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Arledge’s Job Interested Ueberroth

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Associated Press

Roone Arledge says it was just a casual conversation, months before the 1984 Summer Olympics, when he and Peter Ueberroth talked about the job of president of ABC Sports.

“He said he might be interested, but then there was no follow-up because the baseball thing came up,” Arledge said. “It was not a serious, long discussion, just a passing conversation.”

After guiding the Los Angeles Games to widespread acclaim and financial success, Ueberroth became commissioner of baseball in 1985.

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In a recent interview, Arledge mentioned the Ueberroth contact to illustrate his intention, “as far back as 1983,” to divest himself from the day-to-day details of running ABC Sports.

Beginning in 1977, when he added the position of ABC News president to his job as sports chief, ABC Sports officials complained that he was frequently unavailable, holding up their key decisions.

Last January, ABC’s new owners, Capital Cities/ABC Inc., named Dennis Swanson president of ABC Sports and made Arledge group president in charge of sports and news. In theory, Swanson reports to Arledge on major decisions, but the recent changes on “Monday Night Football” were made without Arledge’s knowledge or consent.

“I think Dennis tried to reach me,” Arledge said, adding: “I was not part of that decision, and I should not necessarily have been.”

The changes dumped analysts Joe Namath and O.J. Simpson, shifted longtime play-by-play announcer Frank Gifford to the analyst role and brought in Al Michaels on play-by-play.

Arledge’s only public reaction has been single-minded defense of Gifford. He said he objected to the media perception that “made it look like Frank had been demoted for the quality of his work. That is a very unfair and a wrong assumption. . . . I think it was a bum rap against Frank.”

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Arledge, who brought Gifford to “Monday Night Football” 15 years ago from CBS, where he had been an analyst, said Gifford held the broadcast together in the tempestuous years when he was the booth-side referee between the sparring Howard Cosell and Don Meredith. Arledge also said Gifford showed his strength last season working with the inexperienced Namath and Simpson.

Asked to elaborate on his reactions to the substance of the football changes and the way they were handled, Arledge said, “I think I’ve said what I have to say on that.”

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