ESPN is replacing longtime play-by-play man Brad Nessler with network mainstay Joe Tessitore on its primetime “Saturday Night Football” broadcast, the company announced on Wednesday.
The Worldwide Leader declined to renew Nessler’s contract, ending a 24-year relationship with its No. 2 college football announcer, behind Chris Fowler. Nessler will become a featured announcer for CBS’ SEC Football coverage and is expected to be the eventual replacement for longtime play-by-play staple Verne Lundquist.
Tessitore will become ESPN’s new No. 2 announcer, calling games alongside Todd Blackledge in ESPN’s primetime slot.
Fowler and Kirk Herbstreit will continue to call ABC’s “Saturday Night Football” broadcast, with Sam Ponder replacing Heather Cox as sideline reporter. ESPN also announced that SportsCenter anchor Steve Levy will start calling Saturday games this season alongside Brian Griese.
For much of his career, Tessitore was known as ESPN’s boxing announcer on “Friday Night Fights.” In recent years, however, he has gained a cult following among college football fans after several consecutive games he called ended in dramatic upsets or down-to-the-wire finishes. Fans labeled the phenomenon “The Tessitore Effect,” which helped distinguish him among ESPN’s stable of broadcasters.
Prior to his most recent promotion, Tessitore hosted the SEC Network’s morning pregame show “SEC Nation” and called Thursday night primetime games.