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Jason Benetti Moving to Fox For College Football is His Gain and ESPN’s Loss

Amid an unprecedented offseason of movement and turnover in NFL broadcasting, one college football announcer move could make a larger impact than realized. Last month, Jason Benetti left ESPN for Fox Sports, where he will call play-by-play for the network’s No. 2 college football crew with analyst Brock Huard.

Fox is providing a showcase role for Benetti, something he didn’t quite have at ESPN, where he was more of a utility player. He could call any event well, but how often did he call a major event? With Fox, Benetti will have the opportunity to broadcast some of the top matchups in the Big Ten, Big 12, and Pac-12 each week.

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That’s a step up from the college football assignments Benetti often received at ESPN, which typically included Group of Five and lower-tier conference games. Bowl games usually provided the best match-ups. Each week, Benetti should get more anticipated broadcasts which should include storied programs like Ohio State, Michigan, Penn State, Texas, Oklahoma, Baylor, USC, Oregon, and Washington.

Benetti’s move ended an 11-year stay at ESPN, where he called a variety of sports including college basketball, Major League Baseball, and college football. Perhaps he was best known for calling the network’s “Statcast” alternate MLB broadcasts with Eduardo Perez and Mike Petriello, in addition to working with Bill Walton on college hoops telecasts.

Those assignments allowed Benetti to demonstrate his strong knowledge of the sports he covered, a wry sense of humor, and — especially with Walton — an appreciation for absurdity. As BSM’s Andy Masur wrote in his “Anatomy of a Broadcaster” series, Benetti has an authoritative voice but also works so well within the flow of a game. When the moment calls for it, he gets big. It feels natural, rather than a contrived or insincere approach.

That adaptability and versatility seemed to make him an ideal fit at ESPN, which broadcasts so many different events. Yet Benetti also may have reached his ceiling there, as he alluded to during an interview with Dan Dakich in early August when he said “there’s opportunity to grow.”

That includes the chance to work with a regular broadcast partner, something Benetti only enjoyed as the TV voice for the Chicago White Sox while working with analyst Steve Stone. One of Benetti’s great talents is elevating the variety of analysts he’s worked with on college football, college basketball, and national MLB telecasts. But being paired with Huard allows him to build a rapport and grow with an analyst.

Benetti’s versatility will still be utilized, however. He will not only be doing college football at his new network. Fox offers plenty of national Major League Baseball broadcasts, especially late in the season and during the postseason. Baseball is the sport he may be most associated with in his work for the White Sox (which he’s expected to continue, extending a tenure that began in 2016) and the lead play-by-play announcer for Peacock’s MLB Sunday Leadoff streaming telecasts this season.

Additionally, Benetti will call college basketball for Fox. According to The Athletic’s Richard Deitsch, those assignments could include pairing with Robbie Hummel for game telecasts on Big Ten Network, in which Fox owns a majority stake. If only Walton could occasionally appear with him. Alas, Benetti leaving ESPN created some sacrifices.

Yet those are sacrifices Benetti was obviously willing to make at an ideal stage of his career. Though leaving ESPN for Fox may have appeared initially curious, Benetti will likely become familiar with more viewers at his new TV home. It’s a natural step up for a broadcaster whose work warrants the opportunity to call bigger events that reach a wider audience.

A larger showcase will also provide a platform for Benetti, who has cerebral palsy, to demonstrate that someone with a disability can still achieve a top position in his profession. He takes pride in succeeding despite challenges to which television isn’t typically welcoming. Benetti was forthright about overcoming those challenges in a 2019 CBS Sunday Morning feature.

“There is nothing in the Fox release about me having a disability, but that is always firmly intertwined in who I am,” Benetti told Deitsch. “I don’t want to be maudlin here. I really don’t. I don’t want to make it about that. People don’t like it when people make it about that or play that card. That’s not what this is about, but my psychology is always intertwined with that.”

A new, larger audience will learn about Benetti as a broadcaster through his voice and on-air style. But viewers may still not know the full story behind the man calling the action. And that story makes Benetti and his career as special as any broadcast job or marquee assignment. However, becoming a top voice for Fox’s college football coverage is still quite special for an announcer who now has the bigger outlet he’s long deserved.

Ian Casselberry
Ian Casselberry
Ian Casselberry is a sports media columnist for BSM. He has previously written and edited for Awful Announcing, The Comeback, Sports Illustrated, Yahoo Sports, MLive, Bleacher Report, and SB Nation. You can find him on Twitter @iancass or reach him by email at [email protected].

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