Play-by-Play Insider: Utah's Bill Marcroft
Former Utah football play-by-play broadcaster Bill Marcroft takes a look back at his career with the school, and he gives fans a run-down on the Utes in this Q+A.
Describe your career as a play-by-play broadcaster, and how you ended up at Utah.
"I was a graduate of the University of Utah and was an avid follower of Utah sports while I was a student, although I wasn't a participant. I went to the service directly after getting my bachelor's degree and when I came back I started to work directly in television and covering University of Utah as well. My vision was in acting and I had done some things with Orson Wells and Vincent Price but when I got in the service my job was running a radio television station. I did some play by play in the Air Force and in fact I did the All-Air Force Championship game in Libya. A friend of mine had gotten a job as a play by play guy while I was gone in the service, and when I came back he changed over to another television station and it left the University of Utah position open. Initially I didn't feel comfortable doing the job for the University of Utah and deferred the job where I served as the color man from 1966-1969 and then took over as the play by play man in 1969 to 2005."
What are some of the historic moments in Utah athletics history?
"I was there for the emergence of the number one gymnastics program in the entire NCAA. In 1981 Utah won its first national championship and I was there to cover it. That is one of the biggest growth sports that I was involved with; in fact Utah has the number one attendance in gymnastics. University of Utah was the first to broadcast gymnastics live. The 1998 Final Four game with Kentucky was a highlight as far as basketball was concerned. Rick Majerus coached a team that went on to beat the defending champion Arizona Wildcats. In 1998 we beat North Carolina in the Final Four and went on to play Kentucky in the championship. In 2005 the BCS Fiesta Bowl versus Pitt was a high point in Utah athletics. Rick Majerus, Urban Meyer and their success were both highpoints for the University.
What is your favorite call that you've made?
"CBS and Costas produced a video of the greatest moments in college sports and one was a game Utah had with Minnesota. Ron McBride was the football coach for Utah and with just seconds left to play, Minnesota is kicking a chip shot field goal to win the ball game. Instead of focusing on the Minnesota coach, who wins the ball game with the field goal, our director and me isolated McBride for the look of defeat and his reaction. Utah blocked the field goal and ran down the left sideline and McBride ran step by step on the right sideline, and of course we focused on McBride so we were able to split screen the two of them running down the field at the same time."
How do you like Utah's (football) chances in the Pac-12 this season? What will they need to do to be successful?
"I think Utah will be at the top of their division and in the middle of the overall pack. It is hard to say because the quarterback has been out for almost a full year now with shoulder surgery. The running backs are new this year. There are a lot of holes to fill, but head coach Kyle Whittingham is an excellent coach and has really evolved as an excellent tactician. Given any situation, he is able to come up with game plans that are successful."
"To be successful they have to get players. Joining the Pac-10 is unquestionably given them an advantage in recruiting that they haven't had before. It gives them a better situation in recruiting than they had in the past. They will eventually get the talent and play for the Conference Championship."
Which new conference teams are you (and fans) looking forward to facing?
"When I was a student at Utah back in the old days, Colorado was in our conference and we had some great games. That rivalry is going to have to be renewed. The Southern Cal games will be great contests for the fans: USC in football and UCLA in basketball. With the emergence of Stanford as an athletic power, as well as Oregon and Washington, they will all be great. With the old WAC containing Arizona and Arizona State, Utah will be able to renew those rivalries. I think USC and Oregon are the standards at the present time.
What does Utah bring to the Pac-12?
"Utah brings a great academic institution: the Medical School, tremendous Business School and also a great Law School. The presidents of the Pac-10 saw fit to bring them in, in part because I think they fit well academically. Athletically they are going to be competitive. It is going to take awhile for the Olympic Sports to catch up because there hasn't been that kind of emphasis or that kind of money. Utah has been without a track, but because track is so important in the Pac-10, it is really going to put an emphasis on that sport for the University. The Olympic sports will be elevated because of the Pac-10. Utah will bring a very strong core athletic department and a strong core of fans that go well with the fans and the rivalries that already exist."
What's been the buzz around campus with the players, coaches and students moving to the Pac-12?
"Everyone is very ecstatic, absolutely ecstatic. Wherever I am, the biggest topic talked about is Utah joining the Pac-12 and what a great thing it is because it is the culmination of everything Utah has been working for. The things that Rick Marjerus did in basketball, that Urban Meyer did in football, which elevated the programs, put them in position to be extremely competitive in the Pac- 12. It has created tremendous excitement. No nervousness whatsoever.
What is the toughest challenge in moving conferences?
"The biggest challenge is to be competitive and respected by the new conference because it is a step up. Everybody here realizes it is a step up because of the increase in the athletic budget. The idea of renewing rivalries I think is nonexistent because I think we have always had great rivalries playing at least two Pac-10 teams a year, and the fans have been used to facing the success of those teams. Utah going into the South division makes it fit perfectly for the fans."