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Joe Buck Has Settled Into Monday Nights on ESPN

“Being quiet does not mean that you don’t know. Being quiet means that you’re just taking it all in and letting the viewer at home enjoy it that way too.”

Derek Futterman




In the moment when Buffalo Bills safety Damar Hamlin collapsed in a Monday Night Football game against the Cincinnati Bengals, the focus immediately turned from the matchup with playoff implications to Hamlin’s well-being. Within 10 seconds of his collapse, medical personnel were on the field to give Hamlin CPR and other treatments pivotal to his health and safety. An ambulance then transported him to the University of Cincinnati Medical Center with his teammates, opponents and the sports world in a state of nervous anticipation. Joe Buck was narrating the moment on ESPN, making sure he did not speculate on the injury and remaining cognizant of this wholly unprecedented situation.

Amid his first season calling Monday Night Football on ESPN alongside his longtime broadcast partner Troy Aikman, Buck was challenged to clearly and concisely delineate the scenario as the world anxiously awaited updates. In the final hour of the broadcast when the injury occurred, 23.9 million people were watching the game, one of the highest figures the sports property posted all season. The National Football League ended up suspending the game, which shortly thereafter was canceled because of the circumstances, and an alternate plan was deviated regarding playoff scenarios.

Usually, Buck is tasked with keeping viewers informed about game action and setting up his analyst to give his expertise. In moments of elevated grandeur and importance, he tries to call the game just as how he would want to see it if he were watching at home. He is part of a collaboration between the commentators, producers, directors, technical team and camerapeople, fostering the synergy needed to ensure their broadcast is at the highest level.

“I don’t want somebody just over-talking,” Buck said. “I want to be able to hear the crowd – good and bad. I want to be able to hear the natural sound of the quarterback at the line of scrimmage and the hitting with all the audio and microphones we have down there. That’s the way I do it.”

Buck knew he wanted to be a play-by-play announcer from a young age since he is the son of legendary broadcaster Jack Buck, who called St. Louis Cardinals baseball games and NFL games on radio. He admired his father and everything that went into his on-air performance, inspiring him to pursue a career in sports media. Buck, unlike most aspiring broadcasters, gained real-world experience in following his father and leaning into his nascent passion for sports and the industry as a whole.

“I came along at a time when my dad was ready to kind of take a kid with him to work, so I was on Cardinals’ road trips when I was a little kid,” Buck said. “[I was] flying on team charters and being around a broadcast and everything else that is involved with that. It lit a fire in me that really eliminated any other possibility of me doing anything else. This is all I’ve ever wanted to do.”

With his father as his mentor, Buck knows he had a distinct advantage over other people looking to work into the industry. He matriculated at Indiana University Bloomington where, prior to his enrollment, had accumulated vast esoteric knowledge and experience in the industry. In fact, Buck worked with an FM radio station as a high school senior to deliver early morning sports updates. He continued to hone his craft as a college student and helped out at KMOX radio in St. Louis during the summers.

Buck never made it to his college graduation though, as the industry came calling on him to serve as the new play-by-play announcer for the Louisville Redbirds. Yet he acknowledges that his early play-by-play tapes were “awful” and that he was likely hired to work in the role because of nepotism.

“I owe that all to my last name,” Buck said. “I owe everything else to my last name because I wouldn’t have been around it as a little kid and I wouldn’t have learned the business at my dad’s side without being Jack Buck’s son.”

During his early years working professionally, Buck remained captivated by baseball and also called college men’s basketball games for the University of Missouri Tigers. In 1994 at the age of 25, Buck received a fortuitous chance to establish himself on the national stage by calling NFL games on FOX. Despite following the league as a fan and never previously calling a game, Buck was offered one of the openings – in addition to others such as Kenny Albert (son of broadcaster Marv Albert), Thom Brennaman (son of broadcaster Marty Brennaman) and Kevin Harlan (son of former Green Bay Packers CEO Bob Harlan). The goal, he conjured, was to hire progeny of famed broadcasters and aim to develop them into bonafide stars in the industry.

Buck recalls feeling like he did well in the audition for the role, but quickly felt out of place before his first broadcast at Soldier Field in Chicago, Ill. He is thankful social media did not exist in those early years, estimating that it could have shattered his self-confidence and discouraged him from trying new things.

Thankfully for Buck, the only way for viewers to get in touch with him at that time was through letters. He was encouraged by industry pundits who thought he was doing a good job, but at the same time tried to muffle the outside noise and remain focused on what he could control. Buck broadcast football games with color commentator Tim Green, but put those duties on pause soon after being named lead play-by-play announcer for Major League Baseball games on FOX.

Buck was paired with former catcher Tim McCarver, forming a duo that proceeded to call 24 World Series and 22 Major League Baseball All-Star Games. In this role, Buck set a new record for the youngest person ever to call a World Series, bringing baseball fans Fall Classic action at the age of 27. McCarver, who recently passed away at the age of 81 due to heart failure, was a second father for Buck, giving him assurance that the broadcast would sound polished and professional because of his abilities as an analyst. 

“I think there was a lot of mutual respect, but I had to earn his,” Buck said. “He had mine right away, but I had to earn his. He never made it hard on me, but I think as time went on, he realized that I could handle the job. We got into that first World Series and we felt like we did everything together. It wasn’t him or me; it was us, and that’s the only way to do it.”

Over the years, Buck called a plethora of indelible moments that live in baseball lore, providing a soundtrack to seminal moments in the game’s history. Most notably, Buck graced the microphone when St. Louis Cardinals third baseman David Freese crushed a walk-off home run in extra innings during Game 6 of the 2011 World Series. The impact of the hit, which continues to endure the test of time, was effectuated by taking a minimalistic approach in putting a script to the moment. Instead of an elaborate, detailed description, Buck took a line out of his father’s playbook, saying: “We will see you tomorrow night.” Then, the pictures and sounds of the moment take over..

“Don’t be afraid of dead air,” Buck said. “I think in young announcers’ minds, if you’re not saying something, the audience thinks you don’t know what to say. That’s not the case.”

In addition to the home run by Freese, Buck called World Series championships and the end of lengthy droughts for three franchises – the Boston Red Sox in 2004; the Chicago White Sox in 2005; and the Chicago Cubs in 2016. 

The 2001 NFL season marked the conclusion of Pat Summerall’s broadcasting career, and also the last game John Madden called as a member of FOX Sports. To begin the next season, Buck returned to NFL on FOX broadcasts and was paired with Aikman, a three-time Super Bowl champion and Pro Football Hall of Fame quarterback. From the beginning, Buck and Aikman were able to form a unique, on-air chemistry differentiating themselves from other broadcast booths around the NFL. Buck ascertains that it helps that he and Aikman have two daughters, an array of life experiences and ponder over things in similar manners.

“In a business where sometimes you have to worry about who’s trying to stick the knife in you, he and I have got each other’s back,” Buck said. “It’s so important, but we have fun. I’ve never walked into a meeting room or a broadcast booth with Troy and been like, ‘Oh my gosh, here we go again.’ It’s always exciting to be around a good friend and tackle the game that’s out in front of us.”

Buck and Aikman have called 18 NFC Championships and six Super Bowls together.. Whether it is calling the New York Giants’ win over the undefeated New England Patriots or the Patriots’ comeback win over the Atlanta Falcons, calling the Super Bowl is not comparable to most other sporting events.

“There’s so much buildup and there’s so much hype,” Buck said. “You’re sitting around talking about the same game for two weeks before they have it. You have this build during the month of January, and everybody’s waiting. It’s like, ‘Can they just kick this thing off?’ because you’re tired of thinking about it [and] talking about it.”

Buck will not be calling another Super Bowl until LXI (February 2027), as he departed FOX Sports prior to the start of last season to join Aikman on Monday Night Football on ESPN. Upon Aikman’s departure, Buck was faced with the decision of either pairing with a new color commentator (and potentially inking a contract extension) or leaving FOX Sports to join Aikman at ESPN. He chose the latter and is grateful to FOX Sports for letting him get out of his contract one year early.

“I think everybody got what they wanted,” Buck said. “I think FOX got a reset – they have two new booths that I’m sure they really like – and I have the same partner at a new place on a new night with a property [that] I grew up knowing how special it was: Monday Night Football. It’s like one of those great sports trades that works out for everybody.”

Coincidentally, FOX Sports had the rights to the Super Bowl this year and approached the game with its new booth of Kevin Burkhardt and Greg Olsen dealing with speculation regarding Tom Brady’s future involvement.

Before what turned out to be his final NFL regular season game, Buck and Aikman were having a conversation with Brady to prepare for the playoff tilt between the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Dallas Cowboys. Towards the end of the conversation, Buck asked Brady if he would be excited being on the other side of the conference calls, as he is expected to slot into FOX Sports’ lead broadcast booth in 2024. Brady replied that he wanted to talk to him and Aikman about broadcasting, affirming that he would need help determining how to perform the job.

“I would do [that] in a heartbeat with all the help he’s given us over the years,” Buck said of Brady. “….There’s going to be a bit of a learning curve for Tom. I expect him to do it and do it well, but it’s a weird kind of thing to do. There’s a bit of acting involved. It’s a presentation as much as just knowing football. I’m sure he’ll be great, but I’m anxious to see.”

 In essence, Buck knows “anybody would be an idiot to bet against him” despite it being something new, and is excited to see how the situation turns out. As it pertains to this past season though, FOX Sports aimed to cultivate a new sound. By assimilating a broadcast booth with minimal experience working together into a Super Bowl to conclude their first season, the network took a calculated risk that ended up paying dividends in the ratings.

“They were in a great spot, and then they had to just go do it and they did,” Buck said. “They started out great; they were already working together; and they’re longtime friends. I thought they really nailed what they needed to nail, and that is the big moments, especially in a Super Bowl.”

Burkhardt had been calling NFL games on FOX Sports since 2013, and was offered advice from Buck in being elevated to the lead broadcast booth. He did the same for Joe Davis, the new lead broadcaster for MLB games on FOX, including the All-Star Game and the World Series, ensuring he is available while not coercing them to listen to his advice. It aligns with the tactic his father took with him as a kid.

“My dad was never the guy who was pushing advice or saying, ‘I’ve done it, so here’s the way I would do that,’” Buck said. “If [they] asked me, I’d give [them] all I got. That, to me, is the right thing to do; you pay it forward.”

ESPN recently made changes to Buck’s Monday Night Football team, naming Steve Ackels as the broadcast’s new producer and Derek Mobley as its new director, replacing Phil Dean and Jimmy Platt, respectively.

“I’ve never worked with either one of them just like I hadn’t worked with Phil Dean and Jimmy Platt prior to last year,” Buck said of the move. “It comes with some unknowns, but it comes with a hell of a lot of excitement too.”

Preparing for a typical Monday night game contrasts with the kind of preparation he would amass while at FOX Sports since all of the Sunday games are completed before kickoff. Throughout the week, Buck receives emails containing all published articles about both teams and reads to familiarize himself with both teams and determine the key storylines. He then puts together basic information about each player on a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet, prints it out and writes additional notes by hand about each player. Even if he does not end up using the information on the air, having the dexterity to compendiously elocute information and think quickly makes the art of broadcasting much easier.

“I would say 90% of your preparation falls by the wayside because the games don’t go the way you think every time; rarely do they go anywhere close to how I expect them to go,” Buck said. “….You go into the booth and open your eyes and watch the game. If something fits with your preparation, say it; and if it doesn’t, don’t force it.”

Throughout his time both as a consumer of sports media and industry professional, Buck has understood the magnitude of broadcasting Monday night NFL games. As a child, he remembers watching his father call Monday night games on the CBS Radio Network with Hank Stram, but frequently found himself thinking about what was going on just a few booths down the press level. Of course, situated in that booth was the trio of Howard Cosell, Don Meredith and Frank Gifford calling Monday Night Football on ABC, presenting the matchup to an audience of millions of viewers across the country.

Even though annual NFL television ratings were down by 3%, Monday Night Football performed strong compared to the competition, especially by pairing the primary telecast with the alternate broadcast with Hall of Fame quarterbacks Peyton and Eli Manning. Even though Monday Night Football with Peyton and Eli (dubbed the “ManningCast”) diminishes viewership of the traditional broadcast, Buck is not bothered by it and instead encouraged by the innovation and commitment ESPN has made to the league.

“For ESPN to make the investment to bring those guys and have them on ESPN2 while we do ESPN, I think [it is] a major statement to the NFL that they’re going to throw everything they can at Monday night,” Buck said. “I think there is a future for it. I do think that they captured lightning in a bottle with Peyton and Eli being brothers.”

As part of the new $110 billion media rights deal announced by the NFL in March 2021, ESPN got flex scheduling for Monday Night Football beginning at the start of the upcoming season, which will allow the broadcast to present games with the potential to impact playoff positioning in the prime time slot.

“When you’re doing 5-win teams in Week 13; 14; 15, that’s not a good thing for a standalone night,” Buck said. “It’s not a good thing for anybody. Having the ability to flex out of that game will be nice. I don’t think that the league will go crazy and just flex out game after game after game, but if there’s one there that just isn’t competitive and has nothing to do with anything in the standings, at least you have the chance to switch that game.

“I think we’re going to have a better schedule this year, which I think leads to better ratings which leads to happy people at ESPN, but that remains to be seen,” Buck added. “I’m not planning on doing anything other than what I’ve done for the last 30 years broadcasting the NFL.”

Outside of broadcasting football games, Buck holds a golf tournament each year to benefit the St. Louis Children’s Hospital and fund its imaging center, named in his honor. The inspiration to begin this event came when one of his daughters had to take a sweat test to be checked for cystic fibrosis. When he was sitting in the lobby and watching nurses, doctors and volunteers work in high-stakes situations involving the lives of children, Buck told his wife that he would help the hospital if he was ever in the position to be able to.

Hale Irwin, a former professional golfer, used to hold a tournament benefiting the hospital but retired after 25 years, meaning that they needed to find someone else to keep the tradition alive. When Buck was asked, he did not hesitate to agree to take the reins of holding the event. He looks forward to Monday, June 5 and raising money to make sure the hospital can continue carrying out its duties and be there for those in need of its services.

“We’ve gone in and made the imaging center kind of interactive for kids at a nervous time for kids and parents going in for MRIs, CAT scans or whatever,” Buck said. “We’ve kind of turned it into a sports stadium-looking waiting room that kind of distracts the kids and the parents…. My part of it is small; I’m just honored to have my name on it. It’s an important day personally, but it’s a much bigger day than that practically speaking for the hospital.”

Sports broadcasting is very much a niche craft, and the fundamentals become more recondite when narrowing it down to specific sports. When building a career in the industry though, Buck implores aspiring broadcasters to do more than just solely focus on the craft, instead urging them to amass a knowledge extending beyond sports. Additionally, it is essential to discover people one can trust for feedback and critique oneself at the same time while refraining from listening to critics on social media.

Ultimately, it boils down to developing a unique style that appeals to viewers and bringing them the game while recognizing your place in the grand scheme of things. Not all the viewers particularly care about the broadcasters themselves and sports media, meaning it is crucial to perform the role appropriately and be distinctive.

“‘When you get into this, you’ve got to realize that if you get hit by a bus going into a stadium, they’re still going to play the game,’” Buck recalls his father telling him. “‘They’re not going to stop it because the announcer got run over. Broadcast accordingly.’ I feel the same way with all that movement that happened last year. I think everybody does a good job at the upper levels and people have a little bit different styles from one another.”

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Robert Griffin III Wants to Tell Your Story the Right Way

“Even if I do know you personally, I’m not going to bring that to the broadcast because that’s not my job.”

Derek Futterman




During last season’s VRBO Fiesta Bowl, Robert Griffin III was part of ESPN’s alternate telecast at field level alongside Pat McAfee. Suddenly, the Heisman Trophy winner took a phone call. Once he hung up the phone, Griffin divulged that his wife had gone into labor and proceeded to sprint off of the field to catch a flight. An ESPN cameraperson documented his run and jubilation as he returned home to welcome his daughter, Gia, into the world. It encapsulated just what motivates Griffin to appear on television and discuss football, and why he is one of ESPN’s budding talents with the chance to make an impact on sports media and his community for years to come.

“This was an opportunity for me to go out and be different in the way that the media covers the players and truly get to the bottom of telling the players’ stories the right way,” Griffin said. “I look at this as an opportunity to do that.”

Griffin was a three-sport athlete as a student at Copperas Cove High School, and ultimately broke Texas state records in track and field. In addition to that, he played basketball and was the starting quarterback for the school’s football team as a junior and senior, drawing attention from various schools around the country. He ended up graduating high school one semester early and quickly became a star at Baylor University in both football and track and field.

Robert Griffin III’s nascent talent was hardly inconspicuous, evidenced by being named the 2008 Big 12 Conference Offensive Freshman of the Year and then, three years later, the winner of the Heisman Trophy. In the end, he graduated having set or tied 54 school records and helped the program to its first bowl game win in 19 years.

Ultimately, he transitioned to the NFL in a career with many trials and tribulations, but through it all, he never lost his sense of persistence. Nearly a decade later, he returned to college, but this time as a member of the media covering the game from afar. Unlike a majority of former players though, Griffin did not formally retire from playing football when inking a broadcasting contract with ESPN.

“I haven’t retired yet at all,” he said. “I tell everyone that asks me the question that I train every day [and] I’m prepared to play if that call does come. I’ve had some talks with teams over the past two years; just nothing has come to fruition.”

While Griffin’s focus as a broadcaster is undeniable, he never thought about seriously pursuing sports media until his broadcast agent pushed him to do so. He was urged to take an audition at FOX Sports. Griffin broke down highlights and called a mock NFL game alongside lead play-by-play announcer Kevin Burkhardt. He was not prepared for that second part, but impressed executives and precipitously realized a career in the space may not be so outlandish after all. 

Griffin then moved to ESPN where he experienced a similar audition process, this time calling a game with play-by-play announcer Rece Davis. Once the audition concluded, it was determined that Griffin would not only begin working in the industry, but that he would be accelerated because of his ability to communicate in an informative and entertaining style.

As a player, he saw the way media members covered teams – sometimes bereft of objectivity – and therefore saw assimilating into the industry as a chance to change that. Now, he is focused on telling the stories of the players en masse while being prepared to pivot at a moment’s notice.

Courtesy ESPN Images

ESPN’s intention was to implement Griffin on its studio coverage, but once executives heard him in the broadcast booth, the company had a palpable shift in its thinking. He was told he was ready to go out into the field and start calling games immediately, something of a surprise to him. FOX Sports felt similarly. This led to a bidding war between the two entities, which ultimately concluded with Griffin inking a contract with ESPN. He appeared over its airwaves plenty of times as a player, and even participated on a variety of studio shows in 2018 where he was almost permanently placed on NFL Live. This time around though, Griffin was suddenly preparing to work with Mark Jones and Quint Kessenich on college football games. He did not have time to consider the implications of the decision, instead diving headfirst into the craft and remaining focused on what was to come with producer Kim Belton and director Anthony DeMarco at his side.

“These guys took me under their wing, and I’m beyond indebted to them for that,” Griffin said of his colleagues. “They taught me everything that I know about the industry. They taught me everything I know about how to present things to the masses to where it can be easily digestible. They’ve allowed me to allow my personality to shine through.”

Demonstrating his personality was a facet of his makeup Griffin felt was inhibited by playing professional football, but he knows it would have been considerably more difficult to attain a chance to cover the game had he not laced up his cleats. Calling college football games with Jones accentuated his comfort in the booth because of Jones’ adept skill to appeal to the viewers and penetrate beyond the sport.

“He has the way to connect different generations of listeners to hear what he’s saying and perceive it in the same way,” Griffin said. “To me, that’s what we all strive to do in this industry is to be able to find the connective tissue between the fan who is 60 or 70 years old, and the fan who’s in their late teens or early 20s.”

From the beginning, everyone told Griffin to be himself and not adopt an alternate persona in front of the camera. That advice has guided him as he approaches his third year working in the industry.

“It is so hard to maintain a character or try to be someone that you’re not, but if you are who you are every single day, then every time you show up on camera you will be that person,” Griffin said. “I’ve made sure that when I stepped foot in front of that camera, I was going to be myself.”

Griffin identifies his style as pedagogical to a degree, critiquing players as if he was coaching them on the sidelines. He will never look to penetrate beyond football with his criticism, as drawing conclusions and using unrelated parlance could be viewed as indecorous. In short, Griffin III knows what it means to represent ESPN.

“We’re not a gossip website. We’re supposed to be critically acclaimed, prestigious journalists, and at the end of the day, that’s how I try to approach the job that I do. That’s why I got into the business – because I felt like there was a little of that going on, especially during my career, so I would never do to somebody else what was done to me.”

Over the course of his NFL career, Griffin was subject to immense criticism that went significantly beyond the gridiron. For example, sports commentator Rob Parker suggested that Griffin was not fully representative of the Black community and proceeded to question if he was a “cornball brother.” The incident resulted in Parker receiving a 30-day suspension from ESPN, and after he defended his comments and blamed First Take producers in a subsequent interview, the network decided not to renew his contract.

“My goal as a member of the media is to tell players’ stories the right way, and if I don’t know you personally, I’m never going to make it personal,” Griffin said. “Even if I do know you personally, I’m not going to bring that to the broadcast because that’s not my job.”

In addition to broadcasting college football games with Jones on ESPN and ABC, he also appears on-site for Monday Night Countdown, the network’s pregame show leading up to Monday Night Football. Making the decision to add NFL coverage to his slate of responsibilities meant that Griffin would be able to tell more stories and utilize his knowledge of players during their collegiate careers to enhance the broadcast.

The energy that he felt attending tailgates and interacting with fans at the college level gave him a unique skill set to translate to the NFL side, leading him to present the production team with an unparalleled idea for Week 1. He wanted to race Taima the Hawk, the live game mascot for the Seattle Seahawks who flies around Lumen Field prior to the start of each home game. It was an outlandish idea, but one that made sense for television because of the visual appeal it can present.

“If you know anything about hawks, they can fly up to 120-140 miles per hour, so they’re like, ‘There’s no way he’s going to beat this hawk in a race, but we’ll do it,’” Griffin said. “To that crew’s credit, they never once balked at any of the creative ideas that I brought to the table because they want to try different things and be exciting and have fun on the show.”

Griffin ended up winning the race, commencing the new season of Monday Night Countdown with immediate excitement before the Seahawks’ matchup against the Denver Broncos. He thoroughly enjoyed his first year on the show and having the chance to work alongside Suzy Colber, Adam Schefter, Booger McFarland, Steve Young, Larry Fitzgerald and Alex Smith. 

“They always tell me, ‘Hey, anything you’re not comfortable with, you just let us know and we won’t do that thing,’” Griffin said of the show’s producers. “My answer always back to them is, ‘Well, I won’t know if I’m uncomfortable with it if I don’t try.’”

While Griffin had what looked like a seamless assimilation into the broadcasting world, he had a difficult moment when using a racial slur on live television in discussing Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts. The clip quickly gained traction across the internet, and Griffin issued an apology on his Twitter account for using the pejorative language and claimed that he misspoke.

“I was shocked that it came out in the way that it did, and I immediately jumped on it and apologized because there’s no need to deny,” he said. “You messed up. You move forward, and I think that’s the easiest way to get over those types of things and to get back on your feet.”

The football season at both the college and professional level is undoubtedly a grind, and it requires a combination of dedication, passion and persistence few people possess. Robert Griffin III has garnered the reputation of being an “overpreparer,” often partaking in considerably more information than necessary to execute a broadcast. The information he consumes and conclusions he draws combined with his experience at both levels has cultivated him into a knowledgeable analyst who makes cogent, intelligible points on the air.

“I over-prepare for everything, and 70% of the information that I soak in going into a game or going into a broadcast for Monday Night Countdown, I don’t use because there’s just not enough air time,” Griffin III said. “There’s not enough opportunities to talk on it all.” 

At the same time, he makes a concerted effort to make the most of his time with his family and separate himself from the field, engaging in activities including playing ping pong, going to the movies and supporting his children. He also embarks in charity work through his RG3 Foundation and strives to teach his daughters the importance of giving back. The mission of the nonprofit foundation is to discover and design programs for underprivileged youth, struggling military families and victims of domestic violence, and it has made a significant impact since it was launched in 2015.

“Trying to end food insecurity; making sure that our under-resourced youth have access to the things that they need just to survive – talking about food, clothes, books, the ability to learn [and] putting on these after-school programs,” Griffin elucidated in describing the organization’s mission. “We want to have an impact on our community. We mean that with everything in us and have shown that to be the true case of why we do this.”

Griffin’s wife, Grete, serves as the executive director of the foundation and also runs her own fitness business. Staying physically and mentally in shape is something they actively try to accomplish in their everyday lives, and lessons they are passing down to their daughters.

“I’m 33 years old right now, so if I want to continue to train every single day, I can do that for the next 10 years if I need to,” Griffin said. “Not taking hits and being physically fit is also a good thing for your own health, which is something me and my wife are extremely passionate about.”

Although his experience is in playing football and working in sports media, Robert Griffin III does not believe in limiting himself and would consider exploring opportunities outside of sports and entertainment. He wants to become the best broadcaster possible no matter where he is working in the industry and continue finding new ways to be distinctive en masse.

“We’re storytellers,” he said. “We’re here to break down things [and] to tell people a story the right way; things that people are interested in, and that expands across all media levels. We’re not closing the door on anything from that standpoint.”

Courtesy ESPN Images

While he was playing in the NFL, Griffin dealt with a variety of injuries that ultimately kept him off the football field and made it difficult to display his talents. Ranging from an ACL tear, shoulder scapula fracture and hairline fracture in his right thumb, staying healthy was a challenge for him over the time he played in the NFL. 

Through surgeries and rehabilitation, he learned how to face and overcome these challenges. It has shaped him into the broadcaster and person he is today as he looks to set a positive example to aspiring football players and broadcasters everywhere.

“The eight-year career that I was able to have thus far didn’t come without roadblocks in the way [and] didn’t come without adversity. Learn from the adversity that you go through and learn from all the things and the lessons that you have that sports teaches you, and then go be able to present that to the masses.”

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Pac-12 Pushing Enhanced Access, Deion Sanders Reeks of Desperation

What good is enhanced access for TV broadcasts or the star power of Coach Prime if those game telecasts aren’t seen?

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Getting experimental has drawn some attention to USFL and XFL broadcasts during each league’s seasons. The Pac-12 is apparently hoping the same approach will draw viewers to its football telecasts beginning this fall.

Last week, the conference announced that its broadcasts on ESPN, Fox Sports, and Pac-12 Networks would feature enhanced access for viewers. Head coaches will be interviewed during games. Players and coaches will be mic’d up during pregame warm-ups. Cameras will have pregame and halftime access to team locker rooms. And handheld camera operators will be allowed to film parts of the field and game experience which were previously prohibited.

Those familiar with USFL and XFL telecasts will likely see some similarities to the greater access that those leagues allow their TV partners. Coaches are mic’d up on the sidelines, giving viewers insight into play calls and strategy. Players are interviewed during the game, providing near-instant reactions to success or failure. Cameras in the replay booth show how officials decide to either overturn or uphold calls on the field.

What the Pac-12 intends to do with its broadcasts won’t go as far as the USFL and XFL. Access to coaches and players is being expanded but will still have limits. The conference doesn’t have to demonstrate familiarity, credibility, and legitimacy to fans and media.

Spring pro football leagues are a tough sell to mainstream sports fans accustomed to college football and the NFL from September through January. Especially when the level of play is subpar and rosters are filled with unfamiliar names, the USFL and XFL have to give fans more reasons to watch.

USC, UCLA, Washington, and Oregon are established national brands and regularly compete with the top teams in college football. Utah has played in the past two Rose Bowls, seen on millions of televisions during the New Year’s Day holiday. All five of those schools finished among the final AP Top 25 rankings of the 2022-23 season. USC quarterback Caleb Williams won the 2022 Heisman Trophy.

Yet the Pac-12 is promoting the gimmick of enhanced access because it needs to attract positive fan and media attention. Right now, most of the headlines the conference is generating aren’t flattering.

Notably, the Pac-12 needs a new media rights deal. Losing two of its most prominent schools, USC and UCLA, to the Big Ten in 2024 certainly isn’t helping with that. Rumors have persisted that Washington and Oregon could soon follow. Additionally, the Big 12 is reportedly eyeing Colorado, Arizona, Arizona State, and Utah as possible expansion targets.

Pac-12 commissioner George Kliavkoff is left to tout Colorado’s new head coach, Deion Sanders, as a selling point in a new media rights deal. Never mind that Sanders hasn’t coached a game in Boulder yet. The Buffaloes are also coming off a 1-11 season and have won more than five games only once since 2007.

If Coach Prime is as successful as Colorado hopes, how likely is he to jump to a better program and stronger conference? And as mentioned in a previous paragraph, even if Sanders sticks around, Colorado could be poached by the Big 12. How much value would Coach Prime provide for the Pac-12 then?

ESPN’s deal with the conference expires in July 2024, shortly before USC and UCLA defect, and reportedly has no intention of renewing. (ESPN could still agree to a package of lower-tier games for late-night broadcast windows, but Andrew Marchand of the New York Post reports that doesn’t appear likely.) Fox’s agreement is up at the same time, though prospects of a renewal seem more optimistic. The network needs Pac-12 games to fill its college football Saturday inventory.

The options from there aren’t promising. CBS Sports’ Dennis Dodd reports that current speculation has USA Network, part of the NBCUniversal conglomerate, as a possible landing spot. According to The Athletic, Pac-12 commissioner George Kliavkoff believes that the conference’s next media rights deal will have a large streaming component with Amazon and Apple TV+ mentioned as potential partners.

A streaming partner might be good from a financial standpoint, helping produce some of the revenue that ESPN has cut off. But forcing fans to find your product and asking them to pay for another TV platform isn’t a good way to draw interest. It may well be a path to irrelevance and obscurity. That’s not going to compete with the Big Ten and SEC, or even the Big 12.

And as The Athletic’s Chris Vannini points out, how can streaming be expected to save a conference like the Pac-12 when it isn’t even helping TV networks (or standalone providers) right now? Disney is losing money with Disney+, ESPN+, and Hulu. NBCUniversal has lost billions on Peacock, as has CBS with Paramount+. Maybe the Pac-12 won’t care about that because it got paid. But there’s little chance for growth.

OK, Lincoln Riley, Chip Kelly, Dan Lanning, and Kyle Whittingham could be interviewed during games. But they probably won’t say much interesting during a game. Caleb Williams, Bo Nix, and Michael Penix Jr. will be mic’d up during warm-ups. Maybe we’ll see coaches and players going crazy in the locker room at halftime. Just remember that Peyton Manning said most players only have time to use the bathroom and have a snack. There’s your compelling television.

What good is enhanced access for TV broadcasts or the star power of Deion Sanders if those game telecasts aren’t seen by large audiences? To say otherwise is desperate. That’s exactly where the Pac-12 is.

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ESPN Deal Used to Mean Stability for ACC, Now It Means Anything But

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It was April 19, 1775 when the first shots of war were fired on battlefields in Lexington and Concord that would send shockwaves across the world. Some brave soul among a group of rebel farmers and blacksmiths, doctors and lawyers literally pulled the trigger on what would become known as “The Shot Heard ‘Round the World”. Indeed, the world would never be the same.

The college athletics version of that event was June 11, 2010. On that day, regents at the University of Nebraska officially applied for Big Ten membership and were unanimously approved by the other eleven schools (if the number in the conference name not matching the number of schools in that conference is something that bothers you, this column may not be for you). From that day forward, we have never really exited the “expansion era”.

One conference that has gone largely untouched in that time is the ACC. Only Maryland has left the ACC since 2010, heading to the Big Ten, and the conference has added Syracuse, Pittsburgh and Louisville in that same window. That is significant when you consider only the SEC and Big Ten have avoided any departures in this era. Every other major conference has seen great turbulence while those three conferences have primarily seen only growth.

That trend may actually continue for the ACC and that may not be a net positive for the conference or the ACC members. This is thanks to the long term grant of rights deal the conference schools negotiated with ESPN. The grant of rights means ESPN holds the broadcast rights to all home games of the current ACC schools, and do so for the next 13 years. 

When the deal was signed in 2016, the 20 year media rights deal seemed like a win for the ACC, creating stability in a time of great instability. Now, what seemed like a “must have purchase” may be the impulse buy that the league schools regret for decades.

Put simply, the ACC has been lapped in the media rights race by the Big Ten, SEC and even the Big 12. At best, the ACC schools are working at a $10-15 Million per year deficit when compared to Big 12 schools. At worst, they are operating at a much larger $30-$40 Million annual deficit when compared to Big Ten and SEC programs. It would be a battle of monumental proportions for the ACC to compete on the same level as those other conferences at that large of a disadvantage.

The conference’s options are slim. ESPN has a deal that is locked for 13 more years, what benefit would it be to them to renegotiate just so the ACC can compete? For instance, it would require $140 Million annually from ESPN just to place the ACC in the same financial neighborhood as the Big 12 Conference. What would be the benefit to ESPN in doing that? 

The other option for ACC schools would be to bang the departure drum. Almost all legal analysts have painted a very grim picture for the schools that would be itching to leave. The exit fee is $120 million and may get the schools some nice parting gifts but does not give them their media rights. Their home game broadcast rights will still be a part of the ESPN deal with ACC. That greatly reduces a departing school’s value to any other conference.

Maybe ESPN is willing to broker a deal for a departing school if it is going to a conference, such as the SEC, that has a large rights deal with ESPN. If one of the schools desires a departure to the Big Ten, who has large deals with networks not named ESPN, one would have to think The Worldwide Leader would be in less of a deal-making mood.

Some league athletics directors, led by Florida State’s Michael Alford, are suggesting teams be incentivized for success. Breaking the code; rather than equal distribution, the power schools want a bigger share of the money. This is where Wake Forest points out that it is all they can do to exceed football expectations on their current stipend, what will become of them if that money shrinks? It seems that conferences and leagues that steer away from an equally shared revenue model have had a difficult time making that work long term.

Maybe the ACC teams that are ready to punch out could flash back to the period of time our country was in with the events we started this column remembering. They have a team in Boston, go throw some tea in the harbor and revolt, have a modern day Boston Tea Party. As it stands now, there are several ACC members that want to leave the party they are part of. Their only problem is they are all dressed up with nowhere to go.

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