IN YOUR LIFE … can you recall a better TV announcer in sports?
This is the question happily running through my mind, in lieu of Verne Lundquist‘s impending retirement as the play-by-play announcer from CBS’s SEC Game Of The Week, effective at the end of the 2016 college season.
Tuesday’s announcement, which launched the SEC Spring Meetings in Destin, Fla., was surprising but hardly shocking, especially for those who attended an event at the College Football Hall of Fame last month. Alabama head coach Nick Saban — then visiting Atlanta to accept the national championship MacArthur Bowl Trophy (the Tide’s fourth since 2009) — playfully outed Brad Nessler before a crimson-and-white-clad HOF crowd, announcing Nessler’s hush-hush move from ESPN to CBS, as Lundquist’s eventual successor.
Imagine that, the normally tight-lipped Saban breaking news to an audience that might not spend countless hours reading media-insider blogs.
“That (was) a big thing out of the bag by Nick,” said Nessler last month, beaming from the revelation.
Assuming the play-by-play duties for the SEC’s grandest game every Saturday represents a major coup for any broadcaster. “Virtually every week (at ESPN), we’d look at the SEC schedule and figure out what game CBS would take, and what we’re going to get,” recalled Nessler last month. “It’s the best game from the best conference in the country.”
Perks aside, it may be somewhat daunting to replace the homespun, minimalist charm of Lundquist, who’s been a revered network broadcaster since the early 1980s. (He was the radio voice of the Dallas Cowboys during the 1970s.)
With CBS, Lundquist has been a TV institution with premium sports properties, like the NFL (called ‘The Fog Bowl’ with Terry Bradshaw way back when), the NCAA men’s basketball tournament (called the famed Christian Laettner ‘perfect’ game in 1992 — below) and The Masters (16th, 17th holes).
And that doesn’t even cover his 17-plus seasons as the CBS football announcer (primarily with analyst Gary Danielson) during the coveted 3:30 p.m. EST time slot. On Lundquist’s watch as the conference’s No. 1 TV voice, the SEC has collected nine national championships.
“Being a part of the SEC ON CBS since 2000 has been the most significant assignment I’ve been given in my more than five decades in this business,” Lundquist said in a news release. “Now, it’s time to step back and take in the aroma of those tulips, those roses, and those daffodils that friends have been telling me about for years.
“In 2017, I’ll happily step aside from college football and welcome Brad (Nessler) to the booth.”
Now, we could spend the rest of this piece glowingly writing about Uncle Verne’s signature accomplishments over the last 40-plus years. Instead, it’s better to promote Lundquist’s greatest career-defining calls, via YouTube magic:
1994 WINTER OLYMPICS: TONYA HARDING vs. NANCY KERRIGAN
TONY DORSETT: 99-YARD TOUCHDOWN RUN (LONGEST IN NFL HISTORY)
TIGER WOODS: 16TH HOLE AT THE 2005 MASTERS (‘IN YOUR LIFE …’)
JACK NICKLAUS: 1986 MASTERS
CHRISTIAN LAETTNER: ‘THE SHOT’ AGAINST KENTUCKY
JACKIE SMITH: DROPPED TD CATCH IN SUPER BOWL XIII (‘SICKEST MAN IN AMERICA’)
And from an ‘SEC ON CBS’ perspective …
2013 IRON BOWL: AUBURN’S KICK-SIX TOUCHDOWN AGAINST ALABAMA
2013: AUBURN’S ‘HAIL MARY’ MIRACLE AGAINST UGA
Jay Clemons, the 2015 national winner for “Sports Blog Of The Year” (Cynopsis Media), has previously written for SI.com, The National Football Post, Bleacher Report and Fox Sports.