Sports Broadcasting Hall of Fame 2023: Lance Barrow, Front-Bench Maestro on the Greens and the Gridiron
Leading up to the 2023 Sports Broadcasting Hall of Fame ceremony on Dec. 12 at the New York Hilton, SVG is profiling the nine inductees in this year’s class. For more information, CLICK HERE.
From the greens of Augusta National to the gridiron of Super Bowl Sunday, Lance Barrow has made an indelible impact on not only the legacy of CBS Sports but the entire sports-broadcasting industry. During more than 40 years at CBS Sports, he created some of the most memorable moments in sports-television history as coordinating/lead producer of CBS’s golf coverage and NFL coverage for two decades.
“Lance will go down in history as one of the most distinguished and accomplished producers in the annals of sports
television,” says CBS Sports lead announcer Jim Nantz. “It’s a massive achievement to be the leader of one network sports package. Amazingly, Lance was in charge of two: CBS Golf and the NFL on CBS. Since 1997, he choreographed our coverage of the Masters, the PGA Championship, and the Super Bowl. He did them all over and over again and won countless Emmys. A true testament to a legendary career.”
If Hall of Famer Frank Chirkinian is “the father of televised golf,” then Lance Barrow is the man who brought the
sport into the 21st century. Taking over for his longtime mentor as coordinating producer for CBS Sports’ golf package in 1997, he became just the second man in history to produce the Masters for television and would continue that role until 2020. Simply put, televised golf would not be where it is today without the artistry and imagination of Lance Barrow.
But Barrow’s mastery extended far beyond the greens and fairways. He donned the hat of coordinating producer for the NFL on CBS and took the helm as lead game producer from 2004 to 2017, overseeing four Super Bowls during the period.
In addition to legendary work on golf and the NFL, the 13-time Emmy Award winner has served as producer for coverage on the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament, Olympic Winter Games, Daytona 500, marquee college football, US Open tennis, The NFL Today, and many other CBS Sports properties.
From chronicling the most memorable moments of golf legends like Tiger Woods at Augusta, the PGA Championship, and dozens of PGA Tour events to presenting the most iconic moments of NFL players like Tom Brady and Peyton Manning during their Hall of Fame careers, few individuals have contributed as much to the legacy of CBS Sports as Barrow.
“The images produced by Lance will live on in the memories of sports fans forever,” says CBS Sports Chairman Sean McManus. “From the Masters, Super Bowl, the Olympics, the Daytona 500, and numerous other signature events, his presentation has set the industry standard for over four decades. His legacy as one of the best producers ever is secure for all time.”
A Texas-Size Determination: From College Athlete to Production Pro
Growing up on a dairy farm in Colleyville, TX, outside Fort Worth, Barrow found a passion for sports early on. Not only did he constantly play sports, but his parents were TCU football season-ticket holders for more than 40 years and often spent fall Saturdays hitting back-to-back TCU-Baylor football games with Barrow and his siblings. He also caddied regularly on the golf course — a move that would end up getting his foot in the door in sports production.
“When I was in high school,” he explains, “my parents would let me caddy in the Colonial National Invitation Tournament in Fort Worth if I kept up my grades. The [player I was caddying for] missed the 36-hole cut so I decided to go over to ABC Sports on Saturday morning and ask if I could work for them. I said I’d worked for them before even though I hadn’t, so I got a job running lower-third graphics. And that’s what started my career.”
After graduating from Fort Worth Christian High School, Barrow went on to play college football and baseball – first at the University of Wisconsin and then at Abilene Christian — while also working for ABC Sports whenever he could and spending summers caddying for Jim Simons on the PGA TOUR.
Early Days in Broadcasting: Joining the CBS Sports Family
During his junior year of college in May 1976 at the Colonial, Barrow approached then CBS Sports associate producer Chuck Will and asked for a job at the golf tournament that week. Will put Lance to work immediately, assigning him to the role of spotter for iconic announcer and Sports Broadcasting Hall of Famer Pat Summerall. It was here that his journey began forging a career that would eventually lead him to some of the biggest stages in the world at CBS Sports.
“That first weekend, Pat Summerall said I want that kid out with me more often,” says Barrow. “I don’t know what I did to impress him, but I was very fortunate that he took a liking to me.”
Barrow ended up working with Summerall for six years, traveling across the country and sitting to his left in the booth while he called golf and NFL football.
“It was funny because I was still in college and I’d go do these top NFL games, first with Pat Summerall and Tom Brookshire or Pat and John Madden on Sunday and then fly back Monday morning and go back to school. I’d be doing the Masters or the Super Bowl and then go back and live in the athletic dorms at Abilene Christian.”
Graduating with a degree in communications in 1978, Barrow joined the CBS Broadcast Associates entry-level program in New York. He worked his way up the chain at The Tiffany Network, serving various production roles on NFL, college-football, golf, college-basketball, and The NFL Today throughout the 1980s.
His first big breaks as a producer came in 1990, when he was in the chair for the Norman Challenge — a made-for-TV golf event featuring Greg Norman, Wayne Gretzky, Ivan Lendl, and Larry Bird – and for that year’s NCAA Division I-AA Football Championship Game.
Golf on CBS: Teeing Off, Learning From the Master, and Capturing Tiger
During this period, serving in virtually every capacity of CBS Sports’ golf production, Barrow also developed a close relationship with Chirkinian and eventually became associate director, sitting to the left of the legendary director for 12 years in the CBS Golf truck.
“As a producer,” says Barrow, “I think you’re really like a head football coach. And, like any great coach, Frank expected perfection from everyone — or at least as close to perfection as possible. He let you do your job; if you couldn’t get it done, he would find someone else to do it. He expected you to be prepared but also to think outside the box. He treated a golf tournament like it was a major Broadway show – Nothing got in the way of his striving for excellence, and he expected you to treat it the exact same way.”
Those formative years under Chirkinian’s watchful eye unlocked the gateway to his greatest opportunity: in 1997, he became only the second-ever coordinating producer of golf at CBS. It was a year that would etch a monumental moment in the annals of sports history, with Tiger Woods’s “win for the ages” Masters victory at Augusta National. Barrow would go on to produce every Masters, PGA Championship, and countless PGA tour events for CBS through 2020.
“What stood out during our 25 years of working together at CBS Sports is that Lance was a gamer,” says Sellers Shy, who succeeded Barrow as CBS Golf coordinating/lead producer. “Whether it was the Super Bowl or a major golf championship, Lance was at his best when the lights were the brightest. I can unequivocally say Lance’s intense gamesmanship, dogged persistence, and overall skill at his craft fit the Hall of Fame description to a tee. This honor is well-deserved.”
In addition to capturing the most iconic moments during a period that many consider the golden age of golf, Barrow also emphasized technical innovation and was always looking to push the envelope on CBS’s golf coverage.
“Lance [and] Chirkinian had that special ability to produce golf in a manner that only a handful of producers could do,” says Sports Broadcasting Hall of Fame Chairman Ken Aagaard. “Frank was the first to [figure out] how best to use a blimp while Lance was able to take high-frame-rate cameras and tracking technology and incorporate them into a show that enhanced the overall product. Not an easy task with a sport that has so many simultaneous shots happening at the same time.”
Despite a shelf full of Emmys and countless unforgettable moments on the course, Barrow’s most significant contribution may be less tangible. In his time steering the CBS Golf ship, he mentored numerous future production leaders and created a culture of behind-the-scenes camaraderie that was unrivaled in the industry.
“It is very rare in the broadcast industry to find a producer who has led a production team for decades. Lance Barrow did just that,” says CBS Golf Lead Director Steve Milton. “He came to work every day instilling values and principles that resulted in an esprit de corps for all who worked on CBS Golf. He nurtured a family culture where everyone looked out for each other and, at the same time, produced broadcasts that met, then exceeded, the highest standards. I am so very blessed in so many ways to have been to his right for 25 years.”
The NFL on CBS: Super Bowls, Iconic Moments, and Unbreakable Bonds in the Truck
Of course, Barrow’s triumphs go well beyond his work on CBS Golf. He served as coordinating producer for NFL on CBS and lead game producer from 2004 to 2017, working four Super Bowls with the No. 1 NFL announce team of Jim Nantz and Phil Simms. In addition to Sunday’s NFL coverage, Barrow also produced the broadcaster’s NFL Thursday Night Football games (2014-16).
Barrow’s longtime NFL on CBS directing partner Mike Arnold (they met in 1981 when Barrow was Summerall’s spotter), says, “He would go on to become one of the titans of the television-sports industry, but perhaps his best quality is his people skills. I remember my first Masters as an associate director, when Lance took the time to take me out in a golf cart and show me around Augusta National — Amen Corner, Butler Cabin, etc. Lance wanted to make sure I knew everything I would need to know and make me feel comfortable. We were a producer/director team for CBS Sports’ NFL coverage for almost 20 years, but, as much as I enjoyed our partnership in the production truck, I enjoyed our time outside the actual broadcast even more.”
In 2016, Barrow served as coordinating producer and lead game producer for Super Bowl 50, which was the most-watched single broadcast in television history on an all-or-part basis. He served in the same capacity for Super Bowl XLVII in 2013; for Super Bowl XLIV in 2010, whose 106.5 million viewers made it the most-watched program in television history at the time; and for Super Bowl XLI in 2007. Before that, he was replay director for CBS Sports’ coverage of Super Bowl XXXV and Super Bowl XXXVIII.
“Lance is an amazing producer of live events who was at the pinnacle of our industry for more than three decades,” says Harold Bryant, EVP, production, CBS Sports. “Lance cares deeply about the on-air product. During his time as lead producer of golf and the NFL, he was always cool and focused under pressure, elevating CBS Sports’ coverage. I am proud to call Lance a friend and an outstanding producer.”
“Lance is one of the most influential figures in sports-television history, and incredibly deserving of this Hall of Fame honor,” adds CBS Sports President David Berson. “He leaves a legacy of producing some of the biggest events of our time, while truly valuing the people and friendships formed throughout his remarkable 44-year career at CBS.”
Family Values Above All – Both at Home and in the Truck
However, Barrow is more than just a luminary in the world of sports broadcasting. As Nantz put it, “he’s a man whose heart is as colossal as his personality, a man who genuinely cares for people.” His unwavering dedication to family values has been a constant throughout his Hall of Fame career, whether it be as a husband of 45 years to his wife Melissa, as a father to his daughters Katie and Caroline, or to his crew family in the field. When asked how he views his legacy in the industry as he enters the Sports Broadcasting Hall of Fame, Barrow says with his usual humility:
“I would hope people would say he did a pretty decent job producing, but more than that I would hope my legacy is that people enjoyed working with me and thought I treated them the right way. I’ve never said that people work for me; we are a team and I love being part of that team and sharing these unbelievable moments. If I’m lucky, that’s my legacy.”