Kevin Kiley, ESPN's new college football commentator who will work Saturday's UCLA-Nebraska telecast, is a rarity: He got the job because of his broadcasting abilities rather than his marquee value.
Oh, sure, Kiley played college football, but in obscurity at Wyoming, where he was used at several positions before settling at outside linebacker. He had a brief pro career, making it to the final cut before being released by the New York Jets in 1974, and then playing one year with the Chicago Fire of the World Football League.
It wasn't exactly a glowing career. However, he has done better in broadcasting. Kiley has been a sports anchor at a Washington television station for 10 years, and has worked as a football commentator for several Eastern syndication companies.
ESPN, impressed with Kiley's credentials and reputation, hired him as a replacement for Pat McInally, who did not have his contract renewed.
Kiley's play-by-play partner is Jim Kelly.
The UCLA-Nebraska game, which starts at 2 p.m., PDT, is the most-attractive of Saturday's college games, particularly in Los Angeles, but ABC and CBS also have good ones. On ABC at 12:30 p.m. is Notre Dame-Michigan, with Keith Jackson and Bob Griese reporting, and on CBS at 5 p.m. is Alabama-Penn State, with Brent Musburger and Pat Haden.
Then on Sunday, the NFL season begins, and Los Angeles gets a rare Ram-Raider doubleheader. The Rams play at Houston on Channel 2 at 10 a.m., with Tim Brant and Hank Stram reporting, followed by the Raiders at Green Bay on Channel 4 at 1 p.m., with Charlie Jones and Jimmy Cefalo.
Also, since both teams are on the road, Los Angeles gets a third game--San Diego at Kansas City on Channel 4 at 10 a.m.
ABC's first Monday night game is the New York Giants against Chicago.
ESPN's Sunday night games don't begin until the second half of the season.
Starting today, CBS will devote 16 1/2 more hours to covering the U.S. Open. Hopefully, all matches will be shown in their entirety.
USA had to cut away from matches because of contractual reasons, and CBS had to cut away from last Monday's Henri Leconte-Jimmy Connors match while it was in the fourth set because of commitments to affiliates.
"The time is important to them because they have sold commercial time," said a CBS spokesman. "Unfortunately, it was a business decision."
Suggestion: The decision to cut away in situations such as this one should be left up to the affiliates, who, if they decide to stick with the sporting event, would then be allowed to insert their own commercials. Most stations would probably opt to finish what they started and keep their viewers happy, as well as their sponsors.
Jim Lampley, who begins work at Channel 2 next Thursday, met with several writers Wednesday night. He said one thing that will be different is that Tony Hernandez, the station's No. 2 sports anchor, will get more air time than he did when Jim Hill was at the station, and news anchor Pat O'Brien will also be involved in sports, usually offering commentary.
"I am not the type of person who has to continually make it clear who is No. 1 by being on the air all the time," Lampley said.
Walter Payton was a no-show last Sunday at La Costa, where he was scheduled to tape a "Greatest Sports Legends" with the show's new host, fellow Chicago athlete Michael Jordan.
Executive producer Berl Rotfeld, who has been doing the syndicated show for 15 years, said this was the first time anyone had not shown without calling.
However, Payton's secretary called the next day and explained that Payton had hurt an ankle in the Bears' game against the Raiders Saturday and Coach Mike Ditka made him fly back to Chicago with the team.
Rotfeld, who had a crew waiting, was understanding and rescheduled the taping for Sept. 22 in Chicago.
With the college and pro football seasons comes related programming.
ESPN offers the most, highlighted by "NFL GameDay" Sundays at 8:30 a.m., and "NFL PrimeTime," a one-hour highlights show, Sundays at 4 p.m. ESPN also devotes 90 minutes of programming leading into ABC's "Monday Night Football."
"The NFL Today" on CBS returns intact, while NBC's pregame show, now being called "NFL Live," returns minus its live studio audience.
FNN/SCORE's football programming includes "College Grid Report" Saturdays at 4 p.m., the "George Allen Show" Saturdays at 5, and "Pro Grid Report" Sundays at 4.
The best of the bunch on commercial or cable television is HBO's "Inside the NFL" with Len Dawson, Nick Buoniconti, investigative reporter Larry Merchant and former Dallas Cowboy Drew Pearson, who does the "NFL Cover Story" segments. The show, televised Thursdays at 10 p.m., is beginning its 11th season next week.
The first two shows will examine the issue of player agents signing college players to contracts and paying them before graduation.
New to the show this season is Raider tight end Todd Christensen, who has replaced teammate Howie Long on the "NFL Diary" segment.