MIAMI — When Saturday, Jan. 14, arrives, Mike Tirico can be forgiven if he’s a little confused about where he is.
The play-by-play voice for ESPN’s Monday Night Football will call the action in tonight’s Discover Orange Bowl between Clemson and West Virginia (8 p.m. ET, ESPN, ESPN3) here.
It will be the fourth of seven games he is calling in less than three weeks. His schedule includes one NFL game, three college bowl games, two NBA games and one college basketball game.
He started the string on Christmas Day in Los Angeles with the Lakers and Bulls, then flew to New Orleans on a redeye to do the next night’s Saints-Falcons game, the final MNF game of the season.
A few days later, he traveled to Tampa to call the Outback Bowl on January 2nd (a game that was decided in triple overtime) and then went directly to Miami to prepare for the Orange Bowl.
On Saturday, he heads back to New Orleans to prepare to call the BCS National Championship game on ESPN Radio on Jan. 9.
Then he’s scheduled to be in Champaign, Ill., the next night for the Ohio State-Illinois game in the debut of ESPN’s Super Tuesday college basketball schedule. He completes the journey three nights later in Denver with the NBA battle between the Miami Heat and the host Nuggets.
For Tirico, getting the chance to call three college bowl games is an opportunity he relishes.
“It’s nice to come back not only for three college games in eight days, but three of the best ones of the year,” he said.
“This [Orange Bowl] production group is the Thursday Night group, and that’s where I started doing play-by-play football at ESPN back in the mid-90s. To come back and see a lot of familiar faces and call a sport where I got started is awesome for me. I love it.”
And make no mistake about it, Tirico is still deeply immersed in the college game, even though he’s on the road all season with the NFL.
“I watch it all year,” he said.
“When we get done with our meetings on Saturdays for NFL games at the team facilities, we’re finding a TV and watching games, and our plans for Saturday night for dinner always revolve around is there somewhere with a big TV we can watch a couple of college football games, so I stay pretty close to the game for that reason. I’ve seen Clemson and West Virginia play a bunch on TV this year, so that makes it a lot easier.”
Tirico paused from studying notes for tonight’s game to reflect on his hectic schedule.
“It’s a fun stretch and what I love the most about working at ESPN,” he said.
“There’s always a challenge and it never gets stale or boring at our place. That, and the people, are what I enjoy.”