It's official: Former KSL sportscaster Jim Nantz has been kicked upstairs at CBS Sports.
Beginning this fall Nantz will move from his studio hosting duties for "The College Football Report" to the top spot in the network's College Football Association coverage: Lead play-by-play reporter for college games. He replaces Brent Musburger, who will be focusing more of his attention on baseball this fall."Brent will be our lead play-by-play announcer for baseball next year," CBS Sports chief Ted Shaker said in announcing the change. "Leaving college football this fall allows him to spend more time with the baseball community during the fall playoffs and World Series."
So the top CFA job is being turned over to Nantz, who Shaker called "one of the brightest young sports broadcasters on television today." Nantz will be working with expert analyst Pat Haden, his one-time studio partner and recently his colleague on CBS Radio coverage of NFL playoff games.
Also joining the CBS college football team this year is former ESPN sports anchor Greg Gumbel, who will assume Nantz's old studio duties.
Nantz, who joined CBS Sports in 1985 after nearly three strong years at KSL, has been a jack of all trades at the network. In addition to his college football studio job, he has worked the NCAA basketball tournament, the Masters golf tournament and the U.S. Open Tennis Championships, among others.
"His talents have allowed us to use him in a number of areas since he joined us at CBS Sports," Shaker said.
And now those talents are taking him onward and upward and into the play-by-play work that he's been wanting to do all along.
-THE RISE OF JIM NANTZ at CBS sort of makes you wonder if there are any other local sportscasters who have the potential to make the leap into the national sports scene. And it seems to me that the most likely candidate is the guy who took Nantz's place at KSL: Steve Cyphers.
I know, I know - I'm always talking about how much I enjoy KUTV's Dave Fox. And I do get a kick out of his light-hearted approach to sports - especially his Tuesday night "Plays of the Weak" (yeah, yeah, I know he gets a lot of that stuff canned. He still scores points with me for the touches he adds with such flourish). But the fact is, Fox's style just doesn't seem to play as well on a national level, where a more conventional approach is the ticket.
Cyphers, meanwhile, has grown tremendously during his years at KSL. He has developed a pleasant, good-natured style that is conversational, and yet still intelligent and literate. He's the best writer among local sportscasters (surpassing long-time champ Bill Howard, who has been waxing a bit too flowery of late), and his deft touch with a sports feature recently earned for him an Emmy. He still needs a little work on his play-by-play technique, but it's clear that he has the talent to grow in that area with time and experience.
KSL's Craig Bollerjack may also attract some big market interest with his good looks and voice. But his presentational style seems to me to be derivative, whereas the networks tend to look for people who have something unique to offer. KTVX's Steve Brown has carved out a nice place for himself in Utah and is ideally suited to this market, with his wholesome good looks and his strong outdoors orientation, and so I don't look for him to move on. And while Brown's Ch. 4 colleague Wesley Ruff handles his sportscasting chores well, he just doesn't look or sound like a network type to me.
Howard, whose moving-up days are probably over, is still among my all-time favorite local sports guys. And if Hot Rod Hundley ever surrenders his radio microphone with the Utah Jazz (which will probably only happen if Chick Hearn ever leaves the Lakers), the team could do worse than hiring on good ol' Bill.
-TODAY'S QUOTE comes from CBS Broadcast Group President Howard Stringer: "`Beauty and the Beast' is an exotic show with a very loyal following. I mean, I've got a lot of letters from nuns. I don't know what to make of that."
-VIDBITS: CNN has signed an agreement to transmit its signal via a Soviet satellite, which means that the cable news service can now be received anywhere in the world . . . The Playboy Channel has folded, a victim of its own excesses. But Playboy Enterprises Inc. hasn't given up on television completely, and will now offer a late-night pay-per-view service . . . Beginning next month PBS' "Sneak Previews" will change its title and its emphasis. It will be called "Sneak Previews Goes Video," and will focus on new video releases instead of theatrical openings . . .