Irv Brown, a staple of ESPN telecasts from the company’s beginning and throughout the 1980s as a commentator and analyst, died Sunday morning. He was 83.
He provided commentary to Jerry Gross’ play-by-play call on ESPN’s first college football telecast, the Sept. 8, 1979 Oregon at Colorado game that the fledgling network aired on one-day tape delay. ESPN launched Sept. 7, 1979.
Besides college football, Brown served as a commentator on a number of sports on ESPN during its first decade including NBA; college basketball and baseball; boxing, karate; billiards; bowling; and body building.
Brown’s careers extended beyond broadcasting.
The Denver native was a college basketball and baseball star at the University of Northern Colorado. He coached baseball at the University of Colorado (where he also coached freshman football) and Metro State. He also was an executive for various collegiate conferences and starred on Denver’s sports talk airwaves for decades until retiring in 2016.
Brown was a basketball referee from 1969-77. He officiated six NCAA Final Fours, including three UCLA title games. One of those UCLA games featured Bruins great and future ESPN analyst Bill Walton.
Terry Frei, a writer for the Greeley (Colo.) Tribune and a colleague of Brown’s on Denver radio shows, wrote this appreciation.
Here is a sampling of ESPN commentators paying tribute to Brown on social media:
Sorry to learn of the passing of IRV BROWN a terrific ref for years in the @NCAA . Irv also was a big time tv/radio personality in Denver ! He worked my last game in March Madness when my @UDMDetroit Titans played #1 @umichbball in Sweet 16 in 1977 @Rupp_Arena May he RIP
— Dick Vitale (@DickieV) February 3, 2019
My heart hurts to just hear of Irv Brown’s death. Athlete, coach, a superb NCAA ref, and sports radio pioneer. A true Colorado legend. I was entertained by him, learned from him, was always flattered to join his long running show. There won’t be another like Irv. Be at peace.
— Chris Fowler (@cbfowler) February 3, 2019
Irv Brown died today. The pride of North Denver. Irv became the No. 1 college basketball ref in nation and worked six Final 4’s. College baseball and football coach. I coerced him to join my sports talk show in 1980. Irv was the best. Devoted husband and father and friend. RIP
— Woody Paige (@woodypaige) February 3, 2019