This weekend’s Final Four in Atlanta will draw fans from all four schools, each dreaming of its team cutting down the nets on Monday night. ESPN employees are no different.
They are passionate sports fans, too. Here, Front Row presents some Final Four smack talk from four folks with ties to the schools. Be sure to tune into ESPN all weekend through Monday’s championship game for live coverage from Atlanta and extensive pre- and post game analysis and features.
Mike Tirico, play-by-play commentator and studio and radio host for ESPN, lives in Ann Arbor, Mich., but is a Syracuse grad. In fact, he’s delivering the keynote address at the Syracuse Newhouse Convocation Ceremony in May.
Before Tirico heads to Atlanta to watch the Final Four semifinals Saturday — Syracuse versus Michigan and Wichita State versus Louisville — he shared his thoughts with Front Row, as did his friend and ESPN colleague Adam Schefter, a Michigan grad.[box color=black size=small align=right]
Daniel Dodd, 1997 Wichita State grad, Senior Editor, SportsNation, ESPN.com
What would a win by your team mean for your office/work bragging rights?
Not a ton, since we still don’t have football. But it gives me an excuse to remind people about our 19 national bowling titles.
How and where will you watch the games?
The same way as all the previous rounds. At home. With my Lil Wu mascot nearby for support.
How far did you have WSU going in the bracket and what are your feelings about how their performance affected your bracket?
Just the Round of 32. I’m a one-bracket guy and in a pool with a bunch of jelly beans on the line. So it’s serious stuff. My heart wanted to pick WSU over Gonzaga, but every other part of me really wanted those jelly beans, which I won’t be getting.
Bob Valvano, ESPN college basketball analyst and Louisville Cardinals Radio/TV voice
ESPN’s Bob Valvano has strong ties to the Louisville Cardinals. He’s the radio (WKRD 790-AM) and TV (WHAS-TV) voice of the NCAA Men’s Tournament’s No. 1 seed. After Kevin Ware’s season-ending leg injury Sunday in Louisville’s Elite Eight victory over Duke, Valvano posted on Facebook his thoughts about the emotional injury from his broadcast perspective.
Do you have any friendly wagers with friends in Ann Arbor or ESPN colleagues from the other Final Four schools?
The Syracuse win over Indiana has paid off for me. My Big Ten TV partner [ESPN analyst and former IU player and coach] Dan Dakich will be taking a large, bright Otto the Orange [mascot] head cover off of his driver for a full month during the upcoming golf season.
Editor’s note: After this interview was conducted, Tirico took to Twitter to engage ESPN colleague and Michigan alum Schefter . . . .
And Schefter responded. . .
What would a Syracuse win mean in terms of bragging rights?
Well, I am sure if Michigan wins, we won’t hear the end of it anytime soon around our Ann Arbor neighborhood. So many people think we are from Michigan. My wife is the native. We moved here 14 years ago and settled in Ann Arbor because it is a wonderful place to live and raise a family. We have no formal ties to the University of Michigan but have made many great Maize-and-Blue loving friends during our time here.
What are your weekend plans for watching the games in Atlanta and who will be with you?
We will be watching with our family. My wife is a former captain of the Syracuse women’s team so we know where her loyalties stand. Our children are a different story; our son loves the Orange, but our daughter loves the Maize and Blue, so I think it will be three against one in the Tirico household.
Talk about your past Final Four experiences with Syracuse. Were you at the game when Syracuse last won the National Championship?
I have been fortunate to be in attendance at all of the Final Four appearances under [Orange head coach] Jim Boeheim. In 1987, I was a student representing our university radio station WAER, hosting the pre- and postgame shows courtside in New Orleans. In 1996, I was part of our SportsCenter team covering the Final Four at the Meadowlands. In 2003, after working a Sunday NBA game on ABC, we made it to New Orleans as fans with several of my college buddies to watch Syracuse beat Kansas.
You tweeted about covering Jim Boeheim and [current Michigan head coach] John Beilein in your first job 25 years ago at Channel 5 in Syracuse. How excited are you for these two coaches in particular?
When I started my local television career at WTVH-TV in Syracuse, it was the week after the 1987 Final Four. For the next four years before coming to ESPN we covered plenty of basketball games. Just a few miles from the Carrier Dome, LeMoyne College was a strong, mostly Division II college team. So the two main coaches I covered for my first professional job were Beilein and Boeheim. I am especially pleased Coach Beilein has finally made a Final Four. He is a wonderful man who is just as nice now as he was a quarter century ago. It is great to know that no matter who wins on Saturday, I will have a longtime professional acquaintance playing on the final Monday of the season.
Adam Schefter, 1989 Michigan grad, ESPN NFL Insider
Do you have any friendly wagers with colleagues from the other schools, like Seth Markman (lead NFL studio producer and Schefter’s boss, a Syracuse alum)?
That’s a no-win proposition for me. Either my school wins and my boss is miserable or his school wins and I’m not real happy about it. I would be willing to make a friendly wager with Mike Tirico. Problem is, can there be anyone more torn than him? He lives in Ann Arbor and has a certain attachment to the school while also being one of the most distinguished graduates in Syracuse’s history. He’s also in a no-win situation of his own.
Where were you when Michigan last won the National Championship?
One of the most unforgettable events of my life. My college roommates and I actually were there, in Seattle, in great seats. We drove from Ann Arbor to Lexington, Kentucky, the previous weekend for the Sweet Sixteen, when Michigan beat North Carolina and then Virginia. We came back to school, bought tickets through the school, and flew out to Seattle. All of us piled into one hotel room. We watched Michigan beat Illinois on Saturday in a game that had over 30 lead changes and still is one of the best games I’ve ever seen, and then watched Michigan beat Seton Hall on Monday night before celebrating with the team back at our hotel in Bellevue, Washington, after the game. I don’t know that I’ve ever had more fun in a single weekend in my life.
Bill Hofheimer, Dan Quinn, Hannah Worster and Sheldon Spencer contributed to this post. Earlier this week on Front Row, ESPN Communications colleague and recent Michigan grad Ariel Bond shared her thoughts on the Wolverines’ run to the Final Four.