Ousted CBS sportscaster Brent Musburger told a national television audience Thursday night that the network’s decision not to renew his contract was the result of a vendetta against him by CBS Sports President Neal Pilson and executive producer Ted Shaker. Musburger claimed they are “spreading venom” and out to “defame” him.
“They conspired to get me out of CBS,” Musburger told ABC’s Sam Donaldson in an interview broadcast on “PrimeTime Live.” “These two men decided I was too big for my britches, and that they were going to take me down a peg or two, that I was uncontrollable.”
Reaction from CBS was muted.
“It was disappointing to watch,” Pilson said in a statement released by the network.
“I wish to remember Brent the way he was Monday night, gracious and professional,” Shaker said.
CBS announced Sunday it was not renewing Musburger’s contract, which runs through July. Monday’s NCAA championship basketball game was his final broadcast on the network at which he worked since 1975.
Musburger had sought a new contract, with his brother, Todd, handling the negotiations.
“It was a sham, a setup all the way--a charade, unethical,” Musburger said. “They led us on all the way. They sent somebody to my brother’s office in Chicago and then pulled him off. They never intended to sign me.”
Musburger denied reports that he had sought to raise his $2-million annual salary to $3 million. “We never got to money,” he said.
During a 15-minute interview, Musburger spent much of his time attacking Shaker, a five-time Emmy winner.
“He wants puppets for announcers,” Musburger said. “He doesn’t want people to think for themselves.”
Musburger charged that after Loyola Marymount’s 62-60 victory over Alabama in the NCAA West Regional semifinals March 23, Shaker, through a producer, told Musburger not to mention the late Hank Gathers, the Loyola star who died March 4, on the next broadcast.
Shaker has worked for CBS Sports since 1978. His assignments have included producing “The NFL Today” and CBS’ NBA and NCAA tournament coverage. Musburger has served as host or announcer for all those events.
Musburger had been under fire from television critics for several years for appearing on too many events. In recent years, CBS had reduced his workload, dropping him as the play-by-play announcer from the NBA and as the host of the Masters golf telecasts. However, Musburger told Donaldson it was not his idea, but requests by CBS executives that led him to broadcast more events.
“Frank Chirkinian (who produces and directs CBS’ golf telecasts) came to me and said we lost Vin Scully (to NBC) and needed a story-teller. ‘Would you come in and help out?’ ” Musburger said. “On (tennis’) U.S. Open, Van Gordon Sauter (then-CBS Sports president) said we’ve got to put together a half-hour show.”
Musburger’s future has been the subject of much conjecture.
“I’m going someplace,” Musburger said. “I’ll sit back and take a look at the offers. You don’t have to pay me $2 million a year.”