Rarely a week passes on the CBS Sports calendar when a broadcast doesn’t start with the familiar mellifluous refrain, “Hello, friends.” For the last three-plus decades – from greenside towers in Pacific Palisades, California, stadium booths in Kansas City, Missouri, or courtside from Ogden, Utah – Jim Nantz has manned the mic every year through roughly 20 weekends of golf, 20-some weeks of the NFL and a month of March Madness college basketball. He’s been the consistent, soft-spoken soundtrack of America’s biggest sporting events, from the Super Bowl to the Final Four to the Masters.
At age 63, Nantz has no plans to retire anytime soon. He’s got a very specific long-range plan for that – maybe. But after the recent passing of his mother, and having his two youngest kids ages 8 and 6 at home, the indefatigable Nantz does feel the need to slow down what he calls “the golden hamster wheel” just a bit. He’ll cede the primary play-by-play role at the NCAA men’s basketball tournament to Ian Eagle after this season.
“I’ve been on it for a long time, and spinning around and coming and going and trying to be a good dad and trying to make sure I’m on top of college basketball, the NFL and golf – it’s a lot,” Nantz told Global Golf Post. “I was 26 when I started all of this; I’m 63 now. I still feel all the energy in the world. But I have two young children who you know I want to spend more time with. The next thing you know, they’re going to be teenagers. I love the role of being a dad. Nothing more important in my life, and I need to have more time committed to it. And this will help.”
Nantz fittingly will have one last shining moment at the 2023 Final Four in Houston, Texas, where it all began for him 41 years ago as the student host of Houston coach Guy Lewis’ weekly basketball show. It will be his 32nd call of the championship game.
“It’ll be nice to be able to say my goodbye here in my gateway city of Houston, where my career began as a student broadcaster from the University of Houston,” Nantz said.
“And you know, maybe just maybe I’m gonna go out with Houston winning the championship,” he noted last week on “The Dan Patrick Show.” “We’re preseason No. 3, with (coach) Kelvin Sampson doing remarkable things. We’ve got a great program. … For me it would be unbelievable to be able to call a Houston championship and take off the headset.”
Beyond college basketball, we won’t notice much difference in the presence of his voice. He’ll still be on the road for 41 or 42 weeks (depending on whether it’s a CBS Super Bowl year) bringing the PGA Tour and NFL into our living rooms.
“I’m actually going to scale back to what is still the busiest schedule in my business,” he said of what he calls “the old (Pat) Summerall” schedule of golf and football. “So most guys have one property these days and they manage whatever that sport might be. … For 30-something years, I’ve had three of them – three primary properties and a lead role – and I’ve been grateful for all of them.”
Nantz hopes to work another decade or more alongside Tony Romo as CBS’ primary NFL broadcast team. And he’s targeted at least 14 more Aprils in Augusta, Georgia, through the 2036 Masters Tournament.
“I would like to do it 51 times, as bizarre as that sounds, because my 51st Masters would be the 100th playing of the Masters and I’d like to be there to see the end of the first century,” Nantz told Dan Patrick. “And that’s just a little goal that I have in the back of my head. I’m at 37 right now, so 14 to go, hopefully.”
After Patrick’s show aired with Nantz’s long-range “retirement announcement,” the news got a play of attention. It all seemed a little bewildering.
“I was surprised with such a reaction to it because, especially in the golf side of it, I’ve told that timeline to people for years about Augusta,” he said. “But I think just on the heels of the fact I’m stepping down for basketball, it seemed to get some attention.”
Nantz will be one month shy of 77 when the 2036 Masters rolls around. “That’s doable,” he said. “My good friend and mentor Al Michaels, he just had a 78th birthday last week. And he’s great. He hasn’t lost a thing.
“You take care of yourself and you have a passion for it. I know it sounds outrageous right now, but there are people that have gone on a lot longer than that. Seventy-six is the new 50. That’s a long way off. A lot of things have to line up – your health has to stay good and all of that for starters – but I have the same passion.”
Fifty-one Masters is the record number of starts Gary Player made at Augusta. One more and Nantz can clip the Black Knight and complete a full year of his life spent at Augusta National.
“I do want to leave the door open for there to be perhaps some reconsideration when we get to that,” he said. “Maybe a couple more.”
Nantz has covered just about everything in his decorated broadcast career – tennis, track and field, speed skating, mogul skiing, swimming and diving. He called an old-timers baseball game with Mel Allen and hosted the infamous Tyson-Holyfield heavyweight “bite” from the ring in Las Vegas. But his career is held up by the three pillars of golf, football and college basketball where he joined his predecessor Brent Musburger as the only broadcasters to take the lead in the Super Bowl, Final Four and Masters.
Golf and most notably the Masters, however, hold a special place for the man who played on the same college team at Houston with Fred Couples and Blaine McCallister.
“The Masters to me is the thing that is the deepest in my heart and head,” Nantz told Patrick. “I’ve never chosen one sport as my favorite event to do, but I think everyone knows that the Masters is something I feel a real personal tie to. It was the one event that when I was 11 years old, I turned to my mom and dad and said, ‘That’s what I’d like to do. One day I’d like to be one of those voices.’ That was watching a Masters Tournament. I wanted to do that. And I’ve been so fortunate that I’m still living that childhood dream even into my 60s. So it’s been pretty amazing.”
Nantz is currently producing another “passion project” Masters special on Tom Weiskopf, who recently died from cancer. Nantz worked with Weiskopf – an Open Championship winner and record four-time runner-up at Augusta – in the broadcast booth and long admired him.
“This isn’t something that’s probably on everybody’s hit list right now, but it’s on mine: he should be in the World Golf Hall of Fame for all the things that he did,” Nantz said of Weiskopf. “As a golfer who had enough wins (16 PGA Tour) by today’s standards to be in the Hall of Fame, won a major at Troon in ’73, coming up on the 50-year anniversary, and his golf architecture. And he was a broadcaster, too, by the way, so he saw the game through a lot of different lenses. And he was excellent at everything that he did.”
At the end of this year’s NCAA Tournament, Nantz hopes to look at college basketball through a lens he hasn’t seen since 1983 when he sat in the stands at the Final Four in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and watched Jim Valvano run around on the court after North Carolina State upset his Houston Cougars in the championship.
“I’ve had a glorious long ride that I’m just grateful for, and I would like to come back and be involved in some capacity without trying to take anything away from anybody else,” he said. “And I would like to share it with my kids – like be able to sit in the stands and enjoy the Final Four and be there as a fan also.”
After nearly four decades and counting on that golden hamster wheel, he deserves a month off.
Top: The Villanova Wildcats celebrate with Jim Nantz after defeating the Michigan Wolverines in the 2018 NCAA Men’s Final Four National Championship (Matt Marriott, NCAA Photos via Getty Images)
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