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SPORTS WEEKEND | TV-RADIO / LARRY STEWART

Will ESPN Up the Stakes for Salisbury?

April 17, 1998|LARRY STEWART

It's NFL draft weekend, a time to talk about prospects.

In the world of sports broadcasting, there may not be a hotter newcomer than Sean Salisbury.

Word is the USC quarterback who was overlooked in the 1986 draft but hooked on with the Seattle Seahawks as a free agent and finished his NFL career with the San Diego Chargers a year and a half ago is one of the top two candidates to fill Joe Theismann's seat on ESPN's expanded "NFL Countdown" show next season.

Under the new NFL TV contract, Theismann will be out at games for a full season rather than only half.

Former Bill quarterback Jim Kelly is the other leading candidate to replace Theismann, with former Charger quarterback Stan Humphries and former Packers Sean Jones and Keith Jackson reportedly in the running too.

But insiders say it was Salisbury who had the most impressive audition.

"We like Sean a lot and are looking for a role for him," an ESPN spokesman said.

This weekend, Salisbury will serve as ESPN's field reporter at Charger camp, and his other employer, XTRA (690), will have Salisbury among its fleet of announcers at Seau's the Restaurant.

Salisbury's bosses at XTRA, figuring he can handle two jobs, like the fact that he is a finalist for a high-profile job at ESPN.

"We think it's wonderful," XTRA operations manager Bill Pugh said. "We hope he gets it. It would be great to have one of our announcers associated with a network as prestigious as ESPN.

"Sean's quick rise to the top speaks volumes about his ability."

Salisbury became one of ESPN's top sideline reporters on college football last season, did a little game commentating, and, along with John Fricke and Julie Brown, has made XTRA's morning show a hit.

CBS ROUNDS OUT ITS TEAM

CBS completed its lineup for its new "NFL Today" show Thursday with the addition of George Seifert. He'll join host Jim Nantz and analysts Brent Jones and Marcus Allen.

"We wanted a ex-coach, and once it was apparent George wasn't going to coach this year, he became our No. 1 candidate," said Sean McManus, CBS Sports president.

At one time, Seifert was the top candidate to coach the Dallas Cowboys. During a conference call Thursday, he was asked why he passed on the Cowboy job.

"Jerry Jones likes to oversee all aspects of the team, and he's had success doing it that way," Seifert said. "I just have a different philosophy."

So now CBS has two employees who turned down the Cowboy coaching job--Seifert and college commentator Terry Donahue.

TALK ABOUT ENDURANCE

Chick Hearn's consecutive-game streak reaches 3,043 this weekend with the end of the NBA's regular season.

Then there is Ralph Lawler. His consecutive-game streak is somewhere around 1,500 as the Clippers close out their season on Fox Sports West 2 on Saturday night against Sacramento at the Pond of Anaheim.

"I'm not sure what it is," he said. "I don't keep track of such things."

Lawler said he hasn't missed a game since 1985, the team's second season in Los Angeles and the year he began his second stint with the team. He was first hired by then-Clipper general manager Irv Kaze in 1978, the team's first season in San Diego.

Watching the Lakers play is one thing. Enduring the Clippers night after night is another.

"It's tough, but that's what I get paid for," he said. "I'm lucky to have done this all these years. It's a great way to make a living."

ESPN VS. FOX

Does ESPN's "SportsCenter" or "Fox Sports News" attract more viewers in Los Angeles? It's pretty close.

"Fox Sports News" at 10 p.m. averaged a 0.5 rating in all L.A. TV households in March, while "SportsCenter" at 11 averaged a 0.4.

ESPN's Chris LaPlaca pointed out that one reason for a higher rating during the 10 o'clock hour is that viewership is 20% higher than at 11. He also said the 8 p.m. edition of "SportsCenter" averaged a 0.61.

Fox Sports West spokesman Steve Webster said that "Fox Sports News" averaged a 1.38 on nights that had a game as a lead-in. "That's our advantage," he said.

At 11 p.m., going up against "SportsCenter," the average rating for "Fox Sports News" last month was only a 0.17.

NOW YOU SEE IT, NOW YOU DON'T

You've no doubt seen the new rotating signage behind home plate at Dodger Stadium during local telecasts. But it's not seen on ESPN telecasts.

Brent Shyer, the Dodgers' director of broadcasting, says it is a major league rule that national networks must give permission for the signage to be used.

Wonder if the Dodgers can get permission from Fox to use it when the network begins Saturday telecasts later in the season?

SHORT WAVES

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