Greg Gumbel didn't hesitate to accept when he was offered the opportunity to be the host of CBS' coverage of the NCAA men's basketball tournament in 1998. The network previously had split the duties between Pat O'Brien and Jim Nantz, but Gumbel didn't see a problem when told the plan was to have him go it alone.
That was until the evening session began. "Sean McManus, [the president of CBS Sports], told me around 6 o'clock that first year that he was looking at me on camera and I had started to lean a little bit," Gumbel said.
Thursday marked the beginning of Gumbel's 11th season in the host role. By now he is accustomed to the fatigue that comes with four consecutive days of wall-to-wall basketball. Sitting in Studio 43 in the Manhattan-based CBS broadcast center, Gumbel is a self-described "traffic cop" for coverage that spans three weekends.
Among his assignments are setting up studio analysts Clark Kellogg and Seth Davis and frequently taking viewers of different games around the country from one site to another to update them. This is referred to as "walking the dog" and can get tricky on the opening weekend because of the volume of games.
"It gets to be pretty non-stop sometimes and that's what makes it hectic," Gumbel said. "We go on about noon [Eastern] Thursday and go until about 1 or 1:30 in the morning. The kicker is when you get around to 10 or 10:30 at night and realize there are four more games to tip off. That's what makes it really interesting."
Kellogg has been part of CBS' studio coverage since 1997 and marvels at Gumbel's work.
"I can't even describe how good that dude is," Kellogg said. "It's off the charts. ... Greg does the whole thing and he's so smooth and just a pleasure to be around."
As Gumbel directs CBS' coverage, Kellogg and Davis watch games from various regions. A bank of nine monitors on a rolling set shows all the action; analysts can pick the game they want to listen to in their earpieces.
Kellogg said focusing on multiple telecasts isn't difficult.
"You never have more than four games going on at one time and the way they are staggered you can catch a couple of minutes of action from each game during the various commercial breaks," he said. "I'm comfortable with watching two and then you can sneak a peek at a third and pick up what you need to pick up.
"We also have a tremendous research staff and two or three people chart each game and give us statistical information. I'm pumping them for what's going on and then watching two games. That's my approach to make sure I lock into a couple of games."
A nice change
The biggest improvement in CBS' tournament coverage is the way scores from other games are presented. Once difficult to read, the yellow and white graphics are far more clear and easy to pick up with a quick glance.
Giving FM a try
KFAN afternoon drive host Dan Barreiro is headed for another Clear Channel-owned station -- at least on weekends. Beginning April 12, Barreiro will be the host of a two-hour show (10 a.m. to noon) each Saturday on KTLK (100.3 FM). That will put him head-to-head against the popular Saturday morning sports talk with Joe Soucheray and Patrick Reusse on KSTP (1500 AM).
Barreiro said the plan is for his program to be "almost exclusively non-sports," but admits he isn't sure if it will end up sounding all that different from his current Sunday morning show on KFAN (1130 AM). That will go away after April 6; Barreiro's bread-and-butter, his 4 to 7 p.m. program on KFAN, will continue as usual.
KFAN program director Chad Abbott said it hasn't been decided how Barreiro's 9 to 11 a.m. slot on Sundays will be filled. Abbott did say that Chad Hartman will be the host of a show at 5 p.m. Sundays on KFAN beginning April 6.
• Bob Picozzi and former Wisconsin coach Mary Murphy will call the Gophers-Texas game in the opening round of the NCAA women's basketball tournament at 8:30 p.m. Sunday on ESPN2. The telecast will be "market protected," meaning Twin Cities viewers will see the entire game.
• ESPN2 will have the NCAA men's hockey selection show at 10:30 a.m. Sunday.
Judd Zulgad • email@example.com