In the land of college football conferences, the SEC is king. And while the crown has been known to be heavy, it’s embraced and worn with pride south of the Mason-Dixon line. Alabama, the crown jewel, figures to be in the title hunt yet again. That will be an old, familiar story line and feeling.
What promises to be new and dramatically different this year, though, are the broadcasts carrying the biggest SEC games. Verne Lundquist signed off after last year and is being replaced by Brad Nessler, who will work with Gary Danielson on CBS. Nessler, a longtime pro, is one of the best in the industry and will bring the gravitas required. Some even consider him an upgrade as Lundquist — though beloved — slipped a bit toward the end of his run.
Meanwhile, the SEC Network is also shuffling chairs around following Brent Musburger’s retirement earlier this year. In addition to his departure, Jesse Palmer is moving into ESPN studio duty and Kaylee Hartung has joined CNN.
Tom Hart will assume the Musburger’s microphone and be flanked by analysts Cole Cubelic and Jordan Rodgers. For Rodgers, it’s a remarkable ascension — from Bachelorette contestant to the No. 1 team at the network in just over a year. Although Musburger certainly had his detractors, he and Palmer helped steer a pretty enjoyable broadcast and had good chemistry. The switch from a two-man booth to running the triangle will be interesting to follow.
There’s no denying the CBS and SEC Network booths will be dramatically different this season. The former seems to be more of a known entity than the latter, which may take some getting used to. Having said that, Hart is steady and Rodgers has shown considerable chops and quick acclimation.
Fans of the conference are demanding, and not just when it comes to their teams. They want excellence from the announcers and have a keen ear for real — or, usually — perceived bias. They should brace themselves, however, for the reality that things will be different and, hopefully, just as entertaining.