Announcers picked for Final Four ‘teamcasts’
NEW YORK (AP) Rob Bromley once called a Kentucky high school basketball game that Rex Chapman won on a last-second shot.
That’s the sort of history, the sort of knowledge that TV executives wanted from the local commentators who will appear on the school-specific broadcasts of Saturday’s Final Four games. The announcing teams revealed Tuesday include Bromley, a longtime sports anchor in Lexington, and Chapman, a former Wildcats star.
Turner Sports and CBS are experimenting with airing two additional telecasts of both NCAA semifinals. Along with the main coverage on TBS, there will be separate versions on TNT and truTV with different announcing crews connected to each program.
For the early game, the Florida broadcast will be on TNT and UConn’s on truTV. Kentucky will be on TNT and Wisconsin on truTV for the second semifinal.
-For Florida, play-by-play will be handled by David Steele, who has previously hosted Gators basketball and football TV and radio coverage and is the current voice of the Orlando Magic. He will be joined by Mark Wise, a longtime analyst for the Gator Basketball Network, and reporter James Bates, a former Florida football player.
-For UConn, the play-by-play announcer will be Connecticut native Eric Frede, a studio host for regional network Comcast SportsNet New England who also calls Huskies women’s games for New York cable station SNY. He will work with two former UConn stars: analyst Donny Marshall, a commentator for Brooklyn Nets games on YES Network, and reporter Swin Cash, who won two national titles with the women’s team.
-For Kentucky, Bromley, who has worked Wildcats games for the UKTV Network since 1980, will do play-by-play. The analyst will be Chapman, and the reporter will be Dave Baker, Bromley’s colleague at CBS affiliate WKYT.
-For Wisconsin, Big Ten Network announcer Wayne Larrivee will be the play-by-play voice. The analyst will be former Badgers guard Mike Kelley, who played in the 2000 Final Four.
Each ”teamcast” will be a unique production with its own TV truck, producer and director. Four additional cameras will offer school-centric angles, and each broadcast will also have its own replays, graphics (in team colors) and halftime show.
Harold Bryant, CBS Sports’ vice president of production, said the closest comparison was the multiple streams the networks have produced for major golf tournaments.
”That’s what our companies do,” he said.
Network executives ideally would have loved to hire local radio announcers for the telecasts, but they knew that was unlikely because of the commentators’ responsibilities to call the Final Four games for their radio employers. They had a long list of potential hires even before the tournament started.
Once the Florida-Dayton game ended last Saturday to stamp the first ticket to the Final Four, they started contacting announcers. Everyone was lined up by about 5 p.m. Monday, less than 24 hours after the semifinal matchups were set.
The commentators will start arriving in North Texas on Thursday for meetings and will do a rehearsal Friday. Production meetings will emphasize that the ”teamcasts” don’t need to look alike, said Turner Sports senior vice president Craig Barry.
”Florida is not like UConn,” said Barry, who oversees production and serves as executive creative director. ”Kentucky is totally different.”
Announcers will be encouraged to get excited when their team hits a huge shot, to delve into minute details on the history of the team and its players. On a play like the reviewed possession call at the end of the Wisconsin-Arizona regional final, they’ll mostly talk about how the possible outcomes would affect their program.
It will be a very different feel from the main coverage on TBS from Jim Nantz, Greg Anthony and Steve Kerr.
”They live and breathe the non-biased delivery,” Barry said. ”It’s different. We want the biased delivery.”
Bromley has been to a half-dozen Final Fours as a sports anchor but has never done a national broadcast, which he calls ”a big thrill and honor.”
He doesn’t consider himself a yeller, but he can just imagine what it would have been like to do a ”teamcast” of Kentucky’s close wins over Wichita State, Louisville and Michigan in the last three rounds. Now he gets that chance.
”I’m sure there will be a lot of energy in it directed Kentucky’s way,” Bromley said.