACH AT BOTH SCHOOLS.  You never see Corso saying "IU could win the Big Ten" and yet, Holtz makes claims equally transparent and stupid, and Corso is the one getting replaced?  AM I IN CRAZY TOWN?

The one caveat to this whole thing is that the people pushing for the changes are not ESPN.  Rather, according to the original report, they are the execs at Home Depot, the primary sponsor of the show.  As the original report states, it will be interesting to see how much influence Home Depot has over talent changes at the network.  With economic times being what they are, bler bler bler, the answer to that question could very well be "quite a lot."  My guess is that Home Depot has some power in this relationship because no other corporation wants to take on the presumably hefty price tag of being the primary sponsor.

Let's hope these are just a bunch of rumors and that ESPN has the good sense to leave one of their best products alone.