Buck suits up for Fox NFL games

Madden off to ABC

Joe Buck is apparently locked in as successor to the retired Pat Summerall as the No. 1 play-by-play man on National Football League games for the Fox Network, and his color analyst is expected to be Chris Collinsworth.

That was the informed speculation following ABC Sports’ official announcement Thursday that it had signed John Madden as the sidekick and analyst to Al Michaels on “Monday Night Football” starting this fall.

Buck, 32, has already made his mark at Fox Sports as the No. 1 play-by-play man for Major League Baseball, and his visibility will increase dramatically with the new football gig.

Buck will take advantage of his enhanced profile by signing his first talent-agency contract, joining William Morris, whose team of agents headed by Jon Rosen will do his deals for sports as well as other areas of the entertainment biz. “I mean it as the highest praise that Joe Buck is the closest young play-by-play man to Pat Summerall, who was the best,” said Neal Pilson, head of Pilson Communications and former president of CBS Sports. “Like Summerall, Buck is terse, authoritative, knowledgeable and laid-back.”

Buck has bragging rights as the youngest announcer — he was 27 at the time — to call a World Series game since Vin Scully in 1953. Since 1996, Buck has done play-by-play for four World Series, two American League Championship series, three National League Championship series and two All-Star games.

Fox Sports also signed Buck to do play-by-play for pro-football games from 1994-97. His workload — Buck has served as the local TV and radio voice of the St. Louis Cardinals since 1991 — forced him to cut back on the Fox NFL assignment until last season, when he came back to call the games again for Fox.

Collinsworth does the “Fox NFL Sunday” studio show.

In a conference call with reporters, Madden said he has always wanted to finish up his career as analyst for ABC’s “Monday Night Football” and praised Fox Sports for letting him out of his contract, which still had a year to run. Madden is taking a pay cut for 2002, from $7.5 million a year to $5 million, to work for ABC. Fox Sports offered him a three-year extension at $5 million a year. When ABC matched that offer for 2003, 2004 and 2005, Madden signed up.

“Monday Night Football” will shift to the two-man team of Michaels and Madden. Dan Fouts and Dennis Miller, who spent the last two years as co-sidekicks to Michaels on Monday Night, will leave the telecast, although ABC Sports said it’s negotiating with Fouts for other duties. Eric Dickerson will not return as a sideline reporter on the telecast.

In addition to “Monday Night Football,” Madden said he will do some gridiron-related programs for ABC sister network ESPN.

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