By Matt Citak

For the first time in 17 years, Verne Lundquist will not be in the booth when ‘SEC on CBS’ returns to television on Saturday, September 9. The legendary broadcaster is stepping away from college football, but will continue to be a fixture of CBS Sports’ coverage of major events in college basketball and golf.

“I said at our college football seminar a few weeks ago that it was kind of a bittersweet moment for us,” CBS Sports chairman Sean McManus said on a conference call. “Exciting and very sweet because we’re waiting to start the SEC on CBS… For the eighth consecutive year, we were the highest rated college football package in all of television. So it’s always great to look forward to a season. But it was a bit bitter only because for the first time in almost two decades, we were starting a college football season without Verne Lundquist.”

While Lundquist’s absence will certainly be felt, CBS has more than made up for his departure with the hiring of Brad Nessler to take over as the lead voice of the network’s college football coverage. Nessler returns to CBS after a 24-year run at ESPN, where he became one of the lead play-by-play voices for college football and college basketball. He first worked for CBS back in 1990, where he covered college football, along with men’s and women’s basketball, including the NCAA Women’s Tournament championship game. Nessler will join Gary Danielson and reporter Allie LaForce on the ‘SEC on CBS’ broadcast.

“Verne established himself as, I believe, the voice of college football,” McManus said. “But I’m also incredibly excited about welcoming Brad Nessler to the team. We’ve made the point also that Brad is not replacing Verne Lundquist, he’s succeeding Verne Lundquist. But I think Brad is the absolute perfect guy to team with Gary and Allie to make sure we continue to have the best broadcasting team in all of college football.”

“Verne has been a friend for over 30 years and someone I’ve always looked up to in this business,” Nessler told CBS Sports last year. “I’m not replacing him as it would be impossible to replace Verne. I am truly honored to carry on where he leaves off and work to maintain the standard of excellence he has set calling the SEC on CBS.”

Nessler’s history in covering college football also includes time working with Gary Danielson. The duo worked together in 1997 when Nessler joined Danielson for ABC’s college football coverage. The pair also did four games last year for CBS, and both are very excited to have the opportunity to get back together in the booth.

“He’s a pro’s pro. Other play-by-play guys sit and admire how Brad Nessler calls a game,” Danielson said about his new partner in the ‘SEC on CBS’ booth. “He’s done NFL games. He’s done National Championship games. One of the main wishes I had was that the guy who replaced Verne Lundquist had the stature to deserve the job that Verne, Sean, and the ‘SEC on CBS’ made into one of the best jobs in college football. And there’s no doubt that we got the best guy for it.”

“Brad is a consummate professional… He’s got a big-time voice. There are certain announcers that when you turn on a sporting event, you hear their voice and you think it’s a big event…” McManus said while explaining some of the reasoning behind Nessler’s hire. “He’s got a great college football history in doing big games. He and Gary were terrific when they worked together. I still believe Gary is the best analyst in college football. It just made perfect sense from a statures standpoint, from a performance standpoint, and from an image standpoint; he’s exactly what we were looking for.”

When the college football season began last year, Nessler was not in the broadcast booth. This year, the long-time broadcaster is certainly thrilled that he will not be sitting at home when CBS opens its SEC coverage of the 2017 college football season with TCU visiting Arkansas at 3:30 PM ET on Saturday, September 9.

“This time a year ago, for the first time in 35 years, I wasn’t spending a weekend, or two days of the weekend, in a football broadcast booth,” said Nessler. “So if you think I wasn’t going crazy in September and October last year, that was the worst time ever. So I’m ready to go, and I’m ready to go with Gary.”

Matt Citak is a producer for CBS Local Sports and a proud Vanderbilt alum. Follow him on Twitter or send comments to mcitak@cbs.com.

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