College basketball fans who were paying attention to the news today were incredibly saddened to hear that Gus Johnson would no longer be calling March Madness games. Early reports were not sure what Gus would be doing next year, though everyone was basing their stories off the fact that Johnson’s contract with CBS expired after this past year and that FOX made an offer for him to do NFL and Pac 12 college football for them.
However, recent news has shown that those reports might be a little premature. Basically, Johnson’s contract with CBS is up and FOX has offered him a deal to do football. This article says that nothing is official until Johnson’s agents approach CBS reps to match the offer. They will have one week to do so, possibly making it the most anxious off-season week for all college basketball fans in recent memory.
The real problem is that CBS has very little incentive to match any offer for Johnson. Let’s be honest with ourselves; if there is a two-point game in the NCAA tournament with under two minutes left, we are all watching it. It is amazing by virtue of just being March Madness. Gus Johnson makes it all the more incredible, but we still all watch the March Madness games that he doesn’t call. And while fans might be upset that Johnson is leaving, I don’t think that anyone would be mad enough that they boycott March Madness because of it. But I am here to tell us, and hopefully CBS, why CBS should hold on to Gus Johnson anyway.
Now, Johnson might not be the highest-profile commentator in college basketball today. Even his great voice cannot match the prestige that a Jim Nantz or Dickie V has. Still, those who have heard Johnson screaming at the end of a game know that no one else can match him for sheer play-by-play entertainment. There is a reason why there are highlight reels on Youtube for calls that Gus Johnson has made. There is also a reason why some of those videos have almost a million hits and the best highlight reel of Dickie V’s calls barely has 20,000. It is because listening to Gus Johnson is just amazing.
Gus Johnson has achieved almost cult status in college basketball. Two big stories broke in college basketball today. The first was that Johnson would be leaving. The second was that National Championship-winning and probably future Hall of Fame head coach Gary Williams will be retiring this summer. You would expect a Hall of Fame coach leaving an elite college basketball institution to be top news. But if Twitter is any indication, fans and sportswriters alike cared much more about the Johnson story.
People will be very upset if Gus Johnson is not back next year. March Madness just wouldn’t be the same without him. People actually do choose which games to watch based on where Johnson is. We might watch the last two minutes of a close game anyway, but I guarantee you that Johnson draws other fans in for the first 38 also. And while no one might be upset enough to stop watching March Madness without Gus Johnson, people will resent CBS for a long time for taking that away from them.
If all CBS cares about is the bottom line and they only want to look at dollars and cents, then maybe matching whatever FOX offered Johnson is a bad idea. But if CBS actually cares about the fans and what we want, then they should go after Johnson. Thousands of people gear up for March Madness each year by watching those Gus Johnson highlight reels on Youtube. And this is what should be the bottom line: when people specifically watch a Buffalo Wild Wings commercial because Johnson calls the football game featured in it, you know that that man is something special. HAHA!