Wednesday, August 31, 2016

The 1974 ABC experiment with active coaches as guest CFB analysts

In 1974, ABC made several key changes to its NCAA football coverage. The network elevated Keith Jackson to #1 play-by-play status and moved previous top announcer Chris Schenkel to the studio. This was also the season that ABC hired the college-aged Jim Lampley and Don Tollefson to serve as sideline reporters.

However, ABC did not regularly pair Jackson with lead analyst Bud Wilkinson. Instead, the network experimented by using a collection of active coaches whose teams were on an off-week to join Jackson in the booth and serve as guest commentators. And rather than adding a coach to the booth as a second analyst to supplement Wilkinson, ABC used the coaches as the only analyst on these games.

ABC did use Wilkinson with Jackson on some games that year. Bud worked other regional telecasts alongside Bill Flemming.

The list of guest analysts used by ABC in 1974 included the following then-active head coaches:
  • Darrell Royal (Texas)
  • Ara Parseghian (Notre Dame)
  • Steve Sloan (Vanderbilt)
  • Pepper Rodgers (Georgia Tech)
  • Joe Paterno (Penn St)
  • Paul "Bear" Bryant (Alabama)
  • Woody Hayes (Ohio St)
along with Nebraska athletic director Bob Devaney who had recently retired from coaching the Cornhuskers. ABC used Oklahoma coach Barry Switzer as the analyst for the Sugar Bowl that season (as his Sooners were on probation and banned from bowl games).

ABC ditched the idea after one season. But early in the 1975 season, ABC did use Devaney as a guest analyst on one game and did the same with Parseghian (who retired from coaching after 1974) on another.

A few of the coaches on this list became TV analysts after retiring. Parseghian was hired full-time by ABC in 1976 and moved to CBS in 1982. He served as the lead analyst for a time on each network. Royal and Rodgers both worked some regional games for ABC in the early 1980s.

Here is the game that Joe Paterno called. With his thick Brooklyn accent and subdued voice level, Paterno was difficult to understand at times.

And here is a clip from the game with Woody Hayes in the booth. Hayes actually had some on-air experience as he conducted a local TV show which ran weekly during the football season for 28 years on Columbus station WBNS. But he didn't seem to add much insight as an analyst on this telecast.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

1972 Howard Cosell interview with USA Olympic track coach Stan Wright

One of the most riveting TV moments from the 1972 Summer Olympics was an interview conducted by Howard Cosell with USA track coach Stan Wright which ABC televised on 8/31/72. Cosell grilled Wright over the time schedule foulup resulting in USA sprinters Rey Robinson and Eddie Hart being disqualified for missing their 100m qualifying heats.

In 2012, ESPN Classic aired a series of specials looking back on the Munich Games. Here is the video of the USA track controversy episode and a summary of that show that I wrote at the time.

A quick guide to the Cosell portions of the clip:
  • 3:05 - interview with Robinson
  • 5:22 - interview with Hart
  • 10:41 - interview with Wright
  • 15:35 - Cosell follow-up commentary
  • 39:03 - interview with 400m medalists Wayne Matthews and Vince Collett regarding their controversial national anthem ceremony
The 9/11/72 edition of Sports Illustrated blasted Cosell for the Wright interview and his subsequent commentary. Wright threatened to sue the ABC sportscaster, but instead spoke out against Cosell during a news conference the following year.

While Wright is best remembered for this incident, he was inducted into the National Track and Field Hall of Fame in 1993.