Scott D. Pierce: Utah-BYU split hard for Nantz to fathom
In 1985, Jim Nantz was plucked from the obscurity of being the weekend sports anchor on KSL-Ch. 5 and became a CBS Sports superstar.
More than a quarter of a century later, he's come "home."
But Utah has changed a lot in the past 26 years, at least in terms of sports.
"I have a hard time getting my mind around the fact that BYU and Utah won't be in the same conference," Nantz said. "That's a little hard to adjust to."
He's not criticizing Utah for joining the Pac-10 (soon to be Pac-12) or BYU for going independent in football and to the WCC in most other sports.
"Utah going to the Pac-10 is one of the great opportunities ever," Nantz said. "Imagine that the University of Utah can play and will one day play in the Rose Bowl game. It's fantastic for their program.
"I clearly understand why BYU isn't going with them. But it is kind of hard to imagine one without the other."
Back when Nantz was at KSL, both the Utes and the Cougars were in the WAC. From 1982-85, he was the weekend sports anchor at Ch. 5; he did BYU football play-by-play alongside Steve Young; he did Jazz commentary alongside Hot Rod Hundley.
"I have nothing but five-star memories of everything that happened to me out in Utah," Nantz said. "I think that's why I felt such a strong tug to come back. It's very special to me, let's just put it that way."
He was just 26 when CBS made him the host of its college football and basketball coverage and a reporter on the PGA Tour. After Brent Musburger was ousted by CBS in 1990, Nantz became the network's biggest sports star. He still is.
He joins Musburger as the only man to telecast Super Bowls, NCAA Final Fours and the Masters Tournament.
"I love what I do," Nantz said. "It's never gotten tiresome or repetitive. Every week is a blessing.
"It's the dream job that I've wanted since I was a little boy. How can you ask for anything better than that?"
He's spending more time in Utah these days at a home he bought in Deer Valley. He used it as his home base during the winter, and he's hoping to spend even more time there.
"When I come back to Utah, it is such a breath of fresh air," Nantz said. "It is so what I need in my life to come back and be around nice people. The quality of people and the quality of life was hugely important to me, and I missed it for over 20 years. That's why I was determined to get back there in some capacity."
Of course, his job keeps him busy traveling.
"I could work every weekend if I wanted," Nantz said. "For me, that's a good thing. I like to work. I'm not used to having big chunks of time off."
He might get a vacation this fall, however, if the NFL doesn't settle its ongoing labor dispute. A court ruling is expected any day.
"I think the ruling is going to be positive for the owners, from what I hear," Nantz said. "Whichever side the ruling favors, it could end up creating the motivation for the other side to really get serious with the negotiations.
"I don't know. No one knows. My hunch is they may miss a couple of games."
But he's not sweating it.
"If the NFL went into the season missing games, it would be the first time in the last 26 years that I've even had a one-month break. That wouldn't be the worst thing in the world," Nantz said with a laugh. "I'd get to spend some time in Utah!"
Scott D. Pierce covers television for The Salt Lake Tribune. His sports on TV column appears Wednesdays. Contact him at email@example.com; follow him on Twitter @ScottDPierce; read his blog at sltrib.com/blogs/tv.