By: Will Burchfield
Mike Tirico was on the mic for his first football game at Notre Dame Stadium last weekend. He was blown away.
“It exceeded my wildest expectations in terms of atmosphere and setting and that was (against) Nevada,” he told the Detroit News.
He expects the excitement to be multiplied when Michigan State comes to South Bend on Saturday for a 7:30 p.m. kickoff. Tirico will be calling the game for NBC.
“With a bunch of Spartys there on a Saturday night it is just going to be tremendous. It’s what Midwestern football is all about and those of us who live here absolutely love that and I can’t wait for Saturday night,” he said.
Tirico, who makes his home in Ann Arbor, has been calling games on TV for 26 years. Throughout the duration of his career, most of which was spent at ESPN, NBC had exclusive rights to Notre Dame football. Now a part of the NBC team, Tirico is thrilled to be getting a front-row seat to a historic rivalry. Notre Dame and Michigan State first played in 1897 and have met 76 times since.
“I can’t think of anything better. You think about 50 years after the tie game, this started 119 years ago,” he said, recalling the 10-10 stalemate in 1966. “There’s not a lot of things you come across that have been going on in America for almost 12 decades and Michigan State and Notre Dame has.
“To be part of a game where both teams are ranked in one of the iconic venues in the history of sports, two really good programs, I could not ask for anything more.
Though he’s new to calling Notre Dame games, Tirico has a long history with Michigan State. He told the News that his first Thursday night football broadcast came at Spartan Stadium in 1999. Michigan State beat Oregon 27-20 that night on the strength of a late fumble return by – well, let Tirico explain.
“I remember Amp Campbell was a safety who had a very serious neck injury and that was his return. And he made a big play in that game,” Tirico recalled.
Most recently, Tirico called Michigan State’s clash with Georgia in the 2012 Outback Bowl. The Spartans won 33-30 in a back-and-forth game that went to three overtimes.
“So I’m hoping for another triple-overtime game,” Tirico said. “I would say that would definitely be a good return to see the football Spartans after seeing a whole bunch of (Tom) Izzo’s over the years.”
Before making the move to NBC earlier this year, Tirico called numerous Michigan State basketball games on ESPN. He has fond memories of those nights in East Lansing.
“The Breslin Center, Assembly Hall — some pretty cool evenings living here in Big Ten country. That’s why doing these Notre Dame games has been wonderful for me. I love college campuses, I love what college sports can represent when done the right way and getting to be around it for these three weeks is a blast for me,” Tirico said.
Between Michigan State’s success on the gridiron and the hard court, Tirico thinks Spartan fans are a fortunate bunch.
“Mark Hollis is as good as there is in the country as an athletic director,” he said. “Coach Izzo, Hall of Fame, enough said. And Coach Dantonio and what he’s built — it’s a great time for Spartan fans. They should enjoy what they have now. It’s very hard to have it as good as they have it with their major programs, for sure.”
And somewhere Jim Harbaugh can still be heard yelling, “Who’s got it better than us?!?!”