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INSIDE TRACK | TV-RADIO

Chargers Give Donahue a Chance to Practice

August 02, 1996|LARRY STEWART

Terry Donahue recently was thinking it would be helpful to get a few practice games under his belt before he starts his first full season as a college football commentator for CBS with UCLA-Tennessee on Sept. 7.

Then came a call from an old friend, Bobby Beathard, general manager of the San Diego Chargers. Beathard asked Donahue if he would consider being the commentator on three of the Chargers' exhibition games.

"I would have paid for the opportunity," Donahue said. "It's just perfect. It gives me a chance to get some more broadcasting experience before the college season starts."

Donahue was under the impression these would be local San Diego telecasts, so there wouldn't be a lot of pressure. Well, not exactly.

The telecasts, besides being carried by San Diego's Channel 10, are also being picked up by Prime Sports to be distributed to 4.9 million cable households in Southern California, Arizona, Nevada and Hawaii.

But it's still not No. 1 vs. No. 2 in the Fiesta Bowl before a national audience, which Donahue faced last January in his second game for CBS.

The Chargers' first preseason game, at Tokyo last Saturday against Pittsburgh, was televised by ESPN. The three-game package Donahue is working starts with Saturday's 5 p.m. PDT game at Minnesota.

Donahue will work with three play-by-play announcers. Saturday, it will be Barry Tompkins. Then Aug. 17, for a home game against Arizona, Dan Fouts, normally a commentator, tries his hand at play-by-play. And Aug. 23, for a game at St. Louis, it will be veteran Charlie Jones.

Jones was supposed to work all three games, but other commitments, including working the Olympics for NBC, limited him to one telecast.

*

David Norrie, UCLA's outstanding football commentator, is moving on to bigger and better things. Norrie has been hired to work on a Liberty Broadcasting Pacific 10 Conference package with play-by-play announcer Steve Physioc.

It is one of two Liberty Pac-10 packages. This one will mostly be syndicated to over-the-air stations across the country. Channel 9 is scheduled to carry five of the seven games, beginning with Stanford-Washington State on Oct. 5. The other two, including Illinois-Arizona on Sept. 14, will be carried by Prime Sports.

The second Liberty package, with Barry Tompkins and Danny White announcing, will be carried exclusively by Liberty-Fox regional cable networks, including Prime Sports.

A likely replacement for Norrie on the UCLA radio broadcasts is XTRA's Steve Hartman. He is the radio station's top choice, but UCLA still has to give its stamp of approval.

Speaking of Hartman, anyone notice NBC's Dan Hicks sounds a lot like him? They also look somewhat similar. But Hartman probably knows more about swimming than Hicks does.

*

There has been quite a furor over NBC's coverage of the Olympics, but NBC isn't the only network in trouble with viewers.

Stock-car racing fans were upset at CBS last weekend, and this weekend ABC is the target of their venom.

ABC has a major stock-car race, the third Brickyard 400 from Indianapolis, yet in the West the telecast is being delayed three hours. It will be shown at 1 p.m. in both the East and West.

The beef against CBS has to do with last Sunday's rain-delayed DieHard 500 at Talladega, Ala.

Because of the rain, CBS showed last year's race, then went early to senior golf. The race was eventually run, shortened from 188 laps to 129, but CBS missed it all--Jeff Gordon's victory as well as a frightening crash involving Dale Earnhardt.

Once CBS went to the golf, it forgot all about the race. A report of some kind would have been appropriate.

A CBS spokeswoman admitted the network erred by not interrupting the golf to give a report on the race. It's a rarity when networks actually admit a mistake, so that's refreshing. Also, CBS is trying to make amends by showing a two-hour edited version of the race Sunday from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.

TV-Radio Notes

Tom Lasorda has dabbled in broadcasting in the past, and is a natural. Is broadcasting in his future? "I've been so busy I haven't really thought about it," he said. "But it's certainly something I'd enjoy doing." One problem, however, is networks traditionally don't hire team executives. Fox spokesman Vince Wladika said, "Tommy is a great ambassador to baseball and represents everything positive about baseball, but if you're asking if we would hire him, that's a moot point because he is a Dodger vice president." That wouldn't be a problem for CBS Radio, however. "Tommy is one of our favorite people," said Frank Murphy, vice president of programming for CBS Radio, "and he would make a great addition. We'd certainly consider him." . . . Interestingly, Channel 5, the Dodgers' flagship station, did not carry Lasorda's retirement news conference live. Neither did Prime Sports, which carries the Angels but not the Dodgers. Channels 2, 9 and 11, plus ESPN, interrupted regular programming to carry the news conference.

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