The past few weeks have not been kind to CBS play-by-play announcer Sean McDonough. On Oct. 25 his agent, Robert Fraley, was killed in the plane crash that also took the life of Payne Stewart. On Dec. 7 McDonough's boss, CBS Sports president Sean McManus, informed him that his $600,000-per-year contract, which had expired one week earlier, would not be renewed. McDonough, known to his peers as a loyal soldier, will finish his 10-year tour of duty, not to mention the century, by broadcasting the Sun Bowl (Minnesota versus Oregon) from El Paso on New Year's Eve. Should auld acquaintance be forgot, indeed.
"Sean [ McManus] kept using the word terrific to describe me," says McDonough of the conversation during which he was handed his walking papers. "He seems troubled by having to let me go, but not any more than I am."
McDonough's exodus coincides with CBS's imminent hiring of Dick Enberg from NBC. Enberg, who will become CBS's new No. 2 NFL play-by-play man, isn't directly replacing McDonough, whose specialty is college football. However, Enberg's salary, which has been reported to be in the $2 million range, was a factor in CBS's decision to unburden itself of McDonough's salary. "The reason I was given is that they had a chance to hire Dick Enberg," says McDonough, 37. "I equated it to a game of musical chairs. My four-year contract, which expired on December 1, was the next one up." (Through a spokeswoman, McManus declined to comment on McDonough's departure.)
McManus has cleaned house at CBS-goodbye, Andrea Joyce, Pat O'Brien, Tim Ryan and Michele Tafoya—in favor either of young up-and-comers, such as Bonnie Bernstein and Phil Simms, or legends, such as Verne Lundquist and now Enberg. Apparently, McDonough fails to fit either of those molds. "They thought I was kind of a nondescript guy," says McDonough, "and maybe I am. But my feeling is that people want to tune in to watch the game. I was never trying to be a TV star."
For the past dozen years McDonough has done TV play-by-play for the Boston Red Sox. His status in that position, too, is muddled because the Sox recently switched from JCS New England Television Network to Fox 25. "Eve gotten a phone call or two, but nothing serious in the way of job offers," says McDonough, who recently signed with a new agent, IMG. "I'll worry about that after the holidays."
McDonough is a Jim McKay type trying to exist in a Terry Bradshaw world. Ample room exists for both. If anyone should understand that, McManus should. His dad is Jim McKay.