It’s quite a shock to think that if NBC obtains the rights to the Olympics in 2014 and 2016, that Dick Ebersol won’t be there to produce the Games. In fact, it’s a big shock to think that we won’t see his name when NBC airs the Olympics next year in London.
To go over the legacy of Ebersol really can’t be done in a blog post or newspaper article. It’s going to take some time, but to be honest, the real impact of his legacy can be measured in 2009 when he was given Sports Emmy Lifetime Achievement Award and six US commissioners, Bud Selig of MLB, Brian France of NASCAR, David Stern of the NBA, Roger Goodell of the NFL, Gary Bettman of the NHL and Tim Finchem of the PGA Tour all gave speeches praising Ebersol for the way he produced programming for each of their leagues.
Throughout his 22 year tenure as NBC Sports President and then later, Chairman of the division, Ebersol has had all four major sports airing at the network as well as the Olympics, golf, NASCAR, Notre Dame Football, horse racing’s Triple Crown, the French Open and Wimbledon. Some of his successes include Sunday Night Football, the NBA on NBC, the NHL, the Olympics and horse racing.
His misses have been big including the XFL and Arena Football. He also allowed college basketball to leave which until his tenure was a big part of NBC Sports.
Some of his philosophies producing the Olympics have been controversial. The well-known policy of holding events for primetime and tape delays have been criticized in this blog ad nauseum. However, the International Olympic Committee liked his presentation and was solidly in his corner.
Ebersol was a prolific producer of programming before joining NBC Sports in 1989. He headed up Saturday Night Live in the early to mid-1980′s, also Saturday Night’s Main Event with the WWF, Friday Night Videos and also Later with Bob Costas.
His love for the Olympics began as a researcher for ABC Sports when he worked in Mexico City in 1968 and learned under the tutelage of legendary Executive Producer Roone Arledge. He stayed with ABC throughout the 1970′s.
As the leader of NBC Sports, Ebersol took the art of storytelling from ABC and took it to a higher level especially during the Olympics.
He also brought strong personalities to the booth like John McEnroe, Johnny Miller, Cris Collinsworth and Mary Carillo. Some of his hires didn’t work too well like Bill Walsh and Isiah Thomas.
Under his watch, Ebersol had to let go of Marv Albert during his personal troubles, but brought him back in time for him to call the 2000 and 2001 NBA Finals. Also during his time, Ebersol allowed Bob Costas to flourish, saw potential in a young Mike Breen, gave Tom Hammond a substantial role in horse racing, the Olympics and Notre Dame football.
A 22 year tenure as the leader of a sports division in this day and age is quite amazing. Ebersol can either retire or join the network other than NBC that gets the Olympics for 2014/16. His track record can be described as a success. However, with the new ownership of Comcast coming in, reports have started to surface that Ebersol left over his contract and that he did not want to be nickled and dimed over his stewardship. Whatever the reason, it leaves big shoes at the top of NBC Sports, shoes that incoming Chairman Mark Lazarus will have a hard time filling.