Monday, July 14, 2008

Billy Packer is out

I'm not sure what to think about this. One one hand, I loathe Billy Packer for all of his pro-ACC commentating. On the other hand, it's not the NCAA tournament without the Nantz/Packer combo. Either way, this came out in the Miami Herald today.
College basketball commentator Billy Packer, who has announced 34 consecutive Final Fours on network television and created a few controversies along the way, will not be returning to CBS for a 28th season, The Miami Herald has learned.

CBS has decided to replace Packer, 68, with studio analyst Clark Kellogg on its lead announcing team.

An announcement is expected Monday, but CBS representative Leslie Anne Wade confirmed the story Sunday night.

CBS believed the time was right for a change and that Kellogg deserved a chance to work with Jim Nantz on the lead team.

Packer, who had been going year to year with his contract, confirmed through a CBS official Sunday that he no longer will broadcast for the network but is pursuing other projects in basketball. Packer declined to comment further.

Packer's streak of working as the color analyst at every championship game since 1977 (and being a part of every Final Four broadcast since 1975) ranks among the most remarkable in network TV sports history.

"I think Billy has given the most professional accounting of basketball in the history of our game as a commentator," Louisville coach Rick Pitino said recently.

Packer spent his first seven years at NBC, where he initially teamed with Curt Gowdy and, later, with Dick Enberg and Al McGuire in what has been considered one of the most entertaining three-man booths in sportscasting history. He joined CBS in 1981 and has been paired with Nantz since 1991.

Packer had a serious, no-nonsense style -- the antithesis of the approach taken by ESPN's Dick Vitale, the other announcer most often associated with the sport.

Though he occasionally mixed in historical factoids, Packer stuck mostly to dissecting strategy and assessing players' strengths and weaknesses -- a style that helped him win a Sports Emmy in 1993.

"No one has ever loved the game of college basketball more than Billy Packer," Nantz said recently. "He protects the heart and soul of the sport. Fans don't realize they owe Billy a thank-you."[...]

Packer created a stir in 2006 when he blasted the inclusion of mid-majors in the NCAA Tournament. He repeatedly questioned the accuracy of Nielsen ratings and also blamed the NBA for raiding the sport of its young stars, which drew the ire of commissioner David Stern.

As a guard, Packer helped lead Wake Forest to the 1962 Final Four and served briefly as an assistant coach at the school.

Kellogg, 47, was a Big Ten MVP at Ohio State and the ninth overall pick by the Indiana Pacers in the 1982 NBA Draft, but he played only five seasons before knee problems forced him to retire. He joined ESPN in 1990 and has been with CBS since 1993.

Greg Anthony, an NBA analyst for ESPN, is being strongly considered to replace Kellogg alongside Greg Gumbel and Seth Davis in the CBS studio.

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