Broadcaster Verne Lundquist talks March Madness, Syracuse sanctions

Lundquist has been calling NCAA Tournament games for more than 30 years.

Verne Lundquist witnessed the legendary Iron Bowl in 2013 between Alabama and Auburn and famously narrated the rise to fame of an uncontrollable golfer in the 1996 comedy film “Happy Gilmore.” 

Still, the 74-year-old broadcaster said the excitement surrounding the NCAA Tournament beats all other scenes in sports. 

Lundquist will be behind the microphone during this weekend’s East Regional at the Carrier Dome with color commentator Jim Spanarkel for TBS. Known by most as one of the voices for CBS’ coverage of Southeastern Conference football, Lundquist has been a part of many memorable moments in sports history, including Christian Laettner’s legendary buzzer-beater in the 1992 East Regional final. 

But this weekend, he’s hoping the on-court action at the Dome can produce another magical March moment. 

“The names on the jerseys of the four teams we have here… pretty impressive,” Lundquist said. “(Tom) Izzo and Michigan State, (Rick) Pitino and Louisville, Lon Kruger Oklahoma, and N.C. State with Mark Gottfried. 

“I think the eyeball test is pretty good.” 

Lundquist has been a fixture of the post-season college basketball scene since 1982, when he broadcasted a game from Tulsa, Oklahoma, during the first tournament televised by CBS. Since then, he has done play-by-play during all but three tournaments. 

This year is a bit different, though, as usual partner Bill Raftery is preparing to call the Final Four games in Indianapolis. Lundquist said the promotion is well-deserved, and he is easily adjusting to life with new partner Spanarkel. 

“Jim Spanarkel has made it through two weekends, and I have not heard ‘Onions!” Lundquist said in reference to Raftery’s famous catchphrase. 

Lundquist also responded to the sanctions levied against Syracuse’s basketball program and head coach Jim Boeheim this month as a result of multiple violations within the athletic department. He said he has known Boeheim for what seems like forever, and he’s very sorry to see what has happened in the wake of the NCAA’s investigation. 

“We’re standing on this court, and Bill Raftery and I were here when they named it the Jim Boeheim Court,” Lundquist said. “It’s unfortunate at this point in a legendary career that this has to come down. I’m not saying he’s blameless. Certainly not, but I don’t know enough to pass judgment on him.”

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