I have been checking into the Pac-12 Network last few days. I have not had the time to take in a full show but have been able to watch good chunk of the preview shows. As we expected Coach Rick Neuheisel is a natural at this. He has been really sharp, on point with encyclopedic knowledge on personnel of all Pac-12 teams thanks to his experience in the recruiting trail last few years.
I was disappointed with Neuehisel's personnel management and development as a coach at UCLA. But as a commentator he has been superb. I think it is going to be interesting to see how he navigates the terrain in the coming year and beyond. Is Neuheisel going to be one of those who relishes being part of the "coaching fraternity" and often pulls his punches for the sake of protecting access and relationships or is he going to be on those of who say what is on his mind Bill Walton style and is honest with his takes? I don't really know but I like his start. Plus, when he says good things about UCLA, it's genuine and heartfelt compared to the smarmy compliments we got from Steve Lavin when he was posing as a "basketball analyst" on ESPN's set.
Also, speaking of college football commentators SI.com writers recently published an interesting roundtable which included the following interesting thoughts on Gus Johnson and also Craig James (who has been subjected to rumors of killing five hookers at SMU):
2. Which college football announcer/s are the least appealing for you?
Mandel: Fortunately the least appealing announcer of recent past has moved on to a career in political irrelevancy. I don't understand how Mike Patrick keeps getting such plum assignments; he is so shrill and over-the-top. ESPN has tried really hard to make a star out of Jesse Palmer but I don't see it; his analysis is usually pretty superficial. And I hate to say it, but Gus Johnson was fairly disappointing during his first year in the college football world; maybe another year and bigger games (Fox primetime) will bring out the March Madness Gus.
Anderson: The one downside -- and there is only one -- to James' departure from ESPN is the loss of an automatic answer to this question. All the remaining annoyances on broadcast teams just seem so quibbling by comparison. (Sincere congratulations to Rece Davis, who deserves far, far better than any of the booth partners he endured last season, for surviving this long without pitching himself out a stadium window.) There is one announcer who can make me actively uncomfortable, but it's not for a good reason at all: Danielson is a skilled analyst, but when he becomes disappointed in a player's or team's performance he can develop this tone that sounds uncannily like my dad giving the "I'm very, very disappointed in you" speech. It affects my anxiety levels to a degree that shouldn't really be possible.
Staples: James is gone, so I'm pretty good with everyone else.
Deitsch: I'm going to miss James this year in much the same way I miss having my wisdom teeth extracted. Let's note that James left on his own accord after eight years of torturing ABC/ESPN viewers; this wasn't ESPN management making the call. As we move past the spectacularly unsuccessful Senate candidate from Real Street, we'll start with Holtz. The former Notre Dame coach is inexplicably given serious airtime at ESPN, yet rarely makes a salient point. And he's another in the Dick Vitale-mode who Gods up coaches. (We'll hit that topic later on.) Mandel is right about Patrick, and the next time Jenn Brown asks a challenging question of a coach will be the first time. She continues not to distinguish herself as a sideline reporter on major games. It's going to be hard to forget Millen's analysis of Penn State and the Freeh Report when I hear him in the booth. (Naturally, ESPN has promoted him to a primetime game.) Like I said last year: I'm not part of the cult of Gus Johnson when it comes to college football. That's not a knock, but he doesn't distinguish himself beyond the others. Will Gus be the home run on college football Fox thinks he is? I'll predict the longterm answer is no, but we'll see.
I haven't had a chance to listen to Gus Johnson as a college football announcer a lot yet. So don't know what to say. Completely agree with Mandel re Mike Patrick. Not only he is a terrible in announcing football, he sucks in everything else.