Play-by-play announcer Verne Lundquist has had a Hall of Fame career spanning more than four decades, including the last 29 years spent at CBS calling more than 20 sports. The voice of CBS college football telecasts, Lundquist, 71, will call Friday’s LSU-Arkansas game then hop on a charter jet with the rest of the CBS broadcast crew and head to Auburn, Ala., for Saturday’s Iron Bowl. He took a few moments earlier this week to answer a few questions for this week’s Pick Six:
What are the logistics involved in trying to do two games back-to-back?
We’ve done it once before. We had Arkansas-LSU then charted to the Florida-Florida State game when Tim Tebow was a sophomore (in 2007).
The homework is one-tenth of what it normally will be in the middle of the season. We did Arkansas last week and we’ve had LSU four times. We had Auburn two weeks ago at Georgia and had them at LSU, and everyone remembers the LSU-Alabama game.
We’ll be in the air about 90 minutes after the game is over. We were almost at the point that we were going to take (color analyst) Gary (Danielson’s) motor home, but the bus is only going to Auburn this week.
What do you think will be the effect of Arkansas tight end Garrett Uekman’s death on the Razorbacks this week?
I’m sure it will have an affect on their preparation. I don’t see how it cannot. But they’re resilient young men. I do think even though it will be only one week removed from his death that they’ll be focused on the game. I can’t imagine they wouldn’t be. They’ll be saddened by it all, absolutely, but once they kick it off on Friday afternoon, the kids will be resilient.
It may be painting you into a corner with this question, but what are your thoughts on calling a big game in Tiger Stadium?
It’s one of my favorite venues in all of college football, which means it’s one of my favorites in the SEC. I wish we did more night games, just like the LSU fans. Of course, we’re restricted by contract, unless we get the one moved to prime time as we did this year (for LSU-Alabama).
I’m probably the only one on our crew who remembers Billy Cannon’s 89-yard run. I read that this is the first time since 1959 that they’ll have No. 1 vs. No. 3 in Tiger Stadium, and I think that’s just terrific. I fully expect that the crowd will be through the roof. The Georgia game we did there in 2003 was one of the most intense games. I remember that vividly. I expect the atmosphere will be much like that one.
You get to spend time with the coaches during the week leading up to a game – what are your impressions of Les Miles?
Les is very open. He and Gary have had their moments, but they respect each other enormously. It’s fun to see them go at it a bit in our meetings because they do have such great respect for each other. Les is very forthcoming with us. It’s fun for me to see him become – I don’t know if beloved is the right word – but he’s certainly a long way from being the guy who people said won with Nick (Saban’s) boys. You don’t here that much anymore.
It’s fun to see the change in his status with the fans – and the critics. He’s a unique character in the sport of college football. We’re all better off for having him here.
Do you actually hear from fans, including LSU fans, who say you’re harder on their team than the other?
Oh, sure. I don’t think they (LSU fans) are as vocal as the Alabama and Auburn fans are, but I hear about it. People say, ‘You don’t care about Georgia as much as other people.’ I don’t. I can’t. My job is to report them fairly. There’s no bias for Gary or myself. No bias at all. What we hope for is a competitive game every Saturday. But I’m aware that there are Arkansas fans who are convinced we’re in the rooms with the LSU coaches. And people do call-in shows and can’t understand how we can’t love the Tigers as much as they do.
When Howard Cosell was in his prime, he was a magnet or a lightning rod for people. Someone took a poll about the best loved and most hated sportscasters, and he won both sides. That’s the ideal position.
You get to call SEC football games in the fall and are in the tower on the 16th hole at Augusta National for The Masters in the spring. Do you have a favorite?
I can’t rate one over the other. It’s really mixed vegetables. It’s hard to equate the passion you feel in a Tiger Stadium or a Bryant-Denny or at Auburn, any of the places in the SEC really, with the kind of emotion you feel at Augusta. It’s such a different experience. I treasure them equally, I really do. Then there’s something about sitting in a basketball arena in March doing the Elite Eight. Now you’re talking about carrots and peas and potatoes.
I realize how privileged I am to be part of all of it. I never take any of it for granted. Not many people get to do No. 1 vs. No. 3 on Friday, go to the Alabama-Auburn game on Saturday, then Augusta in April.