New Irish announcer expects scrutiny

Hicks knows pressures that come with job

Dan Hicks knows he will be subjected to intense scrutiny as NBC's new play-by-play voice for Notre Dame football.

And that will be from within his own home.

His wife, ESPN's Hannah Storm, and members of her family are avid Notre Dame alums.

"Her dad, Mike Storen, (a one-time ABA commissioner) watches every second of every game," Hicks said. "I've got to make sure I keep the family happy before I worry about everyone else."

Hicks, though, likely will hear from everyone else at some point, starting with Notre Dame's season opener Saturday against Temple (WMAQ-Ch. 5, 2:30 p.m.).

While he has done fill-in work on three Irish games previously, he assumes the full-time duties this year, taking over for Tom Hammond, 68, who said his leaving the broadcast was a mutual decision and that he wanted to cut back on his NBC duties.

Hicks walks into a rare position for a broadcaster. He will be doing a national telecast focused on one team. Earlier this year, NBC extended its contract to air Notre Dame home games through 2025.

"You know you're going to be watched closely," Hicks said. "People are going to say, 'Who is this Dan Hicks and why is he covering our team now?' The sensitivity level of Notre Dame people runs high."

The dynamic will have Hicks being accused of being pro-Notre Dame from viewers outside of the school and anti-Notre Dame from Irish fans who will bristle at any criticism of the school. Such are the love-'em, hate-'em passions that surround the Irish.

Hicks knows the drill. He insists he is going to do a down-the-middle, objective broadcast. To wit, he plans to detail Notre Dame's rocky off-season during the opener.

"We have a responsibility to tell people what happened," Hicks said. "It hasn't been a fantasy world here since the (BCS title game against Alabama). We can't ignore those things. ... I am going to try to do a fair job of putting the school and the game in perspective."

Hicks, 52, has been the long-time voice of golf for NBC and has had a prominent role during the network's coverage of the Olympics. However, he missed doing play-by-play on football. He called 50-60 NFL games for NBC in the late '90s.

NBC clearly wanted to step up Hicks' profile by putting him on Notre Dame games. The move even sparked speculation that he could be the heir apparent to the 68-year-old Al Michaels on Sunday Night Football.

Hicks, though, knows Michaels isn't retiring anytime soon. For now, he is focused on his new assignment. His family connections to Notre Dame definitely reduce the learning curve in one respect.

"I know what Notre Dame is all about from a personal level," Hicks said. "I know about the fever pitch (at Notre Dame Stadium). It all probably drove me to the job."

Conflicts: Where does Hicks go when the network is airing a golf tournament the same weekend as a Notre Dame game?

For instance, NBC is slated to cover the Irish-Arizona State game in Dallas (it is part of the Shamrock Series) on Oct. 5, the same Saturday as the Presidents Cup in Ohio.

"It's handled on a case-by-case basis," Hicks said. "However, I do know the Presidents Cup Saturday is a long day of golf. We're on the air for 10 hours, If you missed that, it might be a little awkward to just walk in on the final day of the Presidents Cup without having done that long day of golf on Saturday."

All in: NBC is bumping up its Irish coverage. It will produce a live pre-game from Notre Dame Stadium prior to its NBC telecasts. The first pregame show will air Saturday on NBC at 2 p.m., while the remaining pregame shows will be on NBCSN. Liam McHugh will be the host with Doug Flutie and Hines Ward.

Also, NBCSports.com has a new "Notre Dame Central" site. Comcast SportsNet's JJ Stankevitz is providing the content.

Remote patrol: ESPN will air 46 college games on its various platforms this week. They include Northwestern at California Saturday at 9:30 p.m. Mark Jones, Brock Huard and Lewis Johnson will be on the call. ... BTN has eight games, including SIU-Illinois at 11 a.m. on Saturday. ... Fox Sports 1 will launch its new pregame show, "Fox College Saturday," at 9 a.m. Erin Andrews will be the host. ... The incumbent, ESPN's "College Gameday," will expand to three hours this year, beginning at 8 a.m. Will be a good endurance test for 78-year-old Lee Corso.

Yes, it has been 25 years. A new book, "Unbeatable," written by Jerry Barca, relives Notre Dame's 1988 national championship season under Lou Holtz ... Keith Olbermann made his much hyped return Monday night with the debut of "Olbermann" on ESPN2. He opened with a 13-minute rant on the New York Jets, which was 121/2 minutes too long for most people outside of Manhattan.

Have to say it was weird to watch Brian Urlacher talk about Big Ten football Monday on the new Fox Football Daily show. Has Urlacher really been studying the Big Ten? ... CBS Sports Network's new NFL pregame show, "The Other Pregame Show," will feature former Oakland Raiders president Amy Trask. She will be the first woman who worked as an NFL executive to be an analyst on a pregame show.

As you would expect, Hicks was disappointed that NBC lost golf's U.S. Open to Fox, beginning in 2015. "I'll be honest, it was like a kick to the stomach," he said. ... Little Leaguers beat Major Leaguers — at least in the ratings. The Little League World Series U.S. title game on ABC did a 2.2 rating Saturday, compared to 1.9 for the big guys on Fox Sports; 1 national ratings point is worth more than 1 million homes. Little wonder why ESPN/ABC signed a new deal for the Little League World Series through 2022.

Special contributor Ed Sherman writes at shermanreport.com Follow him @Sherman Report

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