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SPORTS WEEKEND | TV-RADIO

Nantz Says No to ABC, Will Stay at CBS

May 30, 1997|LARRY STEWART

CBS has scored a major victory, announcing Thursday that it has re-signed announcer Jim Nantz to a five-year contract.

Nantz for some time was telling friends he was headed for ABC to, among other things, become a host of "Good Morning, America." He reportedly was told the show would have more of a sports presence with him, originating from the British Open and other sites of major ABC events, such as the Triple Crown horse races.

Nantz would have been an employee of the ABC news division, not sports, and his duties would have included filling in for Ted Koppel on "Nightline."

The ABC offer, financially, was considerably more than CBS' offer.

CBS, in the middle of affiliate meetings in Los Angeles, also announced Thursday that Nantz will be

the prime-time host of the 1998 Winter Olympics at Nagano, Japan. Nantz and Andrea Joyce served as daytime and weekend co-hosts at past CBS Winter Olympics.

CBS, at Nantz's request, will move him off college football play-by-play and into the studio as the host of a new half-hour pregame show, on which he will work with Lou Holtz and Craig James. That will allow Nantz, who lives in the New York area, to spend more time with his family.

He will continue as CBS' main announcer on golf and college basketball.

Nantz, 38, said, "At CBS, I have the kind of job I could only dream about as a kid, working the Masters and the Final Four. I just couldn't give that up."

He said another reason for re-signing with CBS was his longtime friendship with Sean McManus, the new sports president.

Nantz said the downside of moving into the studio for college football is that he will no longer get to work games with Terry Donahue, of whom he had grown fond. Donahue will probably be paired with either Sean McDonough or possible newcomer Tim Brando.

"I'm going to miss not having Jim around; he's a terrific guy," Donahue said. "But at least he's still with CBS. It was critical not to lose him. Jim Nantz is the mainstay of CBS."

BOXING BEAT

HBO has decided to pull commentator Larry Merchant off the June 14 Oscar De Hoya-David Kamau fight at San Antonio because of remarks he made about mariachi music being played before the De La Hoya-Pernell Whitaker fight April 12.

Merchant considered the music a slight to Whitaker and said it didn't belong in that setting.

Many Mexican-American viewers believed he was criticizing their music.

"We do not want Mr. Merchant's past comments to overshadow De La Hoya-Kamau," Seth Abraham, the president of Time Warner sports, said of the decision. "That keen interest should not be lost or lessened amid the issue of Mr. Merchant's commentary, for which he has apologized on several occasions, including privately to Mr. De La Hoya."

Merchant will continue working other HBO fights, including ones this weekend and next. . . .

What boxing is criticized for more than anything else is its lack of integrity and the treatment of fighters by promoters. Many talk about cleaning up the sport, but it never happens.

Now it may have just the person to make a difference. He is billionaire philanthropist Bill Daniels, the father of cable television who, among other things, started Prime Ticket with Jerry Buss in 1985.

Daniels announced this week he is backing his grand nephew, Mat Tinley of Denver, in a relatively new boxing venture known as America Presents. Dan Goossen, formerly of Van Nuys-based Ten Goose Boxing, recently became Tinley's partner.

Daniels, a lifelong boxing fan, emphasized integrity and proper treatment of fighters while saying he will commit as much as $7 million to America Presents over the next five years. "Whatever it takes to get the job done," he said, pointing out that since pay-per-view boxing grossed $700 million last year, with about $350 million going to promoters, the company should soon become profitable. . . .

Channel 9 has another one of its Forum-promoted boxing shows Saturday, 8-10 p.m. This one, from Caesars Palace in Las Vegas, features light-flyweights Jesus Chong and Eric Griffin. Griffin is best remembered for being robbed in an early round fight at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics.

SHORT WAVES

ESPN is taking the blame for losing the picture on Wednesday night's Angel thriller in Oakland. The picture was lost at 10:31 with the score tied, 10-10, in the ninth inning. When the picture came back at 10:39, the Angels had a 14-10 lead. "The problem was at our end and we're looking into exactly what happened," an ESPN spokesman said. . . . Angel radio announcer Bob Starr has been battling a mild case of pneumonia but was back on the air Wednesday night. . . . Sorry to hear our old friend from KMPC's all-sports days, Robert W. Morgan, now of KRTH, has lung cancer. Never one to miss an opportunity for a quip, Morgan said, "My doctors aren't sure what caused it but suspect those two packs a day for 35 years might be a factor." Morgan said he quit smoking last year.

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