Brent Musburger, one of the most iconic sports announcers of the past half-century, will end his broadcasting career Tuesday in Lexington, Kentucky, where he will call the Georgia-Kentucky men’s basketball game, ESPN announced on Wednesday.
Rupp Arena is the site of one of his most significant calls — the 1985 NCAA championship game in which Villanova upset Georgetown.
Musburger, 77, has had a long and varied career, which began as a newspaper reporter and columnist and included a stint as a pioneer of NFL pregame shows in the 1970s and as lead voice for CBS Sports in the 1980s.
He said his next project is to help his family start a handicapping business in Las Vegas and to travel. He long has been known for his sly allusions to gambling-related matters during telecasts.
“What a wonderful journey I have traveled with CBS and the Disney Company,” Musburger said in a news release. “A love of sports allows me to live a life of endless pleasure. And make no mistake, I will miss the arenas and stadiums dearly. Most of all, I will miss the folks I have met along the trail.
“But the next rodeo for me is in Las Vegas. Stop by and we’ll share a cold one and some good stories. I may even buy!”
ESPN and Musburger said his departure was not related to a controversy over his comments related to Oklahoma Sooners running back Joe Mixon during the Sugar Bowl on Jan. 2. Musburger said he hoped Mixon would make the most of his second chance after being suspended for a season for punching a woman, an incident caught on video.
“About 10 days prior to the Sugar Bowl, we were told that Brent was considering stepping away from play-by-play,” ESPN senior vice president Stephanie Druley said in a post on ESPN’s website.
“I was shocked. I did not feel like it was time for him to step aside. We had a follow-up meeting where we made a very strong pitch to get him to change his mind.
“In the end, he made a personal decision for himself and for his family. I respect that. But, personally and professionally, I am disappointed and saddened, considering he’s still a fantastic play-by-play announcer. “
The Georgetown-Villanova game was only one of many memorable events Musburger has called, including the Doug Flutie “Hail Mary” pass for Boston College in a victory over Miami in 1984.
Musburger joined ABC/ESPN after CBS fired him in 1990.
When Newsday profiled him in November before he was honored by Fordham’s WFUV radio, Musburger said he had no intention of retiring anytime soon.
Asked how long he planned to work, he said, “Forever. Carry me out. It’s too much fun, and I love it. Just roll the balls out and let’s play.”
Musburger’s career in sports journalism goes so far back he can be seen in the famous picture of Jets quarterback Joe Namath holding court poolside in Fort Lauderdale before Super Bowl III. Musburger was working for a radio station at the time. He told Newsday it is the only photograph he ever has asked an athlete to sign.
Musburger had been ESPN’s lead college football play-by-play man before being replaced by Chris Fowler in 2014, but he continued on as the lead college football voice of the SEC Network.
“Not everyone approved of everything I said,” he told The Associated Press. “I understand that. I come from a sportswriting background and I’m not afraid to take a position on certain things from time to time. But for the most part, I thought people should be coming to a game to escape for three hours and forget about what their individual problems are.”