Brent Musburger to Retire From ESPN Next Week

Brent Musburger is calling it a career at ESPN after being the play-by-play man in the booth at sporting events enjoyed by millions of Americans, most prominently when he was the lead voice for CBS Sports in the 1980s.

Musburger, who is 77, said he was leaving active sportscasting to help his family get a sports handicapping business started and to use some of the millions of airline miles he has earned for recreational travel.

His last game will be the Kentucky-Georgia men’s basketball game Tuesday night. That takes him back to Rupp Arena, where he called Villanova’s upset over Georgetown in the final of the N.C.A.A. tournament in 1985.

Musburger and ESPN said his comments about the Oklahoma football player Joe Mixon that were criticized as insensitive during the Sugar Bowl this month had nothing to do with his exit. On the broadcast, Musburger said that 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. He did not initially talk about Mixon’s victim.

A former sportswriter, Musburger’s broadcast fame took off through his work on “N.F.L. Today,” the pro football pregame show. He broadcast the N.B.A., college basketball, the Masters golf tournament and tennis — most of CBS’s marquee events.

He was behind the mike for one of college football’s most memorable plays, Doug Flutie’s “Hail Mary” pass that beat Miami for Boston College in 1984. He confessed to Flutie later that it took him awhile to identify Gerard Phelan, Flutie’s roommate, as the receiver of that pass — and Flutie told him he didn’t know, either, until he had run off the field.

Musburger was abruptly dropped by CBS in 1990 in what was perceived as a salary dump, then went to work for ABC and ESPN.

“Brent made every event feel larger,” said Stephanie Druley, ESPN senior vice president for events and studio production. “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.”

Musburger’s opportunities for national exposure grew more limited in recent years when ESPN assigned him to its SEC Network for college football. But he still called college basketball regularly, and even though ESPN has been trying to save money lately by cutting higher-cost talent, Druley said the network had no interest in seeing him leave.

Sportscasting today “has become more and more numbers driven, advanced statistics and everything,” Musburger said. “That’s fine. I was never going to change because I’m a people guy. I like pulling up a chair in a saloon with a cold beer and telling stories.”

Musburger took heat in 2013 when he extolled the attractiveness of an Alabama quarterback’s girlfriend, a controversy he found silly. “I called a beauty queen beautiful,” he said. “Are you kidding me?”

He said he hoped people felt comfortable listening to him.

“Not everyone approved of everything I said,” he said. “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.”

He said he was not ready to fully retire (“I don’t do shuffleboard well,” he said), but his decision lets ESPN escape from an uncomfortable decision. Having a broadcaster of college games publicly identified with a sports handicapping business wouldn’t fly. That accounts for the odd timing of his departure in the middle of the college basketball season; his family wants the site fully operational by the N.C.A.A. men’s basketball tournament.

If anything, the move will force Musburger to change a pat answer when he is approached by fans.

“They always ask me my favorite game, and I always say, ‘The next one,’ ” he said.

After Tuesday, that will no longer be applicable.

Brent Musburger is calling an end to his broadcast career at age 77. Credit Phil Ellsworth/ESPN Images, via Associated Press


Brent Musburger Hanging ‘Em Up, Set To Call Final Game Next Week

“You are looking live …” — that’s how Brent Musburger began so many of the sports broadcasts he announced during his 40-plus years in the booth. ESPN said today that he is retiring and that the Georgia-Kentucky college basketball game on January 31 will be his last.

“What a wonderful journey I have traveled with CBS and the Disney company,” said Musburger, who spent the past 27 years with ABC/ESPN. “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.”

Musberger started out in local TV and radio in 1968 and became the sports anchor at KNXT Los Angeles (now KCBS) in the mid-1970s. From 1978-80, he anchored the local newscasts with Connie Chung before she moved into the national broadcast spotlight and he joined CBS Sports full time.

He became most famous for doing play-by-play for the NBA on CBS during the go-go 1980s, when the Los Angeles Lakers and Boston Celtics dominated the league led by Magic Johnson and Larry Bird, respectively. His broadcasts alongside color man Tommy Heinsohn, a former Celtic, drew enormous ratings — especially when those rival teams faced off, and especially during the NBA Finals.

Among Musburger’s many career highlights was calling the 1985 Men’s NCAA Basketball Championship, when Villanova stunned heavily favored Georgetown — led by future Hall of Famer Patrick Ewing — to win its first title. He also did play-by-play for Super Bowls, NCAA football title games, the Masters, MLB playoffs, Triple Crown horse races and U.S. Open tennis, along with the many memorable NBA games.

“Brent’s presence and delivery have come to symbolize big-time sports for multiple generations of fans,” ESPN President John Skipper said, “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. Brent’s catalog of big events is unmatched, and he has skillfully guided us through some of the most dramatic and memorable moments in sports with his authentic and distinctive style. He is one of the best story-tellers to ever grace a sports booth.”


Brent Musburger announces his retirement from sports broadcasting

All good things must come to an end, right?

Legendary sports broadcaster Brent Musburger announced on Wednesday that he is retiring from sportscasting at the age of 77. Musburger has been a staple of sports broadcasting since the 1970s. Since 1990, he has served as a host and play-by-play commentator for multiple sports on ABC, ESPN, and SEC Network. Prior to his arrival there, he was with CBS for 15 years.

Here’s Musburger’s statement from ESPN’s official release announcing his retirement:
“What a wonderful journey I have traveled with CBS and the Disney company,” Musburger said. “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!”

He will call his final sporting event on Tuesday, Jan. 31, Georgia at Kentucky from Rupp Arena.

According to the Associated Press, Musburger has plans to move to Las Vegas and start a sports handicapping business with his family.

Now we aren’t here to pile on Musburger, who has had his fair share of slipups, as some broadcasters do. He came under fire earlier this month after his comments regarding Oklahoma running back Joe Mixon, whose video showing him punching a woman in the face was released to the public in December. Musburger, who was calling the Sugar Bowl between OU and Auburn, referred to the running back as “one of the best”:
“It was troubling, very troubling to see,” Musburger said of Mixon (apparently the videotape, specifically). “We’ve talked to the coaches. They all swear that the young man is doing fine. Like I said, Oklahoma thought he might even transfer, but he sat out the suspension, reinstated, and, folks, he’s just one of the best, and let’s hope, given a second chance by Bob Stoops and Oklahoma, let’s hope that this young man makes the most of his chance and goes on to have a career ...”
That was met with a ton of backlash on social media. He then attempted to walk back on these comments, which made the situation a lot worse:
Let me make something perfectly clear. What he did with that young lady was brutal, uncalled for. He’s apologized. He was tearful. He got a second chance. He got a second chance from Bob Stoops. I happen to pull for people with second chances, OK? Let me make it absolutely clear that I hope he has a wonderful career and he teaches people with that brutal, violent video. OK?”
Per the AP’s reporting, these recent comments do not have anything to do with Musburger’s retirement.

Musburger made some eyebrow-raising comments before this. During the 2013 National Championship Game between Alabama and Notre Dame, the camera showed Tide quarterback AJ McCarron’s then-girlfriend Katherine Webb. Musberger made some creepy-at-best comments about Webb's attractiveness, including encouraging "youngster[s] in Alabama" to start throwing a football in hopes of becoming quarterbacks at the college one day because quarterbacks "have all the luck." ESPN later issued an apology for his comments.

Musburger’s move to Las Vegas shouldn’t come as a huge surprise. The broadcaster became known for using gambling references as he was calling games, including phrases such as “it is important to some” or referencing “friends in the desert.”

“I am very aware about what’s going on,” Musburger said, via the Sports Business Daily Journal. “I know when spreads or over/unders are covered. That’s not the main point of emphasis in covering a ballgame. I’m aware that a lot of people are interested in it and partake in it. Nobody has ever said anything to me. Executives understand the appeal.”

He was also one of the announcers of the Las Vegas Bowl, starting in 2010, and called it every season from 2013-16.

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