Educated at Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism, Musburger began his career as a sportswriter for the now-defunct Chicago American newspaper. In his column in that paper, Musburger famously referred to Tommie Smith and John Carlos as "black-skinned storm troopers" for their protest of racial injustice in the United States with a Black Power salute on the medal stand during the 1968 Summer Olympics. Asked about his comments decades later, Musburger granted that his words, which likened Smith and Carlos to Nazis, were "a bit harsh", but he stood by the core of his criticism of the pair's action:
Did [Smith and Carlos' action] improve anything?... Smith and Carlos aside, I object to using the Olympic awards stand to make a political statement.
Beginning in the late 1960s, Musburger worked in television, first for local stations in Chicago and Los Angeles. Musburger worked alongside Connie Chung during his tenure doing local Los Angeles newscasts during the early 1970s.
By 1975, at CBS, Musburger went from doing the NFL play-by-play (and other items, mostly on CBS' Sports Saturday/Sunday programs) to rise to prominence as the host of the network's National Football League studio show, The NFL Today. Suddenly, Musburger began to cover many assignments for CBS Sports. Among the other events he covered, either as studio host or play-by-play announcer, were college football and basketball, the National Basketball Association (on CBS' NBA on CBS series), the U.S. Open (tennis) tournament, and The Masters golf tournament. He would even lend his talents to weekend afternoon fare such as The World's Strongest Man contests and the like. Musburger also called Major League Baseball games for CBS Radio.
Musburger made headlines when he got into a fist-fight with The NFL Today's betting analyst Jimmy "The Greek" Snyder in a Manhattan bar in late 1980. Only two years earlier, the two had co-announced the 1978 World Series of Poker. However, the fist-fight incident was quickly regarded as water under the bridge as the two cheerfully appeared on The NFL Today the following week wearing boxing gloves on camera.
Folks, I've had the best seat in the house. Thanks for sharing it, I'll see you down the road.
Musburger would soon be replaced by Jack Buck for the baseball play-calling duties. Ironically, Musburger called the 1984 World Series for CBS Radio, with Jack Buck as his commentating partner. His position at The NFL Today was filled by Greg Gumbel.
Soon afterwards, ABC's association with ESPN (under the Disney umbrella) would allow him to now have two venues in which to work from, and since Brent's hiring by ABC in 1990, and the merger with ESPN in the late 1990s, Brent has called events as diverse as Major League Baseball, NBA games (on television and he also called some NBA Finals series during the late 1990s to the early 2000s for ESPN Radio, where he also from January 1993 to December 2003 hosted a 10-minute and later five-minute daily show called SportsBeat, which offered Brent's takes on current sports events around the globe), golf tournaments, the Indianapolis 500, Little League World Series, soccer games, college football (usually games involving teams from the Big Ten Conference.) and even some NFL games (including hosting halftime duties for Monday Night Football). Musburger has also covered the Tour de France for ABC.
Musburger was cited by Lincoln, Nebraska police in September 2005 for consuming alcohol in public and having an open container in his car after leaving a Nebraska Cornhuskers-Pittsburgh Panthers football game. He later paid a small fine.
Starting in 2006, Musburger has called ABC Sports' college football prime time series, along with analysts Bob Davie and Kirk Herbstreit. Musburger called the 2007 Rose Bowl, taking over for the recently retired ABC icon Keith Jackson. Davie and Herbstreit provided the color commentary.
After Al Michaels was hired by NBC in February 2006, Musburger could now be seen as the face of ABC Sports/ESPN on ABC, although he does not have nearly as many assignments as he did when he was employed by CBS. However, his importance at ABC Sports is still in evidence, as recently he was the main studio host during ABC's coverage of the 2006 World Cup, and was also named the studio host for ESPN and ABC's NASCAR coverage, which he lost after the 2007 season.
What he did was unconscionable. In my 28 years, I've never seen such an egregious breach of trust. Brent is not a rookie at this, and he should know better,said Tessalone. Within hours, ESPN and Musburger both released a separate statement that they regretted the confusion. Musburger also appeared on ESPN Radio's Dan Patrick Show a few days later to discuss the incident, in which he said that there was never an intention of putting team secrets on the air. The sports world and media and fans have been divided regarding the incident.
Not for one moment do I think I'm what's important. I'm the messenger. The games are what count. Without them there wouldn't be a Brent Musburger. If I started to pontificate they'd get tired of me in a hurry. I end up on that screen so much it'd drive them crazy if I started to do that. They'd start throwing empty beer cans at me.
His voice will always be associated with some of the sports' most memorable modern moments.
You are looking LIVE! (name of the stadium, arena, etc) (The opening to a broadcast accompanied by a view of the stadium or venue.)
The (insert team name) are coming out. (As a team runs onto the field before a game.)
Folks, this will be a dandy! (The opening to a broadcast hyping up the game.)
The Most Exciting 25 Seconds in College Football (in reference to Clemson University's rubbing Howard's Rock and running down The Hill)
They're in a footrace! (spoken during a football contest when someone is outrunning the defense in the endzone on their way to a touchdown.)
Won't start till it's touched, they'll have to throw it up, Gar Heard turnaround shot in the air.....IT'S GOOD!!! It's tied again! I don't believe it! Garfield Heard at the buzzer, threw one in outside, we've got a third overtime here in the Boston Garden!! (Brent reacting to the Phoenix Suns' Gar Heard's turnaround jumpshot at the buzzer to ensure a tie and force a third overtime in Game 5 of the NBA Finals on June 4, 1976, Boston Celtics versus Phoenix Suns.)
(Dick) Van Arsdale with a quick shot, it's a one point game again, just what Rick (Barry) predicted. (Paul) Westphal to the corner, back to Van Arsdale, (Curtis) Perry in the air! Won't Go! (John) Havlicek! Perry again! Perry with a jump shot....PUT IT DOWN!!! Phoenix has gone ahead!!! We've got 5 seconds, I don't believe it! I don't believe what I just saw down here! 110 to 109! I've got 5 seconds, that was incredible!!! Where did Westphal COME from???!!! (Brent's spectacular, frenzied call to a spectacular end of the 2nd overtime, in which Paul Westphal of the Phoenix Suns made a key steal in which Curtis Perry hit a jump shot, which gave Phoenix the one point lead, in the closing seconds of the 2nd overtime of the 1976 NBA Finals Game 5, in which the Phoenix Suns took on the Boston Celtics)
Ladies and Gentlemen, I want you to know this man...has a smile...that lights up a television screen from here (San Diego, California) to Bangor, Maine, his name is Magic Johnson and Magic, it's a delight to have you aboard in the NBA! (introducing the future Hall of Famer, who is about to make his debut on national television for the Los Angeles Lakers in late 1979).
It's 89-84...Sixers and take it INSIDE, oh, unbelievable!!! Julius Erving underneath, he was trapped, and he still gets the field goal! Watch this FANTASTIC move by the Doctor! (Brent vocally exploding over the incredible circus shot baseline layup scoop by the Philadelphia 76ers Julius Erving during Game 4 of the 1980 NBA Finals against the Los Angeles Lakers.)
Flutie flushed....throws it down....caught by Boston College!!! I don't believe it!!! It's a touchdown!!!... Phelan's at the bottom of that pile! (reacting to Doug Flutie's Hail Mary pass to win an improbable classic college football contest between Boston College and the University of Miami in 1984).
It's on its way... and its good! And now, with the number one ranking on the line in Iowa City, Rob Houghtlin hits a twenty-nine-yarder. And the young man from Glenview, IL, whose right foot sent the Hawkeyes to victory. And on the sideline, it's a Hallelujah for Coach Fry. And for Bo Schembechler, it's wait until next week (calling Rob Houghtlin's game-winning field goal for the (at the time) #1 ranked Iowa Hawkeyes against the #2 ranked Michigan Wolverines played in 1985 in Iowa City).
Villanova has done it! (after Villanova stunned Georgetown, 66–64, to win the 1985 NCAA Basketball Championship Game)
And now we serve up a warning to Indiana and UNLV (after top-seeded North Carolina lost to Syracuse in the 1987 East Regional Final of the NCAA Tournament; North Carolina was the second top-seeded team to lose on that day of tournament action, while Indiana and UNLV, two other No. 1 seeds, were scheduled to play the following day).
Indiana wins the national championship. Keith Smart is the hero! (after Indiana's 74–73 victory over Syracuse in the 1987 NCAA Basketball Championship Game)
You are watching what greatness, is all about (championing the superb performance of Larry Bird during the last few minutes of the 4th quarter in a tense Game 7 of the 1988 Eastern Conference Semi-Finals, in which the Boston Celtics played the Atlanta Hawks).
With Billy Packer and Magic Johnson, I'm Brent Musburger. (during a timeout late in the 1989 NCAA Basketball Championship Game between Michigan and Seton Hall, after CBS cameras found Magic Johnson in the crowd)
And Carolina WINS it! Carolina upsets OU! (Brent's rousing call of eighth-seeded North Carolina's shocking upset of top-seeded Oklahoma in the second round of the 1990 NCAA Tournament)
No balls and a strike to Martinez......Line Drive...We are tied! Griffey....is coming around...in the corner's Bernie Williams, he's gonna try to score....here's the division championship! Mariners win it! Mariners win it! (1995, New York Yankees versus Seattle Mariners Division Series Game 5 extra inning thriller after Seattle's Edgar Martínez doubled and Ken Griffey, Jr. scored the winning run from first base.)
Plummer, in trouble, steps away, cuts free, breaks loose, FIVE, TOUCHDOWN, SUN DEVILS!!! The Snake, does it again! This team won't die!! You can cut a snake's head off, but he continues to live! (Brent acknowledges the incredible football prowess of Arizona State University's quarterback Jake "The Snake" Plummer during the 1997 Rose Bowl.)
Third Down. Frost...over the middle...juggled...diving...TOUCHDOWN NEBRASKA! DAVISON ON THE DEFLECTION! (On the call of the "Miracle in Missouri" (also known as the Immaculate Reception II) between Nebraska and Missouri in 1997)
THE BABY BOMBERS! Some say he's sixteen, I say they're just jealous (a reference to the Scandal-involved Bronx team of the Little League World Series, more notably a reference to Danny Almonte, who actually at the moment was 14).
Could be up to the offensive line? No, Krenzel's going to throw for it! Got to get it off! They go for the ball game...TOUCHDOWN!! TOUCHDOWN!! MICHAEL JENKINS!! ON 4TH & 1! WOULD YOU BELIEVE IT! CRAIG KRENZEL STRIKES... WITH A MINUTE AND A HALF LEFT! HOLY BUCKEYE! (From the 2002 Ohio State-Purdue Game. On a 4th-and-1 play, Ohio State Quarterback Craig Krenzel throws a game winning 37 yard touchdown pass to Michael Jenkins with about a minute-and-a-half left in the game. This was a stunning play because conventional thinking would have had Krenzel attempt either a Rollout Play or a Quarterback Sneak with that much time left. Because of Brent's call, this play is nicknamed "Holy Buckeye" by many Ohio State Fans.)
1,500 young red-blooded American men just signed up to go to Florida State next semester. (reacting to a 2-second shot of Jenn Sterger and her two scantily clad football fan friends during the 2005 FSU-Miami game.)
This'll be the last snap. Victory formation for Mizzou! The Border belongs to the Tigers! (The last play of the heavily hyped 2007 Border War, dubbed Arrowhead Armageddon, in which #4 Missouri defeated #2 Kansas, 36-28, to clinch the Big 12 North for the 2007 college football season.)
It's a Louisiana Saturday Night, alright! Said during LSU's football game against Virginia Tech in 2007.
Musburger has appeared in several feature films as himself, including Rocky II, The Main Event, The Waterboy, and Mickey. An action figure of Musburger was released on November 2006, as part of the Rocky II series of figures.
Deity to Oakland, CA band The Matches.