Desmond Howard blasts ESPN College GameDay colleague Pete Thamel ahead of Michigan-Ohio State clash

Pete Thamel is a man of the people. The ESPN insider routinely ventures into the crowd to report about the latest happenings in the world of college football during weekly airings of ESPN’s timeless program, “College GameDay.”

Things have changed in recent weeks, however. Michigan’s sign-stealing scandal has continued to dominate the airwaves. And that has pitted Thamel, one of ESPN’s most visible personalities but also a serious and credentialed journalist, against masses of Big Blue fans — many of whom believe that the suggestion that the Wolverines cheated is flimsy at best.

The dichotomy between what actually happened and what it means has swept college football into a frenzy. On Saturday, it reached new — and even more controversial — heights.

LIVE: Follow updates from Ohio State vs. Michigan

“College GameDay” returned to the Big House on Saturday to promote The Game — the rivalry clash between Michigan and Ohio State. Thamel, the subject of “some threats” of violence, per ESPN’s Rece Davis, opted to report from inside the grounds of Michigan Stadium rather than his usual post in the concourses.

That wasn’t doing for “College GameDay” host Desmond Howard. The Wolverine legend questioned Thamel’s decision to camp out in the stadium rather than face the music.

“What are we, Week 13 now? Something like that. So we’ve been doing this 12, 13 weeks. Pete’s always been in the crowd doing his reports. I’m like, ‘What the hell is Pete in the stadium for?’” Howard said on ESPN College GameDay. “That kind of just threw me off, like put your big boy pants on and do it in the crowd like you normally do it. I was surprised by that. I thought he would be out here.”

Davis offered a rebuttal, informing Howard that there had, indeed, been some warnings against Thamel’s safety from a “lunatic fringe” of Michigan supporters.

Howard wasn’t all that convinced.

MORE: Why did Michigan fire Chris Partridge?

“We’ve got security,” Howard said. “He’ll be OK. These guys are nice out here. They’re nice fans. They’re not going to do anything,” Howard said. “He’ll be OK. Put your big boy pants on.”

Thamel’s reporting has rubbed legions of blue-nosed Wolverines fanatics the wrong way. He added to the tension with more speculation regarding Jim Harbaugh’s future during Saturday’s program, saying the following:

I think the results of today’s game loom as a significant pivot point for Jim Harbaugh’s future at Michigan. A loss could expedite key decisions from both sides. A win obviously returns Jim Harbaugh to the sidelines here at Michigan. They play in the Big Ten title game, and then they go on to be a favorite, if they beat Iowa, in the College Football Playoff. It would also inherently temper NFL interest in Harbaugh until the season’s done. A loss could put things in fast forward, it could open the door to any NFL conversations Harbaugh could have. It would also put Michigan’s decision-makers in the crosshairs. They’d need to determine in the upcoming weeks whether they want Harbaugh to return to the sideline despite a suspension to start the 2024 season looming as an inevitability. 

Still, it’s hard to think that Howard’s comments will make the corporate leaders at the Worldwide Leader in Sports any happier. Couple that with newfound ESPN addition Pat McAfee’s goading of Thamel and it’s clear that the segment served as one of the more awkward ones of the college football season.


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