When golf broadcasting iconoclast Gary McCord signed his last contract with CBS Sports two years ago, he says that Sean McManus, president of the network’s sports division, told him he could stay as long as he wanted.
“He said to me, ‘You’ve been here so long, when you want to go, you tell me.’ I don’t recall telling him that,” McCord said with notable wryness after news broke last week that his two-year option with the network was not picked up, ending his career of 30-plus years at CBS.
“This is not how I would have preferred to see it end,” McCord said. “I’m going on 72. I’ve been doing this for 30-odd years. I knew I was coming to the end of the deal, but I was going to go out on my terms. That’s not happening now.
“Bottom line, they fired me.”
McCord, who began his CBS career at the 1986 Memorial Tournament, had an inkling what was coming after learning close friend and colleague Peter Kostis, who has been with CBS since 1992, was informed last Wednesday that his option was not being picked up, either. “I looked at my phone, and I had a message from a 212 area code Wednesday night and thought, Uh oh,” said McCord, who got the news from McManus on Thursday.
“He [McManus] tells me, and he told Peter the same thing, that ‘We think CBS golf is getting a little stale, and we need to go in another direction,’ ” McCord told Golf Digest by phone from his home in Scottsdale. “I’ve been called a lot of things, but one thing I’ve never been called is stale.”
Rumblings picked up by Golf Digest suggest that the network is going younger by making Trevor Immelman, the 2008 Masters champion, one of the new mainstays. He is expected to be join by his brother, Mark, a former All-American golfer and currently a college coach at Columbus State, who also does broadcasting on PGA Tour Live and on SiriusXM Radio. And 1997 PGA champion Davis Love III, a close friend of golf producer Lance Barrow, also could be in the mix at select events, including the Masters, according to sources.
A CBS spokesperson declined to comment on future personnel moves. Another network spokesperson said that CBS had nothing to add about the situation with McCord and Kostis beyond its initial statement issued over the weekend and that in response to McCord’s statements, McManus had no comment.
Known for his irreverence that eventually got him dropped from the network’s coverage of the Masters beginning in 1994, McCord said he doesn’t mind getting fired, “but when you tell me I’m really doing well, when you tell me, ‘Oh, you’re so good for our brand and helping our brand,’ when you tell me you love everything that I’ve done for the golf coverage over the years—and he [McManus] said I’m doing fantastic—and then in the next breath, you say you’re firing me? And I’m thinking, OK, why are they doing this? ”
McCord, a former PGA Tour player and winner of three PGA Tour Champions events, is smarting over the decision mostly because he didn’t have a chance to personally thank all his CBS teammates behind the scenes who have supported him through the years, people who have become like family. “You just don’t do something like this,” he said. “You shouldn’t do it this way. No chance to say thanks to the viewers, to all my CBS friends? That’s what you get for 35 years?”
A CBS spokesperson said that the two men were offered the chance to work the first two events of 2020, the Farmers Insurance Open and the Waste Management Phoenix Open but both declined. McCord and Kostis are based in Scottsdale and are partners there in the Kostis McCord Learning Center at Grayhawk Golf Club.
McCord confirmed that he declined because, he said, “The way it was presented, I felt it was more for them than for us.”
McCord has plans for an alternate farewell, however. Just pay attention, he said, to the Waste Management in late January, where he traditionally called the action at the raucous par-3 16th hole. That’s all he said.
Words from the late Frank Chirkinian, the famed producer who gave McCord his shot behind a microphone, still ring in his ears. It was a warning that has come to fruition. “He told me once to not get too comfortable. He said to me with that deep voice of his, ‘You gotta remember something—this is the company that fired f---ing Walter Cronkite.’ That was after they fired him, too. He was right. Wow.”