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Archive for Sunday, August 5, 2007

Woodling: Mason odd pick for TV

August 5, 2007

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Help Wanted. The fledging Big Ten Football Network is looking for a play-by-play announcer to work with Glen Mason.

Glen Mason??? A TV analyst??? What's next? George Bush co-hosting "The Daily Show" after his second term expires?

Without doubt, the Big Ten raised some eyebrows - including mine - when it hired Mason last month as one of three analysts for its cable network debuting this fall. It's a bit of a stretch to envision the often gruff and volatile Woody Hayes protege in a job that requires curbing your temperament for three hours or more.

I wasn't surprised when Mike Gottfried, another former Kansas University coach, went into the other side of the business. Gottfried is an innately friendly, cerebral type well suited to electronic media exposure.

Mason, meanwhile, rarely gave the impression he was a professor of X's and O's while parading the sidelines from 1988-96 at Memorial Stadium. Then again, that may have just been a perception punctuated by his disdain for donning headphones.

Second-guessers would criticize Mason - after losses, of course - for that apparent disconnect, grumbling that his coaching skills did not match his proven ability to recruit talent.

In retrospect, though, Mason belongs in select company. Only three coaches in the nearly 12 decades of Kansas University football have posted a 10-win season. Mason did it in 1995, and that was 90 years after the last coach had done it.

Although the knee-jerk reaction is to scoff at Mason as a TV analyst, I doubt he'll be a disaster. I'm sure he understands he needs to stay visible if he wants to coach again - he says he does - because out-of-sight, out-of-mind is a fired coach's greatest fear. Most of them disappear faster than Spuds McKenzie.

If you look at the big picture, you'll realize Mason's 21-year shelf life as a head coach is nearly three times longer than the norm, and even more impressive when you consider those years were spent with three schools - Kent State, Kansas and Minnesota - that hardly qualify as tradition-rich.

Mason's Achilles heel never really has been coaching. His primary difficulties arose at alumni gatherings where he often showed no appetite for exchanging pleasantries with the big cigars and their wives, scenarios he won't have to face in the broadcast booth.

Gottfried has fashioned a nice second career. In a book scheduled to be published next month, the man who coached the Jayhawks from 1983-85 concedes he took the ESPN post just to have something to do between coaching jobs after he was fired at Pittsburgh.

Yet despite being offered the head post at Temple and receiving other feelers, Gottfried opted to remain in the booth, ultimately coming to believe the relentless pressure to win wasn't worth it.

Gottfried's sensitivity is part of his television appeal. Whether Mason can display a similar knack for connecting with viewers remains to be seen.

Alas, Mason's debut as a broadcast journalist won't be available in these parts because the new net will be carried only by cable outlets in states with Big Ten Conference schools.

In the meantime, all you play-by-play announcers out there who want to work with Mason, give the Big Ten a call.

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