Sports Broadcasting Hall of Fame: Brent Musburger, An Iconic Voice Always Up to the Big Moment
There’s the Doug Flutie Hail Mary. The “Holy Buckeye” Game. Edgar Martinez’s ALDS-winning double. Villanova’s Cinderella championship. Nebraska’s “Flea Kicker.” Garfield Heard at the buzzer. Ricky Williams breaking the NCAA rushing record.
The legendary career of sports broadcaster Brent Musburger is bursting at the seams with unforgettable moments, and yet the most memorable thing about Musburger is that he made any game he called feel like a big moment thanks simply to his voice.
It was that gravitas that carried Musburger to a marathon 40+-year career with CBS Sports, ABC Sports, and ESPN and cemented his as one of the most iconic voices in the history of sports television.
“Brent’s presence and delivery have come to symbolize big-time sports for multiple generations of fans,” ESPN President John Skipper said in a statement at the time of Musburger’s retirement this year. “When he opens with his signature ‘You are looking live,’ you sit up straight in your chair because you know something important is about to happen. He has skillfully guided us through some of the most dramatic and memorable moments in sports with his authentic and distinctive style. He is one of the best storytellers to ever grace a sports booth.”
After an early career in sports writing, the Portland, OR, native began his relationship with CBS Sports in 1973 and — after calling play-by-play on numerous events, including the NFL — has his break-out role as the host of The NFL Today beginning in 1975. The show blazed trails as the first live pregame show and catapulted Musburger to national prominence. Over the next decade, he become the top voice at CBS, calling major events across the board, including the NBA Finals, US Open tennis, the Belmont Stakes, and The Masters.
Following a dismissal under new management at CBS Sports in 1990, Musburger quickly made the shift to ABC Sports, where he further bolstered his legacy. When ABC Sports merged with ESPN, the opportunities became plentiful, offering him the opportunity to call events like Major League Baseball, the NBA, the Indianapolis 500, and the Little League World Series. He also stayed sharp as a studio host, anchoring ABC’s coverage of the Tour de France and the 1998 and 2006 FIFA World Cups.
It was also with ABC and ESPN that Musburger deepened his love affair with a sport he would become largely synonymous with: college football. He became lead play-by-play voice on ABC’s Saturday-night game of the week and racked up seven BCS National Championship Games.
“Brent is a legend,” says Stephanie Druly, SVP, event and studio production, ESPN. “He is one of the best play-by-play announcers ever. Every game he did felt big. During a game, Brent is a true storyteller. He helps the viewer connect to the people in the game. 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.”
Musburger put an exclamation point on his career by helping christen the new, wildly successful SEC Network when he took over as lead play-by-play voice for football and basketball beginning in 2014. He called his final game early this year after announcing his retirement. He leaves a legendary voice behind, moving to Las Vegas to be the face of the Vegas Sports and Information Network.
“Nothing in the world replaces the friendships I’ve made,” Musburger says. “And that includes the fans. I mean, I’m never alone. Wherever I go, someone’s going to come up. Someone’s going to come up and ask about a team. Or a game. Or an experience. I’ve got millions of friends out there.”