LOS ANGELES -- Southern California formally complained that
ABC-TV's Brent Musburger revealed privileged information in
play-by-play commentary during Saturday's game against Nebraska.
The university sent a letter to ESPN, which oversees sports
programming on ABC, saying Musburger, with less than 10 minutes to
play and the Trojans leading 21-10, began describing how USC
quarterback John David Booty lets receivers know he has spotted a
certain kind of coverage.
"John David told us that his signal when he finds one-on-one
and they're coming, it's that 'hang loose,' that familiar sign
you've seen surfers use," said Musburger, referring to the sign
where the thumb and little finger are raised.
USC sports information director Tim Tessalone sent a formal
complaint to ESPN/ABC game producer Bill Bonnell on Monday and sent
a copy to the Pacific-10 conference office.
In a letter to ESPN, USC said it considered the discussion private and background-only in nature.
"We're supposed to be partners in this, but this is certainly
going to make us think twice about trying to help them have as good
a broadcast as possible," Tessalone said. "What he did was
Last Friday, announcers and producers met with coaches and star
players as part of their game preparation. During the meeting,
there was discussion about how a replay of the Ohio State-Texas
broadcast showed Buckeyes quarterback Troy Smith tapping the top of
his helmet to let receiver Ted Ginn Jr. know he's noticed
Booty was asked if Southern California had a similar signal, and
Booty told Musburger about his "hang loose" signal.
"We are very mindful of what we learn in pre-game meetings in
terms in what is appropriate for broadcast and what is for our
background. We're sorry this led to an unfortunate
misunderstanding, which was never our intention," ESPN said in a
statement released by spokesman Josh Krulewitz.
Musburger, through an ESPN spokesman, said: "We've explained to USC that during our pregame meeting we discussed how we used replays to illustrate a specific signal the week before in the Ohio State-Texas telecast. In that context, we asked if USC has a similar way of communicating and the specific signal was offered.
"Clearly, there is a misunderstanding of our intentions, and we regret the confusion. We look forward to working with USC on future telecasts as we continue to cover [its] great program."
Asked about Musburger's on-air revelations, USC coach Pete
Carroll said with a laugh, "Just wondering what they're going to
tell us next. I'm not worried about it. There's a million signals,
a million ways to do it."
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.