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ESPN Expands Mack Brown’s Role

Jason Barrett



Set to begin his second season in the television game Mack Brown already appears to be in the fast lane.

This year, he’ll add booth analyzing Friday night college football around the country for ESPN to studio analyzing Saturday afternoons in Bristol for ABC.

At 64, maybe he’s secretly auditioning to play an avuncular role in Planes, Trains and Automobiles, The Sequel.

Opening week appears a slam-dunk for Brown, whom you may remember as the coach at the University of Texas where he was afforded the luxury of private jet and charter travel.

After working Baylor at SMU this Friday, he’ll be on a commercial jet headed out of Dallas-Fort Worth at 6:30 a.m. for a 3½-hour flight to Hartford, Conn. Then comes a 40-minute drive to ESPN headquarters, a quick shower, a trip to wardrobe, makeup and voila, Brown will be making studio magic with John Saunders and Mark May by early afternoon.

It may get a little more complicated the next week when Brown is down to work Utah State-Utah, catch a midnight redeye from Salt Lake City to Hartford and hopefully be at ESPN by 1 p.m.

“I hope,” Brown said via telephone the other day with the optimism of a man accustomed to private travel, “the planes are on time.”

Things get a little more complicated when ESPN adds 11 a.m. kickoffs to its Saturday schedule of games on ABC. Take the Texas-Oklahoma game on Oct. 10, which is likely to fill the time slot. Brown and his play-by-play partner, Dave Flemming, are down to work the North Carolina State-Virginia Tech game the night before. Maybe Brown can make it from Blacksburg to Hartford in plenty of time for the Texas-OU studio duty. Maybe ESPN will change its mind and allow Brown a Friday night off.

When the schedule hits full stride, ABC will offer games at 11 a.m., 2:30 p.m. and 7 p.m. Brown along with studio mates John Saunders and Mark May will be on call all day for halftime and post-game duty. ESPN is willing for Brown to miss some early games, but not Texas-OU.

Danny Kanell did similar Friday night/Saturday duty last season, Some weeks he skipped game duty. Others he was late to the studio.

Brown didn’t have to embrace his new schedule. But when ESPN offered, he didn’t hesitate.

“I can tell you that Mack is not concerned,” said Bill Graff, who oversees production for ESPN’s college studios. “He’s excited.”

Graff mentored Brown through what the ex-coach refers to as his “rookie season.”

They watched plenty of tape together every week to review Brown’s performance. Graff graded. Brown learned.

“By the third or fourth week we were fine tuning,” Graff said. “Mack got it.”

By season’s end, Graff suggested Brown try working a game. Brown was in the booth for University of Louisiana-Nevada Reno in the New Orleans Bowl on Dec. 20.

Brown’s work off-Broadway earned him a shot at higher profile games on Friday nights.

Brown said he has enjoyed the transition from the sideline in Austin to broadcasting.

“I spent 42 years in coaching, 30 as a head coach, and I still get to talk to coaches, watch video, prep for games,” Brown said.

But he misses the control he had. As coach, he dictated schedules, and had the luxury of others making his hotel reservations as well as travel plans. Then there was matter of police escorts to get him to games on time.

“Not being the boss is different,” Brown said. “Now someone tells me what to do and when to do it.”

Perhaps hardest of all was condensing his thoughts into 12 to 15-second sound bytes that television demands, he said.

“Instead of talking about two or three things I saw, I had to learn to talk about one thing,” Brown said. “All I’m trying to do in the studio and at games is to put some sense into football.”

To read the rest of this article visit the Dallas News where it was originally published

Sports TV News

ESPN Sees Larger Than Average Audience For Big City Greens Classic





ESPN aired Tuesday night’s New York Rangers and Washington Capitals game. DisneyXD and Disney Channel aired an alternate broadcast that included players being 3D animated to resemble the cast of Disney Channel’s popular cartoon Big City Greens. It turned into a ratings win for the networks.

The alternate broadcast featured players animated in real time to mimic what was happening on the Madison Square Garden ice. Players were equipped with special chips in the padding to aid the animation, and special pucks were used to ensure a smooth transition from video to computer-animated graphics.

An average of 589,000 viewers tuned into the game on ESPN. Meanwhile, nearly 175,000 watched the broadcast between Disney Channel and DisneyXD.

The figure for ESPN represents its largest NHL broadcast since a November 1st broadcast featuring the Pittsburgh Penguins and Boston Bruins.

The combined total for the broadcast — 765,000 — outdrew the World Baseball Classic broadcasts but did not top the NCAA Tournament’s First Four round that was broadcast on truTV.

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Sports TV News

Greg Gumbel: I’m Lucky That I’ve Never Been Fired

“I worked for some people who didn’t like me, I’ve worked for some people I didn’t like. It’s a strange business, there’s no doubt.”

Ricky Keeler



Greg Gumbel

This week, it was announced that Greg Gumbel will no longer be a play-by-play announcer for the NFL on CBS after working on CBS’s NFL coverage every year since 1998. Gumbel has had an illustrious career and he takes pride in the fact that one thing has never happened to him.

Gumbel was a guest on the Tell Me A Story I Don’t Know podcast with George Ofman (Part 2 from an interview back in September) and he told Ofman that while he has never been fired before, but he doesn’t think broadcasters should be embarrassed when they get fired because of what the business is.

“It’s the nature of the business. I honestly think I’ve been extremely fortunate in that I’ve never been fired in a business that is known for firings. Being fired in this business is no shame, no embarrassment because it’s a subjective business. Because this guy at this network likes my work, it doesn’t mean that this guy at that network does. It’s extremely subjective and if you can buy that and understand it the way it is, then it shouldn’t bother you at all.

“It’s never happened to me. If it had, it would not have surprised me. I worked for some people who didn’t like me, I’ve worked for some people I didn’t like. It’s a strange business, there’s no doubt.”

Gumbel has been the host of CBS’s NCAA Tournament coverage for the last 25 years and he knows it’s a job that he is very grateful to have.

“I know there are people who would give their right arm to be sitting there next to Clark Kellogg and Seth Davis on Selection Sunday or sitting next to Kellogg, Kenny Smith, and Charles Barkley when the tournament begins to talk about what we’ve just seen or what we are going to see. I am never, ever going to take for granted the fact that I have been very fortunate to be able to do that.”

One thing Gumbel tries to avoid whenever he is on air is the mispronunciation of someone’s name because he knows how it feels to have his name distorted accidentally by some people.

“Pronunciations are important to me. There’s been a lifetime of people who may not completely mispronounce my name, but distorting it a little bit from time to time. I never want to do that to an athlete. If I ever mispronounce an athlete’s name, I hear it from his family, I hear it from the school or the team and I apologize for it as soon as I can. I don’t think that is something light or should be taken for granted.”

Toward the end of the interview, Gumbel was asked by Ofman when he will know it will be time to end his career.

“Other people have given it more thought than I have. I think when that time comes around, it will hit me over the head more than I will think about it. There are people who ask me why I still do what I do. The very bottom line is I love it, I enjoy it.”

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Sports TV News

Diamond Sports Group Misses Arizona Diamondbacks Rights Payment

It is believed that the missed rights payment by Bally Sports Arizona triggers a clause in the contract that reverts the television rights back to the Diamondbacks and Major League Baseball.





Last week, Diamond Sports Group — operator of the Bally Sports-branded regional sports networks — claimed it had paid every rights fee it was contractually obligated, except for the Arizona Diamondbacks.

At the time, the company said it had a grace period until it needed to make a payment. That payment was due by Thursday, March 16th at 11:59 PM. That time has come and gone, and the company failed to deliver its fee.

It is believed that the missed rights payment by Bally Sports Arizona triggers a clause in the contract that reverts the television rights back to the Diamondbacks and Major League Baseball.

The Diamondbacks are not the only team affected by the situation. Bally Sports — which filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy earlier this week — has also reportedly entered a grace period with the San Diego Padres. According to a report from Sports Business Journal, that grace period ends on March 30th, baseball’s Opening Day.

Previous reporting claims that contract is one the network hopes to get out from under. The company loses a reported $20 million per season on its television deal with the Padres. The Cincinnati Reds and Cleveland Guardians are the other two baseball franchises the network holds the rights to that it hopes to terminate deals for.

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