“I’m not going to retire,” says ESPN broadcaster Brent Musburger, who turned 77 last month. “That’s just not going to happen. I take those AARP mailings that I get frequently in the mail and throw them in the wastebasket. I’m honestly not sure I will know [when to retire]. Maybe Arlene, my wife, will tell me it’s time to ride off in the sun.”
One of remarkable sports broadcasting careers will continue for at least a couple of more years, as Musburger last month reached a multiyear contract extension with ESPN. He will remain the signature college football voice of the SEC Network and continue with college basketball assignments. “Someone had to stay at ESPN,” Musburger said and laughed. “We can’t all head for the exits.”
The longtime sports broadcaster is a guest on this week’s SI Media Podcast (Episode 62), where he discussed his re-signing, calling games for the SEC Network, how he was ahead of the curve on discussing gambling on broadcasts and other issues. Musburger said he misses calling the national college football championship game but said ESPN “had to move on and get younger and they did.”
Musburger has been with ESPN/ABC since 1990, a second act after being fired by CBS on April 1, 1990, the day before he scheduled to handle play-by-play of the NCAA championship basketball game. At time CBS Sports execs pointed to a “great group of young broadcasters” to whom they wanted to give more air time. Those young broadcasters included James Brown, Greg Gumbel and Jim Nantz.
Musburger has had such a long second act for ESPN/ABC that most young viewers have no idea just how prominent he was at CBS Sports, where he worked from 1968 to ‘90. Recently, I came across a fascinating Los Angeles Times story from April 1990 where Musburger discussed how his CBS Sports bosses essentially arranged a coup to remove him.
“It was a sham, a setup all the way—a charade, unethical,” Musburger told ABC’s Sam Donaldson upon his firing. “These two men [CBS Sports president Neal Pilson and executive producer Ted Shaker] 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. They led us on all the way. They sent somebody to my brother’s office [his brother, Todd, handed his negotiations] in Chicago and then pulled him off. They never intended to sign me ... I’m going someplace. I’ll sit back and take a look at the offers. You don’t have to pay me $2 million a year.”
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