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The Pac-12 Networks have taken the historic first step in building its on air team by turning to three of the most dynamic leaders the Pac-12 Conference has ever seen, signing Ronnie Lott, Rick Neuheisel and Summer Sanders as on air personalities and the initial faces of the Pac-12 Networks, it was announced today.
As former Pac-12 student-athletes at USC, UCLA and Stanford respectively, Lott, Neuheisel and Sanders combined to lead their teams to five Conference titles, three Rose Bowl crowns and two national championships. Sanders, who has enjoyed a successful broadcasting career for the last two decades, will have a multipurpose role as a host and expert analyst for a variety of shows and events, while Lott and Neuheisel will serve as football analysts.
"This is an exciting day for the Pac-12 Networks as we bring on three of the greatest leaders and personalities in Pac-12 history as the initial members of our on air broadcast team," said Lydia Murphy-Stephans, Executive Vice President and General Manager of the Pac-12 Networks. "Exceptional storytelling is going to be the foundation of the Pac-12 Networks and with the success of our universities and student-athletes the storylines are never-ending. With Ronnie, Rick and Summer, we have three professionals who have a passion and deep understanding for the history and excellence that exists in the Pac-12. Their skills, expertise and unique insights will help us elevate our coverage and deliver the most compelling stories to our fans."
The Pac-12 Networks, which launch in August 2012, consist of one national and six regional networks that will provide 24/7 access to Pac-12 teams and universities. The networks will televise approximately 350 live events nationally, including 35 football games, more than 100 men's basketball games, 40 women's basketball games and hundreds of premier Pac-12 Olympic sports.
"When I first heard that the Pac-12 was planning to build seven networks to showcase all of the incredible student-athletes and programs throughout the Conference it was one of those WOW moments," Lott said. "What is being created is truly remarkable and I'm excited to be part of it. If you are a fan or alum of the Pac-12 you have to have these networks."
Lott played four years at USC (1977-80) and helped lead the Trojans to two Rose Bowl victories and the 1978 national championship. He was a consensus All-American as a senior before being drafted by the San Francisco 49ers in the first round of the 1981 NFL Draft. During his 14 years in the NFL, he developed the reputation as one of the most feared defensive players in league history, leading the 49ers to eight division titles and four Super Bowls. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2002 and two years later was part of the 2002 I-A Class of the College Football Hall of Fame. Lott previously worked as an NFL analyst with FOX Sports from 1996-98.
Sanders is one of the most prolific swimmers in Pac-12 and U.S. history who has become a popular on air personality. In her two years competing at Stanford she compiled six NCAA individual titles and four relay championships. She became the first swimmer in Stanford history to win back-to-back NCAA Swimmer of the Year honors (1991-92) and helped lead the Cardinal to the national championship in 1992. Later, Sanders became a national sensation at the 1992 Summer Olympics in Barcelona, winning four medals, including two golds in the 200-meter butterfly and 400-meter medley relay. Following the Olympics, the Roseville, CA native launched a successful broadcasting career that brought her to all four major networks – ABC, CBS, FOX and NBC – covering the Summer and Winter Olympic Games, the NBA and WNBA and tennis, among other sports. She hosted NBC's NBA Inside Stuff for seven years and has worked as a correspondent for the Today Show and Good Morning America. She also served as the host of Nickelodeon's hit game show Figure It Out.
"I am thrilled to be a part of the Pac-12 Networks," Sanders said. "It's like coming home for me. Being a Stanford alum who was born and raised in Northern California, I truly believe there's no greater Conference in the country. It puts a huge smile on my face to know that I am now going to be one of its voices in sports broadcasting."
Neuheisel was a walk-on quarterback at UCLA, who became a starter as a senior in 1983. After a slow start, he rallied the Bruins to six wins in their last seven games, including a big one over cross-town rival USC to clinch the Conference title and a berth into the Rose Bowl. His four touchdowns led UCLA to a 45-9 win over No. 4 Illinois and earned him Rose Bowl Most Valuable Player honors. Following his playing career, which included two years in the USFL, Neuheisel went into coaching and he served as the head coach at three Pac-12 universities: Colorado (1995-98), Washington (1999-2002) and UCLA (2008-11). During his head coaching tenure, he posted an 87-59 record, went 4-3 in bowl games, including guiding Washington to a Rose Bowl title in 2000.
"This is an amazing opportunity. I have such a deep passion and respect for the Conference and for all of the schools," Neuheisel said. "I have been affiliated with the Pac-12 since I was six years old when my dad taught at Arizona State. I never missed a Sun Devils game growing up. Then I got the chance to play at UCLA and went to law school at USC. I began a coaching career at UCLA that took me to Colorado then to Washington and back to UCLA. The launch of the Pac-12 Networks is very exciting and I am thrilled for this opportunity to help deliver unprecedented exposure to the Conference of Champions."