Bob Ufer: 1945 - 1980Two men have been the voice of Michigan football since the end of World War II and Saturday marks the final regular-season Michigan football game for Frank Beckmann who, in 1981 took the crown of “The Voice of Michigan Football” from in a hotel room in Madison, Wisconsin. Here's what Beckmann said in a 2009 interview with MGoBlog:
Frank Beckmann: 1981 - 2013
Ufe was struggling with cancer in 1981 and while he travelled to Michigan's opening game at Wisconsin that year, he wasn't going to be able to broadcast the game. That opener was to be my debut as the so called "Voice" of Michigan football.Legions of Wolverine fans mourned Ufer’s passing six weeks later. Beckmann carried the torch for 33 seasons until announcing his retirement prior to this season’s opener. You can debate whether he was pushed out or chose to leave on his own terms, but what really matters to many diehard Michigan fans is this: Who will be the next Voice of Michigan Football?
I visited the legendary Ufe in his hotel room the day before that game to learn all I could about the Michigan team. As you'd expect from someone who bled Maize and Blue, Ufe was eager to share all he could about the team, about Coach Bo Schembechler, and about the Michigan tradition.
RADIO STILL MATTERS
IMG College paid $86 million to the University of Michigan athletic department in 2008 for a 12-year contract giving it the marketing and media rights to the Block M, including nearly every aspect of the Michigan brand except apparel.
To cash in on the rights, IMG College signed a five-year contract with in 2011 to broadcast Michigan football (along with other sports), bringing Michigan football games to more than 30 affiliate stations, Armed Services Radio and SiriusXM. Radio rights aren't the highlight of the $86 million deal, but it’s definitely a multi-million dollar package due to the advertising dollars attached to carrying Michigan football games on the radio. These might not be high stakes, but there are stakes.
RADIO STAFF ARE EMPLOYED BY IMG COLLEGE
I'm 95% sure that this is correct (I'm not a sportswriter for a reason): the football radio team is employed by IMG College, not the University of Michigan. It's a minor distinction, but an important one. That means that technically IMG College will hire Beckmann’s replacement, though to think Dave Brandon won’t have a say in the matter is insanity. How does this change anything? Who knows. But if IMG has to pay their talent, it could mean the difference between splurging for a big name or going with someone who'll work for a more modest fealty.
WHO WILL BE THE NEXT VOICE OF MICHIGAN FOOTBALL?
The frontrunner and likely successor is Matt Shepard—the current voice of Michigan basketball. Shepard has plenty of football experience, calling 13 seasons of and working with the Detroit Lions. The jump to Michigan football would be a promotion, but could Shepard handle Michigan football and basketball radio and TV duties? He would be calling Michigan football and basketball games, while hosting the Inside Michigan Basketball TV and radio shows, in addition to his day job on WDFN. It’s probably not the logistical nightmare it seems, but that’s a lot of Matt Shepard.
Trouble is, who else is so perfectly poised for the play-by-play duties? Jim Brandstatter is suited for his longtime role as color commentator and Rich Rodriguez is in Arizona now (jokes). No former Wolverines have shown much radio chops when it comes to game coverage.
Dan Miller, who’s in his eighth year calling Lions games, might be a good fit (he calls games alongside Brandstatter already) and I love Doug Karsch (he’s the sideline reporter for Michigan football games) but I haven’t heard him call anything other than baseball and softball games.
A dream get would be Ann Arbor native Mike Tirico, who's the play-by-play man for Monday Night Football and has a ton of radio experience, but that would be a longshot and pretty pricey for IMG. What do you think, longtime Michigan football fans? Who will be the next Voice of Michigan Football?