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Greg Gumbel Gets a Tough Call--LMU After Its Tragic Loss

In mid-January, two weeks after Greg Gumbel began doing sports for “CBS This Morning,” he was sent out to Loyola Marymount to do a piece on Hank Gathers and Bo Kimble.

“I remember Sports Information Director Barry Zepel telling us we were going to love these guys, that they were bright, personable and a pleasure to be around,” Gumbel said.

“And he was 100% right. I got to know Gathers pretty well, so the news of his death hit me pretty hard.”

Tonight, Gumbel will be the play-by-play announcer for Loyola’s NCAA tournament game against New Mexico State, which is being televised by CBS. Quinn Buckner will be the commentator.

The game will be on Channel 2 live at 8:30, and at 11:30 in the rest of the nation--delayed in the West, live in the East.

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“We’ll address the Gathers story at the top of the telecast,” Gumbel said. “But once the game starts, for the most part we’ll try to treat it as New Mexico State vs. Loyola Marymount.

“Of course there will be times when we’ll have to mention the Gathers situation, but we don’t want to beat the story into the ground and take away from the game.”

For most of his career, Gumbel, 43, was best known as the brother of Bryant, who is 1 1/2 years younger.

But the older Gumbel is establishing his own identity and becoming recognized for his own abilities.

Whereas Bryant, host of NBC’s “Today” morning show, skyrocketed to network stardom, Greg took a little slower route.

A graduate of Loras College, a Division III school in Dubuque, Iowa, Greg Gumbel was working as a sales clerk for a hospital supply company in Detroit in 1973 when he got his first broadcasting job.

Bryant, working as a weekend sportscaster at KNBC at the time, suggested that Greg apply for a job as a weekend sportscaster at WMAQ in Chicago. He got the job and spent 7 1/2 years at WMAQ, followed by 5 1/2 at ESPN and a couple with the Madison Square Garden Network before becoming full time at CBS last October.

There are plans to use Gumbel as a fill-in for Harry Smith on “CBS This Morning” when Smith is on vacation. That means the Gumbels would be going head-to-head--Greg on CBS, Bryant on NBC.

Gumbel and wife Marcy live in New York. They have a 21-year-old daughter, Michelle, who attends Roger Williams College outside Providence, R.I.

Gumbel, who says Michelle isn’t much of a sports fan, tells this story about her:

“She and a couple of friends came to the East Regionals in Providence last year after I offered her some tickets. That was the day Georgetown had to come from behind to beat Notre Dame, and then North Carolina State beat Iowa in double overtime in a tremendous game.

“My daughter called the next day to say how much she enjoyed the Georgetown-Notre Dame game. I said, ‘But what about that double overtime game? Wasn’t that something?’

“She said, ‘Oh, was there a second game?’ ”

Kudos to KCBS for preempting network programming to bring L.A. fans today’s UCLA and Loyola Marymount games live.

“Getting the network to allow us to push back ‘Dallas’ and ‘Falcon Crest’ to 11:30 p.m. was a real coup,” said the station’s Lisa DeLucia.

Loyola-New Mexico State wasn’t quite a sellout late Thursday, so KCBS guaranteed it would buy up any remaining tickets in order to ensure the game could be televised live.

UCLA’s game against Alabama Birmingham will be on at 4 p.m., with Ralph Hacker and Dan Belluomini reporting. It will be shown again on ESPN at 12:30 a.m.

KCBS also deserves praise for taking steps to ensure that last Sunday’s NCAA pairings announcement show did not have to be delayed.

To do it, the station eliminated the halftime of the Pacific 10 tournament final, which was shown on a half-hour delay.

“I know the viewer at home only cares about what he sees on the air,” said Jay Strong, the director of programming. “But I can tell you that, behind the scenes, we went to a lot of trouble and financial sacrifice to make sure the Pac-10 telecast ended in time.”

Michaels update: Al Michaels, through a spokesman, said he has no comment regarding his reported suspension by Dennis Swanson, ABC Sports president.

The spokesman said Michaels wants to put it all behind him.

Michaels reportedly was suspended for two weeks to a month because his teen-age daughter worked as a messenger at a figure skating event last month, which is apparently against ABC’s policy on nepotism.

But Michaels was not scheduled to work during the suspension period, so suspension might be the wrong word.

In a new development Thursday, it has been learned that the production assistant who had hired Michaels’ daughter was suspended without pay for two weeks.

The most interesting aspect of the Michaels story is that such strong measures were taken for such a minor offense.

One has to wonder what is really going on between Swanson and his top sportscaster.

Swanson, back in 1986 and ’87, had several run-ins with another top sportscaster, Jim Lampley.

Lampley left the network abruptly after a meeting with Swanson, and was unemployed for a couple of weeks before landing a job with KCBS, where he has since become a news anchorman.

TV-Radio Notes

There will be seven NCAA tournament games televised by CBS this weekend--four Saturday and three Sunday. CBS is planning to televise both UCLA and Loyola Marymount on Sunday, provided both win tonight. However, if Loyola plays Sunday in Long Beach, its game may not be televised if it doesn’t sell out 24 hours in advance. If Loyola doesn’t play Sunday, CBS’ first NCAA telecast probably will start at 9 a.m. Otherwise, the first telecast will be at 11 a.m. . . . NBC commentator Al McGuire, on Dick Vitale: “He’s built a cult following. He’s not of this earth. If (ABC partner) Keith Jackson doesn’t have a twitch by now, he’s an amazing man.” And: “It’s too late for him now. He has to stay with his style. He’s a smart guy and in great physical shape. I do 15 games a year, he does 15 a week. And I don’t shout a lot.”

Attention boxing fans: The Julio Cesar Chavez-Meldrick Taylor fight on HBO Saturday night at 7 figures to be outstanding. Ross Greenburg, HBO’s executive producer of sports, said that promos for this fight originally called it “the fight of the year.” Said Greenburg: “Then we got blindsided by Buster Douglas, so we had to change our promos. But this is certainly the second-best fight of the year.”

Channel 9’s news-block format is not exactly off to a roaring start. Although the Lakers’ telecast from Charlotte last Monday got a peak Nielsen rating of 14.6 near the end, the rating for the 2 1/2 hours of news that followed slipped considerably. The station averaged a .6 rating for the 10-to-11 p.m. hour. . . . Turner Broadcasting has announced that its NFL football will be carried on TNT rather than TBS, as previously announced. . . . Turner has also announced that 24 World Cup soccer games June 8 through July 8 will be televised on TNT. The first U.S. game is June 10 against Czechoslovakia.

Last month’s NHRA Winternationals at Pomona will be televised on NBC Saturday at noon. The announcers are Fred Roggin, Don Garlits and Steve Evans. . . . Thanks to Prime Ticket, SportsChannel and ESPN, there is baseball on TV this weekend--college baseball. During Prime Ticket’s coverage of tonight’s 7 o’clock Cal-USC game, the crowd may look a little strange. As part of USC’s Comedy Day, Groucho Marx glasses will be handed out to those in attendance. Announcers Tom Kelly and Steve Garvey may even don them.

CBS Sports, as part of a new marketing ploy, is in the midst of a shopping mall tour. It makes its eighth stop at the Northridge Fashion Center, from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. today and Saturday, and noon to 6 p.m. Sunday. Called the “Dream Season National Tour,” it features exhibits and games. Shoppers are invited to compete in such things as shooting a basketball, hitting a tennis ball at a target, and chipping a golf ball, or answering trivia questions. Various prizes, such as CBS hats and sweat shirts, are handed out. “The idea behind this is to get people to come out to our sponsors’ stores,” said Mike Nowacki, CBS Sports’ vice president of marketing. “And it’s gone over pretty well. We’ve so far drawn at least 25% more people than normal.”


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