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'This is our best move': Brandstatter, Dierdorf to call all Michigan games from Big House

Angelique S. Chengelis
The Detroit News

Michigan kicks off the abbreviated Big Ten football season at Minnesota on Oct. 24, but Jim Brandstatter, who handles the radio play-by-play, analyst Dan Dierdorf, and the broadcast crew won’t be there.

Instead, they’ll be in empty Michigan Stadium calling the game off television monitors.

Jim Brandstatter (left) and Dan Dierdorf have worked together in the Michigan football radio booth since 2014.

That’s how Brandstatter and Dierdorf, who have worked together since 2014, will broadcast the four road games in the eight-game regular season. There also is a plus-one game of seeded teams from each Big Ten division that will be played the week of the conference championship. The season was postponed Aug. 11 because of COVID-19 pandemic concerns, but with the availability of rapid testing, last month the Big Ten announced a nine-game conference-only schedule.

“We’re going to be the only guys in the stadium,” Brandstatter said of broadcasting road games from Michigan Stadium. “It’s going to be extremely weird.

“There’s going to be some challenges, but, hey, we’re all living in this world that’s totally different and given what we have to live with, we’re playing football. Two months ago, we weren’t going to play anything. Our deal is, thank God we’re playing football and whatever it takes to do it, that’s what we’re going to do.

Brandstatter and Dierdorf were given options from Learfield IMG College, Michigan’s multimedia rights-holder, for calling games this fall. With the COVID-19 pandemic limiting numbers in press boxes, this seemed to be the logical and safest decision for the broadcast team. It also seems the best move logistically for engineer Tony Butler.

“IMG Learfied is very attentive to the needs of their employees and they’re not going to do anything that would put their employees in any kind of danger,” Brandstatter said. “That’s one of the reasons why they gave us the option of doing all the games from Michigan Stadium and not going on the road because of the possibility of being in a higher-risk situation. They have been very accommodating in regards to Dan and I and all of their broadcast crews across their properties.

“We both said we are more than happy to do the games in Ann Arbor. We would have nine games we know the situation as opposed to four games we don’t know. It would be easier to be more familiar, aware of our surroundings and all that other stuff if we’re able to do the games from the press box.”

But calling a game that you’re not watching in person has a different set of challenges. Brandstatter and Dierdorf will work off a television feed of the road games, but Brandstatter said he will need an “all-22” feed that shows the entire field with no camera movement off the field.

“The regular TV broadcast has so many cutaways — they cut to the crowd, to a cheerleader, a tight shot of a coach,” Brandstatter said. “If you’re in the middle of play-by-play and you’re looking for a yard line, a down and distance, and you’re looking at that feed, all of a sudden you get a picture of a coach talking to somebody on the bench. I’ve already called some games from the TV feed, and you’re ready to call the wide receivers, and they cut to a tight shot of the quarterback and you’re lost.”

Brandstatter also wants a static shot of the scoreboard when they’re calling games on the road. Although details haven’t been finalized, he figures they’ll have three monitors in the booth with a game broadcast in front of each and the all-22 angle between them.

“This is our best move,” Brandstatter said. “IMG did their due diligence, and they talked to us. We’re very comfortable with the plan.”

Twitter: @chengelis