Ian Eagle is really good at his job. Gus Johnson’s just better.
Earlier this week it was reported that the 2023 NCAA Tournament will be the final March Madness that Jim Nantz will call after over three decades on the job. With next year’s Final Four in Houston, it’s the perfect place to end his run as he’s a University of Houston alum. And while Nantz will still be the voice of football on Sundays for CBS and the Masters in Augusta, his days of calling college basketball’s crown jewel are coming to an end.
Too bad the network fumbled his replacement.
This is no diss or shot at Ian Eagle who will take over for Nantz. Eagle can do it all, as he currently calls NBA, NFL, and college basketball games. He’s great. It’s just that he’s not Johnson. And while Johnson hasn’t called a tournament game since he left CBS for Fox back in 2011, Fox’s top college football call-man gets to do a few college basketball games each season.
Networks don’t usually play around when it comes to letting their talent dabble on rival airwaves, but CBS and Fox set a precedent earlier this year when they worked out a deal as part of the Big Ten’s new seven-year $7 billion media rights deal that also includes NBC.
Check this out per ESPN — who lost out on the deal:
“The Big Ten designed the agreement to pair major networks with specific windows on college football Saturdays. Fox will air games beginning at noon ET. CBS, which has a deal with the SEC that expires after the 2023 football season, in 2024 will begin airing Big Ten games in the same midafternoon window. NBC will carry Big Ten games in primetime, which will be branded ‘Big Ten Saturday Night.’ Big Ten games also will appear on Peacock, NBC’s direct-to-consumer streaming platform.
“The Big Ten Network will continue to air football games — up to 50 per year from 2024 through 2029 — as well as most of the league’s men’s and women’s basketball games and Olympic sports. The Big Ten will add a second Black Friday football game on CBS (Iowa and Nebraska have traditionally played a Black Friday game on Fox).
“Fox will carry 24-32 football games per season during the agreement, while NBC will carry 14-16 games on its linear network and eight games per year on Peacock. Beginning in 2024, CBS will carry 14-15 Big Ten games per season.”
If rival networks can work together for the sake of money, then they can figure out a way to make the most excitable voice in sports — who is a March Madness legend — the new play-by-play man for the NCAA Tournament. In case you didn’t know, the tournament makes over 80 percent of the NCAA’s annual revenue — which means they should want the excitement that Johnson brings to games, too.
Earlier this year, FOX chose Kevin Burkhardt to replace Joe Buck as the network’s top play-by-play man for the NFL instead of Johnson. It was another example of how whitewashed broadcast booths have become. This year’s NFL lead broadcasting booths feature Buck and Troy Aikman, Burkhardt and Greg Olsen, Nantz and Tony Romo, Al Michaels and Kirk Herbstreit, and Cris Collinsworth and Mike Tirico — which equates to 8 white guys, Romo and an “Italian” since that’s what Tirico identifies as.
The 2022 March Madness broadcast play-by-play callers were pretty much the same as they included Nantz, Eagle, Brian Anderson, Kevin Harlan, Lisa Byington, Andrew Catalon, Spero Dedes, and Brad Nessler — which adds up to one woman and no Black people.
When Jim Nantz started calling the NCAA Tournament in 1991 there wasn’t much, or any, diversity in the broadcast booth. All these years later, and a white guy is replacing a white guy. Doesn’t look like progress to me.