One of the most famous men in sports broadcasting has decided to step away from ESPN.
On Wednesday ESPN announced that Brent Musburger, whose sports media career spans six decades, will end his play-by-play career with the company at the end of the month. Musburger will call two more men’s college basketball games, Florida at Oklahoma on Saturday on ESPN and his final telecast, Georgia at Kentucky on Jan. 31 at 9 p.m. ET on ESPN.
Stephanie Druley, the ESPN senior vice president who made Musburger the lead voice of the SEC Network two years ago, said the decision was Musburger’s alone. “About 10 days prior to the Sugar Bowl, we were told that Brent was considering stepping away from play-by-play,” she said. “I was shocked. I did not feel like it was time for him to step aside. We had a follow-up meeting where we made a very strong pitch to get him to change his mind. In the end, he made a personal decision for himself and for his family. I respect that. But, personally and professionally, I am disappointed and saddened, considering he’s still a fantastic play-by-play announcer.”
In a statement, Musburger said, “What a wonderful journey I have traveled with CBS and the Disney company. 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.”
Asked if the decision had anything to do with his comments about Oklahoma football player Joe Mixon during the Sugar Bowl—those comments were criticized as insensitive including by some ESPN colleagues—an ESPN spokesman said, “It had absolutely nothing to do with that.”
Musburger’s career résumé also includes play-by-play or hosting responsibilities (TV or radio) for the Super Bowl, College football championship, Final Four, Masters Tournament, Rose Bowl, Little League World Series, FIFA World Cup, Indianapolis 500, NBA Finals, MLB playoffs, US Open tennis and Belmont Stakes. He joined ABC in May 1990 after he was famously dropped by CBS that same year in what was perceived as a salary dump.
The Associated Press reported that Musburger would soon move to Las Vegas to start a sports handicapping business with his family. Sources close to Musburger say that his involvement will include an on-air presence and that Musburger has no immediate plans to step away from a microphone at 77. He also has joined Twitter.
In an interview with the SI Media Podcast in June, Musburger said he had no plans to retire. “I’m not sure I will ever know when,” Musburger said. “I hope at my funeral they play ‘Take Me Out To The Ballgame.’ It’s just the way I look at things.”