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The four behind the microphones for ESPN's Thursday night college football: Erin Andrews, Chris Fowler, Craig James, Jesse Palmer

Chris Fowler

The play-by-play announcer is better known for his work as host of Saturday morning's College GameDay since 1990. Interesting fact: The two-hour College GameDay uses no Teleprompter, meaning Fowler, using only note cards, is ad-libbing the show with only a general outline of where it will go.

"In the early days, GameDay was a half-hour show, in the studio and I don't know if anyone was watching,'' Fowler said. "Then we took it on the road and the show just exploded, and I'm so proud to be a part of it.''

Fowler, 47, joined ESPN in 1988 as host of Scholastic Sports America, moved to sideline reporter then became the host of college football's signature show.

Jesse Palmer

The 31-year-old was born in Canada but is a name in these parts because he played quarterback at Florida from 1997-2000. He kicked around the NFL and CFL for six years and, in the meantime, had the lead role in the reality-based series The Bachelor. (He and the woman who won, by the way, didn't pan out.)

He left the CFL in 2007 to pursue a career in broadcasting and has quickly become one of the emerging stars among college football analysts. ESPN recognized this and promoted him to lead studio analyst on Saturday afternoons along with host John Saunders.

"So far, it has just been a wonderful experience,'' Palmer said. "I'd like to think I work very hard and study very hard. But I'm doing what I love to do, so it doesn't feel like work.''

Craig James

James was part of SMU's famed "Pony Express'' with Eric Dickerson in the early 1980s. He spent two seasons in the USFL and five with the Patriots in the NFL. He even made the Pro Bowl in 1985.

A dedicated family man, James was one of the early members of the College GameDay panel but left so he could watch his sons play high school football on Friday nights back in his home state of Texas. Still, James, 48, continues to have a prominent role at ESPN, calling games on Thursday nights and Saturday afternoons.

"I think all of us in the booth have a passion for college football,'' James said. "You can't fake that. We honestly love college football, and I think that shows when we do our broadcasts.''

Erin Andrews

The 31-year-old grew up in the bay area and graduated from Bloomingdale High and University of Florida. Her first gig out of school was as sideline reporter on Lightning broadcasts in 2000.

She moved to TBS in 2002 and joined ESPN five years ago to become one of its most prominent sideline reporters. Andrews does two college football games a week then two to three college basketball games a week. Which does she prefer?

"Can I say both?'' Andrews said. "I love that college football has such a huge following and that Saturday afternoons are so special wherever we are. But I like being in a packed arena during college basketball season, too. Really, I love both. I think I have one of the best jobs in the world.''

Tom Jones, Times staff writer

The four behind the microphones for ESPN's Thursday night college football: Erin Andrews, Chris Fowler, Craig James, Jesse Palmer 10/24/09 [Last modified: Saturday, October 24, 2009 10:23pm]
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