Thursday, May 1, 2014

Longest runs for announcer trios on network TV

In 1970, ABC producer Roone Arledge decided to feature the unique Howard Cosell as part of a 3-man booth on the Monday Night Football telecast team. Later that decade, NBC added colorful personality Al McGuire, to its top college basketball crew, forming a popular trio with Dick Enberg and Billy Packer. The success of these announcer combinations made the 3-man booth a more prominent part of the sports TV landscape.

Which 3-man booths have remained intact the longest? How does the recent 10-season streak by the ESPN team of Sean McDonough, Bill Raftery, and Jay Bilas rank against other network TV announcing trios? How common is it for a team of 3 announcers to stay together for more than a few seasons?

Previous posts in this series compiled consecutive season streaks for individual announcers at the national network TV level and looked at the longest running network TV announcer duos. As in the earlier posts, I am using a guideline that if a trio worked together for at least one regular season or playoff game during a season, then that season counts toward the streak. This post looks at the NFL, MLB, NBA, college football, and college basketball. For each sport, I listed all streaks I found of at least 3 seasons.

The record holders in this category are the trio of Al Michaels, Frank Gifford, and Dan Dierdorf who lasted 11 consecutive seasons in the ABC Monday Night Football booth. One factor that stands out is how rare it is for a 3-man crew to last very long. Across the sports I researched, I found only five cases where a booth trio remained together for more than 5 seasons and identified just two active streaks of at least 3 seasons.

The breakdown by sport (with * denoting an active streak):


11: Al Michaels, Frank Gifford, Dan Dierdorf (1987-97)
 8: Mike Patrick, Joe Theismann, Paul Maguire (1998-05)
 7: Frank Gifford, Don Meredith, Howard Cosell (1977-83)
 3: Dick Enberg, Paul Maguire, Phil Simms (1995-97)
 3: Joe Buck, Troy Aikman, Cris Collinsworth (2002-04)
 3: Mike Tirico, Ron Jaworski, Jon Gruden (2009-11)

The NFL has three of the top four overall streaks led by the Michaels/Gifford/Dierdorf team whose record run of 11 stands to last for quite some time. The Patrick/Theismann/Maguire combination called Sunday Night Football on ESPN for 8 straight seasons. The Gifford/Meredith/Cosell crew checks in at 3rd on the NFL list with a streak of 7 seasons. That trio had a separate 3-year run from 1971-73. Gifford actually made two of the five longest streaks across all these sports and is the only announcer to appear here in both the play-by-play and analyst roles.

Note: Since I am only considering booth announcers, the team of Kenny Albert, Daryl Johnston, and sideline analyst Tony Siragusa didn't qualify for the list. Otherwise, this team would have an active streak of 11 seasons (2003-13). They were not a permanent team in the early years, but did work some games as a trio each season when Fox shuffled its NFL announcer crews during the weeks of the MLB postseason.

college basketball

10: Sean McDonough, Bill Raftery, Jay Bilas (2003-04 to 2012-13)
 4: Dick Enberg, Billy Packer, Al McGuire (1977-78 to 1980-81)
 3: Jim Nantz, Clark Kellogg, Steve Kerr (2010-11 to 2012-13)
 3: Kevin Harlan, Len Elmore, Reggie Miller (2011-12 to 2013-14) *

The ESPN Big Monday team of McDonough/Raftery/Bilas holds the largest lead in any of these sports. The legendary Enberg/Packer/McGuire team lasted only 4 seasons, but that is good enough for 2nd place on this list. That trio also worked a "reunion" game in 2000. The Nantz and Harlan crews were primarily NCAA Tournament combinations. Enberg also appears on the NFL list.

college football

 6: Mike Tirico, Kirk Herbstreit, Lee Corso (1999-04)
 4: Rece Davis, Lou Holtz, Mark May (2006-09)
 3: Dave Barnett, Bill Curry, Mike Golic (2000-02)
 3: Dave Pasch, Rod Gilmore, Trevor Matich (2004-06)
 3: Brad Nessler, Bob Griese, Paul Maguire (2006-08)

The Tirico/Herbstreit/Corso team manned the ESPN Thursday night booth for 6 consecutive seasons and holds the record for college football. Tirico also appears on the NFL list. All of the streaks on this list are relatively recent with none starting prior to 1999.


 5: Keith Jackson, Don Drysdale, Howard Cosell (1978-82)
 5: Al Michaels, Jim Palmer, Tim McCarver (1985-89)
 4: Bob Costas, Joe Morgan, Bob Uecker (1994-97)
 4: Joe Buck, Tim McCarver, Bob Brenly (1996-99)
 3: Dan Shulman, Orel Hershiser, Steve Phillips (2007-09)

A pair of ABC Monday Night Baseball crews are tied for the longest MLB streak at 5 seasons. The Michaels/Palmer/McCarver trio had a separate 2-season stint in 1994-95. With the exception of 1995, the NBC team of Costas/Morgan/Uecker worked only All-Star and postseason games. The Fox team of Buck/McCarver/Brenly was primarily a postseason arrangement. Cosell (who always seemed to be part of a 3-man booth on team sports), Michaels, and Buck also appear on the NFL list.


 5: Mike Breen, Jeff Van Gundy, Mark Jackson (2006-07 to 2010-11)
 4: Greg Gumbel, Steve Jones, Bill Walton (1994-95 to 1997-98)
 4: Kevin Harlan, Danny Ainge, John Thompson (1999-00 to 2002-03)
 4: Marv Albert, Steve Kerr, Reggie Miller (2010-11 to 2013-14) *
 3: Marv Albert, Matt Guokas, Bill Walton (1994-95 to 1996-97)
 3: Marv Albert, Steve Kerr, Doug Collins (2004-05 to 2006-07)

As we have seen with the previous editions in this series, the longest NBA streak in this category trails that of the other sports. The team of Breen, Van Gundy, and Jackson lasted 5 seasons on ESPN/ABC before Jackson left to take a coaching job. All three of the teams involving Albert were used primarily in late playoff rounds rather than remaining intact for those entire seasons. Harlan also appears on the college basketball list. The Albert/Kerr/Miller team has the longest active streak across all the sports I researched. However, if Kerr leaves TV for a coaching position as rumored, that run will end at 4 seasons.

As before, the historical sports TV listings at 506sports proved helpful in researching this post.


  1. Jeff, this is terrific research and very insightful: network television doesn't really allow for a lot of teams to stay together that long. I also can't help but remember the failed experiment of Vin Scully, George Allen and Jim Brown, of which Lindsey Nelson said that two analysts in the booth are often one too many and three people in the booth are often several too many.

  2. Thanks for the positive words, Michael. Since Scully prefers to work solo, it is hard to picture him in a 3-man booth, but CBS did try that combination on the NFL throughout the 1978 season and Nelson's remarks were quite appropriate.