He resigned as President of NBC Sports in 2011 and since then, Dick Ebersol has for the most part, stayed out of the media spotlight. During his tenure as the head of NBC Sports, Ebersol oversaw the production of eight Olympiads, the creation of Sunday Night Football, the U.S. Open golf tournament, the NBA on NBC, the signing of Notre Dame football, the NHL on NBC as well as the XFL and other programming.
His stamp on NBC Sports is still seen today on its coverage of the Olympics, and with many producers, directors and executives he hired who remain at the division today. And there’s no doubt that Ebersol who produced Saturday Night Live, Later With Bob Costas, WWF Saturday Night Main Event and Friday Night Videos, knows talent when he sees it.
While some of his past decisions like tape delayed Olympics or his refusal to put a constant scorebox on NFL games were questionable, Ebersol’s shadow over sports television still looms large today. He makes calls to his friends who work at Fox, the NFL, Discovery Networks and CNN.
Sports Business Journal asked Ebersol to wear his consultant’s hat and provide some thoughts on current announcers and hosts. He said that it’s not easy to find the next Bob Costas or Al Michaels because of the ESPN influence, “It is so hard to find young, new, seemingly experienced play-by-play talent because almost everybody who goes to school hoping to be a sports broadcaster automatically chooses to be a studio host so that they can be on ESPN, ESPN2, ESPNews, ESPNU.”
Ebersol was not afraid to hold back on those he liked and those he didn’t like. For instance on Al Michaels, Ebersol was effusive in his praise, ““He has the greatest editorial mind that I’ve ever seen from a play-by-play person in my life.”
On Jerome Bettis who worked on Football Night in America for three seasons, “It was hard for him to say tough stuff about other players.”
About Tiki Barber who was also on FNIA, “Tiki just refused to listen. We kept trying to tell him that you can’t do it this way. You have to do this as if you’re sitting on your couch at home with your brother next to you and talking the exact same way you would do to him.”
How about Notre Dame analyst Mike Mayock who was eventually replaced last season? “He would not listen. [NBC Executive Producer] Sam Flood did everything to get him to knock off [the jargon].”
Ok, let’s move to the Monday Night Football team of Mike Tirico and Jon Gruden. Ebersol feels Tirico could use a little more guidance, “I wish Tirico had [NBC Producer Fred] Gaudelli or somebody as a producer because he could be really, really good. He’s a very good talent.”
But Ebersol trained his guns on Gruden whom he thinks talks over the audience’s head, “If you start talking about the A-gap and the stuff that goes on with Gruden, you would not work for me. Ninety percent of the audience at home has no idea what you’re talking about.”
Finally, Ebersol has some interesting words for ESPN Radio’s Colin Cowherd, “If there was one guy in the American sports media scene that I would really like to meet and have dinner with, it’s Colin. I am mesmerized.” And Ebersol added, “I’m pretty impressed by him.”
It’s obvious that Ebersol continues to watch sports and keeps his mind sharp by watching with a producer’s eye. Whether you agree or disagree with his thoughts, one thing is for sure, his time at NBC from the 1990’s into the 21st Century is one of the most prolific eras in the business.