Media Circus (cont.)
SI.com: You are now working with Bob Knight on college basketball. Have you found him to be a softer presence as a broadcaster?
Musburger: That's a very good question. I'm going to make a couple of strong statements about Bobby Knight. When I first covered him, he was at the peak of his powers at Indiana and you walked on eggshells with Bob. I wasn't too sure if we would ever get too close and we did for whatever reason -- probably because I did his last championship. Bob is one of those guys if he likes and trusts you, he embraces you, so I was one who was invited to practice and I watched him prepare. It became obvious that this was the best game preparation coach I had ever been around. Could he be offensive? Absolutely.
I was in practice one day and Landon Turner, who had been paralyzed in a car accident, was there. Bob stopped practice and just tore into him. He ripped him up and I was like, "Whoa." I guess Landon missed an English class if I recall, and that was the result of the tirade. So that night Bob and I went out to dinner and I said, "Coach, sitting there I winced and I was little uncomfortable when you turned your fire on Landon. Tell me about that?" He said, "Brent, I promised his mother that he would get his degree when he came back after he was paralyzed and I'm going make sure he goes to class and get his degree. But by doing that, he feels that he is still a little part of the team because he knows direct fire at players in practice." It was a moment of honesty.
That brings us to our pairing now. He doesn't intimidate me. I know his bluster. I also know sometimes people take him too seriously. He's trying to be funny and when he's not, he fails. Having worked games with him, I find him to be the most perceptive basketball analyst that I have been around. Obviously, he looks at things from Bob Knight's point of view. There is a way that Bob thinks a game should be played, so you will get that bit but I really enjoy working games with him. I'll tease him about the chair and I'm not afraid to tease him about things in his past. I think he enjoys it and so we have been getting along fine. I also notice he's getting a lot of respect from young kids when he goes into the buildings. They are respectful and Bob will sign autographs.
SI.com: Do you expect to be calling next year's championship game on ABC?
Musburger: Once you become involved in this and do these games, you want to stay a part of it. But I don't presume anything. You never want to do that. That will be up to the bosses and whatever they decide next year.
"The things that he does I would have to keep off limits in terms of what I was writing about," Ohlmeyer said. "There can only be a conflict of interest if it's not disclosed."
I've thought often about that interview this week after the news came down that Texas Tech coach Mike Leach had been fired in the wake of receiver Adam James and his family filing a complaint about Adam's treatment after an injury. ESPN has become part of the story because Adam's father, Craig, is a college football analyst for the network, and was scheduled to call the Alamo Bowl game in San Antonio between Texas Tech and Michigan State until the network announced on Dec. 28 that he would be removed from the broadcast. In light of the news that has flowed out of Lubbock over the past seven days, James should never have been within 1,000 miles of that broadcasting booth.
At the very least -- and this is the very least -- Craig James should have publicly removed himself from the braodcast on Dec. 17, the day Leach is alleged to have confined Adam James in a equipment shed after being diagnosed with a concussion.There is also the charge from Leach that Craig James meddled "more than any parent I've dealt with my entire career," a charge James called "absurd" through an ESPN spokesperson. Texas Tech receivers coach Lincoln Reilly also publicly stated that he had issues with Adam James, calling him "unusually lazy and entitled." No matter where the veracity of the accusations stand, it's impossible to believe Craig James could call the game with impartially.
Ultimately, the public will make a decision on which side they feel is being honest after the facts are exhausted. But what should bother television viewers is this: Either James was not forthright with his employers about the extent of his conflict with Leach and the coaching staff, or those who assigned James the game disregarded a major appearance of impropriety (On this subject worth reading is this piece in The Huffington Post by University of British Columbia journalism professor Joe Cutbirth.
Networks over the years have assigned fathers to cover their son's games including Bob Griese (who called son's Brian's games at Michigan), Lou Holtz (who called son's Skip's games when he coached at East Carolina) and Bill Walton (who called son's Luke's games at Arizona and for the Lakers) and Westwood One's John Thompson (who called NCAA tournament that involved his son John III, who coaches Georgetown). The rational is often that the human interest story and access to the player/coach will make for a better broadcast (and could juice the ratings). If nothing else, the James situation should finally make networks think twice about such assignments. Given the public interest and the passion on all sides, I imagine Ohlmeyer will weigh in soon, a column that promises to be must reading.
SPORTS MEDIA TWEETS OF THE WEEK
"If Nick Saban wants to know how to beat Texas, he should call Mike Leach, who has free time and is the only coach to do it recently."
"Next time someone resigns/retires to spend time w/ family, would it be rude to walk out of press conf? MJ, Favre, Urban. Anyone mean it?"
THEY SAID IT (OR DIDN'T)
James Brown: Let me turn my attention to Coach Cowher because there have been an awful lot of reports about you and various coaching jobs. What is your response to these stories?
Bill Cowher: As I referenced to before, I am not going to talk about any jobs during the regular-season. I've got my own issues up here. I'm trying to catch this guy (pointing to Shannon Sharpe) in the picks segment. It's taking all my attention to do that.
THE LAST WORD
Finding airtime in the same booth as Joe Theismann
The former Redskin coach and the loquacious quarterback-turned-analyst will serve as analysts for NBC's coverage of Jets-Bengals wildcard game Saturday at 4:30 p.m. in Cincinnati. (Tom Hammond will call the game.) "I told Joe I would try to keep him from getting fired," Gibbs told SI.com this week. "Three hours may be hard, but I think I spent half of my career saying, "Joe, shut up."
Last month Gibbs sat in on NBC's broadcast of the Panthers --Vikings at his home in Charlotte. N.C., to reacquaint himself with the booth after receiving a call out of the blue from NBC Sports president Ken Schanzer (a huge Redskin fan) with the one-game offer.
"In Gibbs and Theismann we have a former coach and quarterback who obviously have a long relationship and will be looking at a football game from different points of view," Tommy Roy, who will co-produce the game, told The Washington Times. "There could be some disagreements between the two during the game, which I think is not necessarily a bad thing and could make for an entertaining broadcast."
Gibbs said that because of his schedule, the AFC wildcard game will likely be a one-off assignment, though he did work as an NFL broadcaster for NBC from 1994 to 1997. "When I was redoing my contract in 1997, Schanzer was pounding me in the contract renegotiations. I said, "Ken, don't I have any leverage? He said, absolutely not. I said, "Well, in that case, I better take what you are offering me." Later on that year [his wife] Pat and I were lying in bed one when I got a call from [NBC Sports chairman] Dick [Ebersol]. He said, "Joe, we lost football." l I said, "Dick, nobody loses football." He said, "We did. " I said, "Well, I guess I don't have a job." He said, "You got that right."
If the Redskins coaching situation comes up during the broadcast -- Jim Zorn was fired on Monday -- Gibbs said he is more than comfortable to address it. "I talk to Dan Snyder as a friend and if he wants to ask me something, I'll do whatever to try and help the Redskins," Gibbs said. "But I am not in the decision-making process, so I can give my opinion."