(Editor's note: The 2021 Montana Football Hall of Fame Class was inducted June 26 at the Billings Hotel and Convention Center. Over the next five weeks, we’ll bring you stories sharing what some of those inductees are up to in their lives after sports.)
BILLINGS - One of the greatest play-by-play voices in all of sports grew up right here in Billings. Brent Musburger was inducted into the Sports Broadcasting Hall of Fame in 2017 and was a member of the 2021 Montana Football Hall of Fame Class.
“Growing up in Montana and not being an athlete but wanting to stay around it as closely as I have, I’ve been so lucky, but I never expected to be inducted into the Montana Football Hall of Fame. So it’s a tremendous honor for an old guy like me," Musburger told MTN Sports. "To go in with this class of men who achieved so much on the football field, I’m just glad I was able to ride along on a great journey.”
“You are looking live!” is the trademark phrase of the Hall of Famer, and you’ve likely heard one of Musburger’s famous calls – Whether it’s Magic Johnson’s debut in 1979, his ‘Holy Buckeye’ call from Ohio State’s 2002 win over Purdue on its way to a national title, or Michael Crabtree’s last-second touchdown for Texas Tech against rival Texas in 2008. But those plays don’t quite hold up to a dramatic Boston College win in November of 1984.
“I’ll never forget the Doug Flutie touchdown pass on the day after Thanksgiving, because everybody had seen the game over and over and over again. It was against a very powerful Miami Hurricane team," Musburger said. "So basically, (Flutie) had an open shot at a receiver who was going to run free and he threw it down in the end zone and it was caught for a touchdown. Now in the call, you’ll hear me say, ‘I don’t believe it,’ which I didn’t. ‘I don’t believe it! Boston College wins it!’
“Later I told the story to (Flutie) that I didn’t know who caught the ball, but fortunately a graduate of Boston College pulled the key in the truck and said, ‘Brent, it’s Phelan. Gerard Phelan.’ (Flutie) laughs and he says, ‘Brent, I didn’t know who caught it.’ I said, ‘Come on, Doug.’ He says, ‘No. I’m leaving the field. I’m in the tunnel and I go to my center, ‘Who caught it?’ And my center goes, ‘Doug. It was your roommate. Phelan.’”
Musburger retired from network TV sportscasting in 2017, but he still does play-by-play for the Las Vegas Raiders. Living in Vegas ties in nicely for Musburger, who gave subtle hints during games to indicate whether betters may have won or lost on what would otherwise look like late, meaningless points scored in the game, as he’s headed up VSIN, Vegas Stats and Information Network.
“I always knew it was going to grow. I didn’t know it was going to explode like it has. I always thought that it was hypocritical of the leagues to ignore it, because I knew, especially at the professional level, how much of it was being done and how much of the money was going in illegally to offshore sites. So when the Supreme Court makes it legal in the state of New Jersey, that’s what they should have done," Musburger said. "Now at least New Jersey will be able to generate some tax revenue because of legalized sports betting. Now we have another 14, 15 states, and it will grow. I’ll be surprised if any state doesn’t have legalized sports betting in some form down the road.”
When VSIN started, sports gambling had yet to be legalized in Montana. Now more than a year in, Musburger sees it as a flawed system for bettors.
“To be perfectly honest, they need to improve it. I’ve looked at some of the vig, juice, tax, whatever you want to call it, and it’s not good. They should have a professional sports operation run it and not their lottery system. It’s not going to work out when you have that kind of vig. You have to give players a decent chance," said Musburger. "Now in the long run there are very few people that are going to be, which is my warning, especially youngsters, you may think you’re smart but be careful. These are professional mathematicians. They’ve got computers on their side.”
Maybe Musburger can pull some strings with his friends down in Vegas.