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Nantz inspires student-athletes to dream big

By Ketrell Marshall

As golfers at the University of Houston, roommates Jim Nantz and Fred Couples would imagine the Masters green jacket ceremony. Nantz, an aspiring golf announcer who hoped to one day work for CBS Sports, would present his friend with a green coat, then help him slip it on.

Two student-athletes with two big dreams finally got the chance to realize them in 1991, when Couples won the Masters with Nantz in the call booth for CBS.

Nantz shared the memory at the NCAA Keynote Luncheon Wednesday, using his experience as a student-athlete to discuss the responsibilities of NCAA-member schools.

They must provide opportunities to student-athletes through academics and athletics, Nantz said, and help their students aim high for goals and dreams.

As leaders from all NCAA divisions gathered for the 2014 NCAA Convention, Nantz acknowledged that the membership is taking on some big challenges, and noted the importance of this Convention for the future. Despite the hurdles, Nantz has faith in the guidance of the NCAA. Just as Nantz had the courage to admit as a freshman at Houston that he wanted to be a CBS Sports anchor, he advised luncheon attendees to have the courage to be open to new ideas and allow the Association’s values to guide the basis of all decisions. 

“Don’t be afraid of stepping out of your comfort zone, but stand for the great principles you believe in, in college athletics,” Nantz said.

As his childhood dream of broadcasting the Masters came true, Nantz remains appreciative of the opportunities that were provided to him as a student-athlete and recognizes the NCAA’s efforts in the development of its student-athletes.

“The NCAA serves a hugely important role in the hundreds of thousands of student-athletes throughout all three divisions,” Nantz said.

During a question-and-answer session, Nantz encouraged current student-athletes in attendance to always pursue their goals and take advantage of the opportunities in front of them.

“You go to college with a dream and walk out of there ready to achieve it,” he said.

Nantz, a three-time Emmy Award winner and five-time National Sportscaster of the Year, joined the CBS Television Network in 1985.

In addition to broadcasting golf and the NFL for CBS, he now serves as the lead CBS play-by-play announcer for college basketball.

Nantz has called the play-by-play on more network broadcasts of the Men’s Final Four and the national championship game than any other announcer in the tournament’s history.

This year marks Nantz’s 28th year covering the NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Championship and Final Four, and for the past 23 years he has also served as host of the Men’s Final Four Salute event.

In 2007 and 2010, Nantz completed a rare broadcasting triple by becoming the first commentator in history to broadcast the Super Bowl, NCAA Men’s Final Four and the Masters, all in the same year.

Nantz recently repeated this trifecta in 2013.

Nantz said the NCAA is an integral part of higher education, and he is pleased at how much the NCAA has accomplished.

“I stand here as a former student-athlete,” he told the crowd, “and I am very proud of my association.”