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Jackie Smith’s dropped touchdown pass, which took some life out of the Cowboys in Super Bowl XIII. Christian Laettner’s turnaround buzzer-beater for Duke during the 1992 NCAA tournament. Tiger Woods’ dramatic chip-in on the 16th hole for birdie at the 2005 Masters.
Verne Lundquist, who is entering his 50th year of broadcasting, was behind the microphone for all of them…and so much more.
“It was an eye-opener,” the CBS sportscaster says upon realizing the milestone is coming up. Lundquist, who currently provides playby- play for the net’s coverage of SEC football, golf and NCAA March Madness, has called more than 20 sports during his career.
“You have to be doing something right to last in business for 50 years—it’s unusual in our industry,” CBS Sports chairman Sean Mc- Manus says about the go-to announcer known in the industry as the “Golden Throat.”
Lundquist says he’s very proud he remains gainfully employed. “This is a precarious craft,” he notes.
While he is among the oldest current broadcasters, Lundquist is quick to point out that he is hardly the eldest statesman in the business. ABC’s Brent Musberger, at 74, is one year Lundquist’s senior; Dick Enberg is 78; and the venerable granddaddy of them all, Vin Scully, is 85. But regardless of age—or perhaps in part because of it—Lundquist never takes the honor for granted. “I still love it, I still care about the preparation,” he says. “It’s a privilege that I do not take lightly at all.”
That “privilege” wasn’t something Lundquist knew he wanted to do following his graduation from Texas Lutheran University in 1962. “I was really uncertain about what direction I wanted to head in,” he recalls.
The son of a Lutheran minister, Lundquist briefly attended the Lutheran School of Theology in Illinois, where he landed a job as a latenight disc jockey at WOC radio. “I was playing music from 9 p.m. to midnight, then getting up and helping wash pots and pans to pay for my room and board, then going to Greek class at 8 in the morning.” He adds it took about six weeks to realize he didn’t want to be there, though he finished out the school year.
Lundquist’s first official job in broadcasting was at KTBC in Austin, Texas, a station owned by then-President Lyndon Johnson. Lundquist started as a summer replacement DJ and eventually rose to sports director in 1964. That post came shortly after the Texas Longhorns football team had an undefeated season and won its first national championship. “It was a pretty exciting way for me to start,” Lundquist says.
In 1967, Lundquist moved to WFAA in Dallas and eventually became the radio voice of the Dallas Cowboys. He was with the Cowboys Radio Network from 1972-84 while still doing Monday-Friday newscasts at WFAA.
In time, Chuck Howard, ABC Sports VP of programming, gave Lundquist the opportunity to broadcast to a national audience at the ABC affiliate in Dallas, and Lundquist called a plethora of different sports for eight years.
Lundquist faced some struggles there. “I was never one of the core guys at ABC. I was always on the periphery, and I knew that,” he says. “It was very frustrating.” One of his toughest times was being left off ABC’s broadcast roster for both the 1976 and, more excruciatingly, the 1980 Winter Olympics.
“While Al Michaels was calling ‘Do You Believe in Miracles’ in Lake Placid, I was replacing Chris Schenkel, doing bowling in Peoria,” he says. His days at ABC came to an end in 1981 when he was told—by Chuck Howard’s secretary—that his contract wasn’t being renewed. “[It shows] how impersonal this business can be,” he says.
Yet it became a blessing in disguise when, the following year, he got the “chance to start all over with CBS,” which had just gotten back into broadcasting college football in the 1982 season. He was with CBS from 1982- 96 before spending a few years with Turner Sports, only to return in 1998.
It was McManus, son of Lundquist’s selfdescribed role model, Jim McKay, who brought Lundquist back to CBS. “It’s a nice combination of the Lundquist and McKay/McManus families being connected,” says McManus.
With the SEC football season in full swing, Lundquist doesn’t enjoy too much down time. But he likes to spend it around music; he and his wife are involved in a summer music festival in Colorado where they live and are regular visitors to the New York Philharmonic.
“I have more close friends in the world of classical music than I do in the world of sports,” he jokes. One thing Lundquist hopes to do is take up a recent offer from the music director at the University of South Carolina to direct the school’s marching band. “I can’t wait to figure out how we can do this.” he says.
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