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Fouts sends a signal to Carroll about coverage

September 22, 2006|Larry Stewart | Times Staff Writer

One of the first things Dan Fouts did this week was have a phone conversation with USC Coach Pete Carroll.

Fouts, who is doing the play-by-play for ABC's regional telecast of the Trojans' 5 p.m. game at Arizona on Saturday, said, "I just wanted to make sure he knew that with our crew, everything that is said in a production meeting is on the record unless otherwise stated."

Anything to avoid what happened Saturday during the USC-Nebraska game. Play-by-play announcer Brent Musburger, late in the game, described to viewers what hand signal Trojans quarterback John David Booty uses to let his receivers know he is going deep because of one-on-one coverage.

That revelation created quite a stir, because USC considered that as privileged information. Musburger, who learned about the signal from Booty in a production meeting the day before, has since called it a misunderstanding.

After USC's displeasure was made public by The Times on Tuesday, Colin Cowherd, on ESPN Radio, said what Musburger did was like Manager Joe Torre during a World Series privately telling Fox announcer Joe Buck what the New York Yankees' signs are and then Buck going on the air with them.

Musburger, on Dan Patrick's ESPN Radio show, said he was stunned this had become such an issue and insisted he had done nothing wrong.

However, he might have avoided much of the controversy had he just used the information rather than inserting himself by saying Booty "told us" about the signal.

Controversy is not new to Musburger. Here is one example: In 1987, he was announcing a Nevada Las Vegas-Oklahoma basketball game for CBS when game officials walked over to the scorers' table to look at a replay of a shot by a Nevada Las Vegas player that hit right as the buzzer sounded ending the first half.

Officials had ruled that the shot was late and the basket did not count. But there was some doubt.

Musburger stood close by and told the officials that CBS did not have a conclusive replay. They walked away and the ruling stood.

However, seconds later, a replay on CBS showed the basket should have counted, and that it was actually a three-point shot. Las Vegas ended up losing the game by one point -- and it was the team's first loss of the season.

Another Controversy

What Musburger did Saturday pales in comparison to what happened at Oregon when apparent mistakes by game officials there gave the Ducks a one-point win over Oklahoma.

Fouts and his broadcast partner, Tim Brant, were working that game and were justifiably irate over the mistakes, even though Fouts is an Oregon alum.

By Tuesday, Fouts said more comments would just be beating a dead horse, and the Pacific 10 Conference had taken the proper steps by handing one-game suspensions to the officials working that game.

"You have to let something like that go," Fouts said. "I've been in that situation. You remember the Holy Roller play?"

He was referring to a 1978 game between the San Diego Chargers and Oakland Raiders when he was the Chargers' quarterback. Raiders quarterback Ken Stabler intentionally fumbled the ball forward on the last play of the game, and Raiders tight end Dave Casper batted it forward and recovered it in the end zone for a game-winning touchdown.

The play should have been called an incomplete forward pass or intentional grounding. The NFL, in the aftermath, put through a new rule that made such plays illegal.

"At the time, you feel like you were robbed," Fouts said. "But then you realize that it was just one of some 80 other plays and if you had played better, one bad call isn't going to cost you the game."

Saturday's game was one of three Oregon games Fouts has done with Brant so far this season for Disney-owned networks ABC and ESPN. The others were games against Stanford and Fresno State.

"I'm not a homer," Fouts laughed. "I just go where I'm assigned. My check has Mickey Mouse on it, not Donald Duck."

Play by play is something new for Fouts this year, and, no surprise to those who know him, he has adapted well. What's interesting is that Brant, his commentator, was a play-by-play announcer earlier in his career.

Brant said the jobs are totally different.

"The analyst's role gives you leeway to have more fun and use your football knowledge," he said. "But being able to handle all the nuts and bolts of being a play-by-play announcer gives you a lot of satisfaction."

larry.stewart@latimes.com

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