Photo courtesy of CBS Sports
By: Sean Cartell
SEC Digital Network
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. – Verne Lundquist, who first joined CBS in 1982, has been the play-by-play voice of the SEC on CBS since the 2000 season. Lundquist will be calling the action on Saturday night from Tuscaloosa for the No. 1 vs. No. 2 matchup of LSU and Alabama.
On Tuesday afternoon, Lundquist participated in an SEC on CBS teleconference previewing the marquee matchup. Here are some highlights of his question and answer session with reporters on the teleconference.
How much do you think the personalities of the two head coaches are fueling the interest in this game?
“I think it’s a big part of the attraction of this game. We know them as well as broadcasters can know head coaches. Gary [Danielson] has known Nick [Saban] for a long time and I have as well. We both, I think, met Les after he came to LSU. They’re both such contrasting personalities and I think you’ve got the image of the stern taskmaster in Alabama against the kind of looser personality of Les Miles. I think Les has been embraced by the LSU community now after a couple of tough years and some game-management questions. Saban has been embraced by Alabama from the day he got there. I think that the relationship between the two men, while it’s not close, is comfortable. I think the old issue of ‘Miles only winning with Saban’s players,’ obviously that’s gone. I think the contrast in the personalities adds to the billboard that we can use about them.”
In terms of how long you’ve been a broadcaster and the vast array of events you have done, where does this game rank for you and how do you approach a game like this?
“It’s the consequence at the end of it that gives it added significance. I’ve been lucky, I have been a part of meaningful events. Just in researching this, we talked about the No. 1 vs. the No. 2s in this century and I’m one of those who has vivid memories of No. 1 vs. No. 2 in 1971, which may have been one of the best games, that’s Oklahoma vs. Nebraska. I think the key for all of us is that we understand that this is a game that has huge implications for both teams and the national football scene, but we also will do our normal homework, our normal production meetings and have our normal conversations with the coaches from both LSU and Alabama. I think Saturday night, we’ll go on and we’ll do the best we can, aware of the magnitude of the game, as we do every Saturday.”
Given the passion of the fan bases, what atmosphere do you expect to encounter in Tuscaloosa and how does that add to the intrigue of the game?
“I’ve been a college football fan since I was a boy and that goes back to the 1950s. I can remember as a college student at Texas Lutheran, watching games in a much smaller Bryant-Denny. I just thought that was about as big-time as it ever got in college football sports telecasts. When we knew we were going to do this game in primetime, I flashed back. I just think it’s one of the great environments in the country and it will exceed expectations on Saturday night. Predominantly, we’re going to see Crimson, but they’ll be splashes of purple and gold and it will be enough to let us know that they’re there. It’s going to be an unimaginably good scene.”
What are your thoughts on, as an announcer for the SEC on CBS, becoming part of the SEC tradition?
“I’ve told this story before, but it’s relevant and worth repeating. I had a pretty comfortable situation at CBS doing the NFL. My roots are in college football and I got my first shot to do any kind of network telecast at ABC doing college games, and I actually came to CBS in 1982 to do it. But then, they moved me to the NFL and I was there for the better part of 15-16 years. In 2000, for a variety of reasons, changes were made and I was given the opportunity to make the move from the NFL to the SEC. My first game, and I’ve never in all the years I’d been doing to this, been to Knoxville. The first game, Todd Blackledge and I did it and it was Tennessee-Florida. Florida came from behind to win 27-23 and it was just an amazing experience. The crowd was definitely silent at that point, but I looked at Todd after we got off the air and I said ‘Are they all like this?’ and he said ‘Most of them are.’ So, I got a really great introduction to the league. Todd made his decision to go on and Gary wanted the excitement and challenge of being in the best football conference in the country. He came over and we clicked from the beginning. Taking the regional product and making it national was a pretty bold move in thinking that we could sell Alabama vs. Florida in Seattle and Eugene, San Francisco and Los Angeles. But it’s worked because of the excellence of the SEC, and it means a lot to both of us to be a part of what the SEC is about on Saturday afternoons.”