When University of Maryland football and basketball move to a new flagship for 1991-92, there will be a familiar voice at the helm.
Johnny Holliday is returning for his 13th year of Maryland radio play-by-play, Jefferson Pilot Sports announced yesterday. However, Holliday is getting a new football partner: Azizuddin Abdur-Ra'oof, a former Terrapins wide receiver, is replacing ex-Baltimore Colt Tom Matte, who worked with Holliday for two seasons. Greg Manning will return as basketball analyst.
The broadcasts will be produced by WBAL (1090 AM), which has taken over from Washington's WMAL (630 AM) as flagship. WMAL has picked up Navy football, and Holliday said he considered staying with WMAL -- for whom he had performed daily sports reports -- to become the voice of Midshipmen football. (Navy still hasn't named a play-by-play announcer.)
"If they had basketball, maybe," said Holliday, who has a three-year contract with Jefferson Pilot. "I would have missed doing basketball."
Maryland apparently would have missed Holliday, too. That was the message athletic director Andy Geiger had delivered. Geiger made clear to Jefferson Pilot, which holds Maryland's radio rights, and Holliday that he wanted the announcer to stay.
"The people at Maryland were nice enough to want me to continue," Holliday said.
Holliday wasn't under contract to WMAL, so he was free to leave, he said. It was an amicable parting, Holliday said.
"It was really a nice parting of the ways," he said. "They [WMAL] left the door open."
Without the need to provide morning reports for WMAL, Holliday said he may be available for more assignments outside Maryland, such as college basketball for Home Team Sports.
Abdur-Ra'oof, who is director of marketing and membership for the Maryland Alumni Association, becomes Holliday's third football partner in four seasons, following two years of Matte, who succeeded former Washington Redskin Brig Owens.
"I think it's going to be a learning experience [for Abdur-Ra'oof]," Holliday said. "There have been others I've worked with who never did it before."
"Having Johnny in the booth will be a great help," said Abdur-Ra'oof, who worked with Holliday for a few games in 1986, when an injury sidelined the receiver during his junior season.
"The job is to analyze what happens," he said. "If someone throws an interception, I can't just say he threw an interception by accident."
Lee Corrigan, sales manager for the Maryland Radio Network, said Matte was replaced because Geiger wanted someone with "a Maryland flavor" in the analyst spot. Maryland already has that in basketball; Manning is a former Terps guard.
Though Matte didn't have the right flavoring, he was very much the homer. Let's hope Abdur-Ra'oof leaves his pompons outside the broadcast booth.
Holliday's announcing -- particularly on football -- could use a touch of objectivity. Basketball, clearly Holliday's play-by-play strength, allows less time for cheerleading. But there's something to be said for familiarity and continuity, and Maryland said it by retaining Holliday.
Towson State sports, in recent years the province of campus radio station WCVT (89.7 FM), are moving to WITH (1230 AM). The official announcement will come Monday, but the station will carry 11 football, 27 basketball and 10 lacrosse games. Spiro Marekas will do play-by-play.
The two best lines of the night on CBS' All-Star Game telecast came from Jack Buck and Pat O'Brien.
Buck, reacting to a shot of Benito Santiago that showed the San Diego Padres catcher's earring: "I never saw Ted Williams wear an earring. . . or Joe D [DiMaggio]."
O'Brien, throwing it back to Buck and Tim McCarver after interviewing President Bush and Canadian Prime Minister Brian Mulroney: "Top that, guys."
Sports are supposed to be fun, and there's nothing wrong when those reporting on them have some fun, too, but you have to show respect for your audience. On Tuesday night's late sportscast, Channel 13's John Buren -- without any baseball scores to display leading into the break before his report -- introduced bowling scores by saying: "In our continuing effort to bring you meaningless information during this period, take a look at the third-round scores from the PBA Senior Open." (And, yes, I caught WJZ anchor Al Sanders' name among the leaders.)
If your information is meaningless, John, why should anyone watch? Just because there weren't any major sports scores outside of the All-Star Game doesn't mean Channel 13 couldn't have done better. Why not a list of major-league statistical leaders?
Apparently seeking to maintain the gambling perspective on its football pre-game shows, ESPN has spoken to oddsmaker Danny Sheridan, who's also negotiating a possible return to CNN, about joining the cable network. That perspective -- and a lot more -- was supplied on ESPN by the late Pete Axthelm. Sheridan wouldn't be much of a replacement. However, in fairness to Sheridan, Axthelm was a rarity on the air who combined wit and intelligence with a slightly off-center view of sports. In unfairness to Sheridan, there is something about him that just won't let me forget that gambling is illegal.
ESPN also has contacted "Saturday Night Live" product Dennis Miller, who has bobbed and weaved his way through "News Update" in cooler-than-thou style, about some kind of on-air spot.
The Federal Trade Commission doesn't like the way the College Football Association is doing business and has filed an antitrust action against it. The CFA argues that it's not a business. The FTC's antitrust case could negate the CFA's television contract with ABC, and that would send everyone scrambling for new television deals. The CFA was in court this week trying to get the case dismissed.
Let's suppose the FTC is successful. Does it then go after all college conference broadcast contracts? Except for representing a smaller group, what is the difference between the CFA deal and that between the Big Ten and Pac-10 and the network?