“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!”
Musburger plans to start a sports-handicapping business there with his family and, according to ESPN’s Jeremy Schaap, will have a sports handicapping show on Sirius XM Radio.
An ESPN official says the network learned that Musburger was thinking of retiring 10 days before the Jan. 2 Sugar Bowl, during which Musburger made controversial comments about an Oklahoma player. “I was shocked. I did not feel like it was time for him to step aside,” Stephanie Druley, the network’s vice president of events and studio production, said in an ESPN release. “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.”
Musburger, who started at the local level in 1968 and went national in 1975, was known for his relaxed way of making fans feel as if he was speaking directly to them while calling pro and college games, with memorable if somewhat hokey lines like “this one’s for all the Tostitos” and “you are looking live.”
Musburger joined ABC in 1990 after 15 years with CBS. In recent years, Musburger had been calling third-tier games for the SEC Network, with the best games going to CBS and ESPN2. Although he drew criticism for controversial comments last month, the network said that did not factor into his retirement decision.
In calling a game involving Oklahoma, Musburger expressed his feelings about an incident in which Sooners running back Joe Mixon, one of the top running backs in the country, knocked out Amelia Molitor in an off-campus restaurant in 2014. Mixon went through the criminal process, sat out a season and recently apologized to Molitor. But video of the punch, released by Mixon’s attorney last month after an order by the Oklahoma Supreme Court, is deeply disturbing.
Musburger praised the university for giving Mixon another chance during the telecast and expressed his hopes for Mixon’s NFL future.
“Very troubling to see it,” the veteran broadcaster said. “But they all swear the young man is doing fine. Folks, he is one of the best and let’s hope given a second chance from Bob Stoops and Oklahoma, let’s hope this young man makes the most of his second chance and goes on to have a career in the National Football League.”
Musburger attempted to respond to the online critics on the telecast, saying: “What he did with that young lady was brutal, uncalled for. He 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, okay. Let me make it absolutely clear. I hope he has a wonderful career and he teaches people with that brutal, violent video. Okay?”
In 2013, ESPN apologized for another controversial moment in which ho seemed to lose the thread of the Bowl Championship Series championship game when confronted with the loveliness of Alabama quarterback A.J. McCarron’s girlfriend.
With ‘Bama quickly asserting itself against Notre Dame, Musburger noted Katherine Webb, a former Miss Alabama, in the stands.” You quarterbacks, you get all the good-looking women,” Musburger, then-73, said. “What a beautiful woman.” “Wow!” his partner, Kirk Herbstreit, said.
“Whoa!” Musburger added. “A.J’. s doing some things right down in Tuscaloosa,” Herbstreit said. “If you’re a youngster in Alabama, start getting the football out and throw it around the backyard with pop,” Musburger said.
During his years with CBS, Musburger was a studio host for “The NFL Today” and called play-by-play for NFL games, as well. He also covered the Final Four, tennis’ U.S. Open, the Masters and the Belmont Stakes.
For ABC, ESPN and the SEC Network, Musburger has hosted and/or called play-by-play for the NBA, college football (including seven BCS championship games) and basketball, golf, NASCAR and IRL races and the 2006 FIFA World Cup. He also hosted Super Bowl XXV pregame and halftime shows as well as the Little League World Series. He did play-by-play for NBA games and the Finals for years.
“He helps the viewer connect to the people in the game,” Druley said. “He gives you a reason beyond team allegiance to be interested in the event. I knew when I watched one of Brent’s games that I would learn something. That’s the one thing I hope that young broadcasters take away from Brent’s career.”