After CBS Fall, Musburger Rises at ABC

Not quite 10 years ago, Brent Musburger was preparing to announce the national collegiate basketball championship game for CBS when he was abruptly fired.

Today, he is preparing to announce the national collegiate football championship game for ABC. He and Gary Danielson will be in the booth for Tuesday’s Sugar Bowl.

“I hope the same thing that happened back then doesn’t happen again,” Musburger said this week.

Musburger can laugh about it now.


He wasn’t laughing on April 1, 1990, in Denver, the day before Nevada Las Vegas was to play Duke for the NCAA basketball title. That was the day word got out regarding Musburger’s demise.

Most people at first thought it was an April Fool’s Day joke. The Associated Press sat on the story for two hours, and other media outlets were skeptical. A CBS publicist had to do a hastily planned conference call with reporters to explain that, yes, it was true.

The night before, Musburger’s brother and agent, Todd, had planned to sit down with CBS Sports president Neal Pilson and hammer out a new contract, but Todd got the brush-off.

“There was no negotiation; I was out, and that was that,” Brent Musburger said this week.


Pilson, who now has a consulting business in the New York area, declined comment when asked about Musburger this week.

The speculation was that Musburger was fired because of his $2-million-a-year salary and also because of his desire to do even more than he was doing, which already was just about everything. CBS wanted him to do less to make room for such up-and-comers as Jim Nantz and Greg Gumbel.

There also was talk that Musburger, who had been with CBS since 1968 and had been the host of “The NFL Today” since 1975, had become an “anchor monster,” as one former CBS executive called him, or a “600-pound gorilla,” as another called him.

“The people I worked with on a regular basis weren’t saying those things,” Musburger said.

And there has been none of that talk at ABC.

“As far as I’m concerned, he’s one of the best team players I’ve ever been around,” John Filippelli, head of production at ABC Sports, said.

There also was a question about Musburger’s style during his CBS days. He was criticized by TV columnists for injecting too much of himself into telecasts, and his CBS bosses certainly must have noticed.

Musburger said the bitterness toward CBS, and the anger and hurt, lingered for several years.


“I’ll tell you what it was,” he said. “It was the rejection. It’s just like when someone you trust and care about rejects you. When something like that happens, you feel it’s the end of the world. It takes a while to get over that. I felt it almost every day.”

Musburger was 51 at the time--he’ll be 60 in May--but he wasn’t worried about finding work. “Turner and ABC showed interest right away,” he said.

“I’m a Montana boy [born in Billings]. When you get thrown off your horse, you pick yourself up, dust yourself off and get back in the saddle.”

ABC hired him a month later. There was talk then that Al Michaels might switch from ABC to CBS to take the spot on baseball that had been pegged for Musburger. If that was going to happen, it figured that Musburger would replace Michaels in the “Monday Night Football” booth. But Michaels stayed put and ABC had Keith Jackson on college football, so there wasn’t a prime job for Musburger. He was on golf for a while, but that didn’t work.

Now Musburger has a prime assignment--No. 1 Florida State vs. No. 2 Virginia Tech. He and Danielson also will work Saturday’s Citrus Bowl as a tuneup. ABC’s other top college football announcing team, Brad Nessler and Bob Griese, drew the Orange Bowl.


It was good for all concerned that the lawsuit USC filed against former radio announcers Larry Kahn and Mike Lamb was settled, thus avoiding a trial that had been set for Jan. 12.

The dispute revolved around Kahn and Lamb being unable to meet the financial stipulations of a three-year, $2.1-million contract with the school. The contract was signed by Joe Metoyer, former sales manager at KFI who, with Kahn and Lamb, formed a company, KLM, that bought the USC radio rights.


Metoyer then left the company and went to work for USC. Meanwhile, Kahn and Lamb complained to Athletic Director Mike Garrett about terms of the contract. They said Garrett at first promised to be flexible.

“We’re thrilled it’s been settled,” Kahn said. “We were never worried, but a trial would have involved a lot of time and money for all parties.”

Kahn and Lamb have since formed a new company, Pacific West Radio Sports, that syndicates national college football radio broadcasts, among them Saturday’s Gator Bowl. Their broadcast will be carried by KXTA (1150) in Los Angeles.


Hate to say this, but the already insufferable Lee Corso is likely to get worse. In a newspaper column dated Aug. 27, he predicted that Florida State and Virginia Tech would meet for the national championship, and in picking games on ESPN’s “College GameDay” during the season he is 11-0. Corso, a quarterback at Florida State whose roommate was Burt Reynolds, and his “GameDay” partners, Chris Fowler and Kirk Herbstreit, are already in New Orleans, site of the Sugar Bowl. They will do one special Saturday at, yawn, 6:30 a.m. PST, and another Tuesday at 4:30 p.m. Game time is 5.

The first Laker game of 2000 will be televised in high definition by Channel 9 Tuesday, when the Lakers are the visitors in a game against the Clippers at Staples Center. The HDTV telecast can be seen on HDTV sets on Channel 43 or at Circuit City stores in Burbank, Valencia, Culver City, Irvine and Lakewood. . . . Fox Sports Net 2 will begin doing a weekly high school basketball game next Tuesday at 7 p.m. when it carries Woodbridge at Villa Park. . . . Vin Scully and Wayne Gretzky will be among the celebrities playing in the sixth DirecTV Charity Golf Classic on Tuesday at the Desert Inn Resort in Las Vegas. DirecTV will present a $100,000 check to the UCLA Foundation for Multiple Sclerosis.

Now that jockey Gary Stevens has retired from riding, NBC would be wise to line him up as a commentator for the Triple Crown and Breeders’ Cup races. NBC begins doing the Triple Crown in 2001. Stevens, personable, knowledgeable and candid, has been excellent in his few TV gigs to date. TVG, the new 24-hour horse racing network, already has expressed interest. . . . Derrick Hall has been doing a nice job as a fill-in on sports for Channel 4, but is it a good idea to be using him now that he is an executive for the Dodgers? What if Hall had to report on a story on the Dodgers?


One New Year’s wish is that Channel 5 would provide closed captioning on Claudia Trejos’ sportscasts.


What Los Angeles Is Watching

A sampling of L.A. Nielsen ratings for Dec. 25-26.



Over-the-air Channel Rating Share Pro football: Denver at Detroit 2 8.7 27 Pro basketball: San Antonio at Lakers 4 8.3 19 Pro basketball: New York at Indiana 4 4.3 13 College football: Blue-Gray All-Star Classic 7 3.3 11 College football: Aloha Bowl, Arizona St.-Wake Forest 7 2.6 8



Cable Network Rating Share College football: Oahu Bowl, Hawaii-Oregon St. ESPN 1.3 3 Golf: RE/MAX Long Drive Championship ESPN 1.1 4




Over-the-air Channel Rating Share Pro football: Minnesota at New York Giants 11 11.8 32 Pro football: Green Bay at Tampa Bay 11 10.7 26 Pro football: Kansas City at Seattle 2 5.9 14 Figure skating: ISU NHK Cup 7 3.3 8 Hockey: Mighty Ducks at San Jose 9 0.8 2



Cable Network Rating Share Pro football: Washington at San Francisco ESPN 5.9 11 Hockey: Phoenix at Kings FSN 0.8 1 Horse racing: Santa Anita Today FSN2 0.4 1 Pro basketball: Boston at Clippers FSN2 0.3 1


WEEKDAY RATINGS: MONDAY--Pro football, New York Jets-Miami, Ch. 7, 13.1/21.

Note: Each rating point represents 51,350 L.A. households. Cable ratings reflect the entire market, even though cable is in only 63% of L.A. households.