Reliving the toughest hour in network television

Topeka Capital Journal
August 21, 1995

HARBOR SPRINGS, Mich. – Three men who once were responsible for the production of “the toughest hour in network television” had a reunion here this week. They recalled the horror stories, the good times and bad, and marveled once again that even one show got on the air, and agreed it was a miracle that more than 190 shows made it without a mishap over a 13-year period.

We met here because this is where Bill Flemming, the former ABC-TV sports announcer, spends the summers. Kemper Peacock, the New York City film editor and producer, and yours truly made the long trek here to the far reaches of Michigan’s lower peninsula.

When we were involved in the show, Flemming was the host and Peacock led the production team that actually did the work period as executive producer of NCAA films, I was responsible for the overall operation and for delivering the show to ABC on time. That meant I carried the beads and led the prayers that nothing would go wrong.

The show was College Football Highlights, which aired each Sunday morning during the season.

What we did was film six or seven college football games all over the country on Saturday afternoon, and then put highlights of those games on the air Sunday morning in a neat one-hour package. A sympathetic TV critic gave it the “toughest hour” label.

It sounds pretty simple, and it would be now, but back when we started in the late 1960s, it was considerably more complicated than planning and pulling off the invasion of Normandy. Continue reading

Keith Jackson: One of history’s best reporters

Tuesday, January 19, 1999
Topeka Capital-Journal

This is another name-dropping column, another chapter in the story of my life among the bigshots. The big name in this one is Keith Jackson, who retired earlier this month from ABC after a 47-year career that established him firmly as the top college football announcer in the land, and one of the best reporters in sports history.

Keith also was involved, at about the mid-point in his career, with producing and directing sports shows for television, and that’s when I got to know him pretty well.

In 1970 I was running NCAA Films, and as part of the college football package on ABC we produced a Sunday morning highlight show of top games played the day before, plus an annual prime-time special to open the season. Continue reading

ABC College Football Highlights and NCAA Films

National Collegiate Athletic Association News

Nov. 1, 1976

Teamwork produces success in athletic competition more perhaps than any other single ingredient, and, likewise, it is this same essence which contributes most to the production of the weekly NCAA College Football Highlights Show.

Just as no superior football team ever won a championship solely on the talent of one superstar, the College Football Highlights Show never could exist without the network of people who form a “team” for the NCAA Film Service, which produces it for ABC Sports. Highlights of each action-packed week of NCAA College Football arc captured by NCAA Films, and within hours, the excitement and drama arc reproduced for the viewing public’s enjoyment over 78 percent of the stations on the ABC television network.

Perhaps never contemplated by the Sunday morning armchair quarterback, who settles back into his easy-chair to review the clashes staged on the nation’s college football battlefields virtually hours before, is the hectic story of one of the most unique film presentations aired on television today. Continue reading