ESPN's Brent Musburger is retiring from sportscasting at 77

Brent Musburger, one of the most famous sports announcers of all time, announced Wednesday that he will retire from play-by-play work after he calls the Georgia-Kentucky college basketball game on ESPN on Jan. 31.

Musburger, 77, said he’s leaving active sportscasting to help his family get a sports handicapping business started and to use some of the millions of airline miles he’s earned for fun travel. He is retiring in the middle of the season in order to have his handicapping business running before the NCAA men’s basketball tournament in March.

“What a wonderful journey I have traveled with CBS and the Disney company,” Musburger said in a statement. “A love of sports allows me to live a life of endless pleasure. And make no mistake, I will miss the arenas and stadiums dearly. Most of all, I will miss the folks I have met along the trail.

“But the next rodeo for me is in Las Vegas. Stop by and we’ll share a cold one and some good stories. I may even buy!”

Both Musburger and ESPN say his comments about Oklahoma football player Joe Mixon that were criticized as insensitive during the Sugar Bowl earlier this month had nothing to do with his exit. Musburger said he hoped Mixon, who had been suspended for a year after punching a woman and breaking her jaw, would make the most of his second chance and did not initially talk about his victim.

“Brent made every event feel larger,” Stephanie Druley, ESPN senior vice president for events and studio production, told the Associated Press. “To me, there is probably not a greater storyteller as a play-by-play person. He can spin a yarn like nobody else, and it made games definitely more enjoyable to watch.”

Since 1968, Musburger has called or been a part of almost every major sporting event at least once. His résumé includes the Super Bowl, the NBA Finals, the Final Four, golf’s Masters, the Rose Bowl, the World Cup, the Indy 500, the College Football Championship, the Little League World Series and tennis’ U.S. Open.

ESPN President John Skipper said in a statement Tuesday, “Brent’s presence and delivery have come to symbolize big time sports for multiple generations of fans. When he opens with his signature ‘You are looking live,’ you sit up straight in your chair because you know something important is about to happen … We and the fans will miss him.”

Musburger began his career in local television in 1968. In 1973, he joined CBS Sports as part of its NFL team and became the network’s primary play-by-play caller in 1975 before moving to ABC and ESPN in 1990. 

His career was not without controversy. While hosting “NFL Today” in 1980, Musburger got into a physical altercation at a bar with the show’s betting advisor, Jimmy “The Greek” Snyder. The two quickly patched things up and appeared on the next edition of the show wearing boxing gloves.

During the 2013 college football championship game between Alabama and Notre Dame, Katherine Webb, the girlfriend of Alabama quarterback A.J. McCarron, was shown on camera. Musburger, calling the game for ESPN, said, “I’m telling you, you quarterbacks get all the good-looking women. What a beautiful woman. Wow!” ESPN apologized for his comments, saying they “went too far,” though Webb came to his defense, saying she was not bothered by his words.

“Not everyone approved of everything I said,” Musburger said Tuesday. “I understand that. I come from a sportswriting background, and I’m not afraid to take a position on certain things from time to time. But for the most part, I thought people should be coming to a game to escape for three hours and forget about what their individual problems are.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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UPDATES:

9:40 a.m.: This article was updated throughout with staff reporting.

This article was originally published at 8:40 a.m.

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