American Football Database
Bryant Gumbel
File:Bryant Gumbel cropped.jpg
Gumbel in 2008
BornBryant Charles Gumbel
(1948-09-29) September 29, 1948 (age 73)
New Orleans, Louisiana, U.S.
OccupationTelevision personality, sportscaster
Years active1972–present
Notable credit(s)The Today Show
The Early Show
Spouse(s)June Baranco (1973–2001)
Hilary Quinlan (2002–present)
ParentsRichard and Rhea Gumbel
RelativesGreg Gumbel (brother)

Bryant Charles Gumbel (born September 29, 1948) is an American television journalist and sportscaster. He is best known for his 15 years as co-host of NBC's The Today Show. He is the younger brother of sportscaster Greg Gumbel.

Life and career

Early life

Gumbel was born in New Orleans, Louisiana. He is the son of Rhea Alice (née LeCesne), a city clerk, and Richard Dunbar Gumbel, a judge.[1] He attended and was graduated from De La Salle Institute in Chicago, IL., while growing up on the South Side of the city. He graduated from Bates College in 1970. In 1971, he became editor of Black Sports Magazine, leaving the following year.[2][3][4] Gumbel began his television career in October 1972, when he was made a sportscaster for KNBC-TV out of Los Angeles.

Professional career

NBC Sports

Gumbel was hired by NBC Sports in the fall of 1975 as co-host of its National Football League pre-game show GrandStand with Jack Buck. From 1975 until January 1982 (when he left to do The Today Show) Gumbel hosted numerous sporting events for NBC including Major League Baseball, college basketball and the National Football League. Gumbel returned to sportscasting for NBC when he hosted the prime time coverage of the 1988 Summer Olympics from Seoul and the PGA Tour in 1990.

One of Gumbel's more memorable moments during his time at NBC Sports occurred in 1982, when he was on-site for the "Epic in Miami" NFL playoff game between the San Diego Chargers and Miami Dolphins. At the end of the game, Gumbel told the viewing audience "If you didn't like this football game then you don't like football!"


Gumbel began his affiliation with Today as the program's chief sports reporter contributing twice-weekly features to the program, including a regular series entitled "Sportsman of the Week," featuring up-and-coming athletes. In June 1981, NBC announced that Tom Brokaw would depart Today to anchor the NBC Nightly News with Roger Mudd beginning in the spring of 1982. The search for Brokaw's replacement was on, and the initial candidates were all NBC News correspondents, including John Palmer, Chris Wallace, Bob Kur, Bob Jamieson, and Jessica Savitch. The candidates auditioned for Brokaw's job throughout the summer of 1981 when Brokaw was on vacation. Gumbel became a candidate for the job just by chance when he served as a last-minute substitute for Today co-anchor Jane Pauley in August 1981. Gumbel so impressed executive producer Steve Friedman and other NBC executives that he quickly became a top contender for the Today anchor position.[citation needed]

While Friedman and other NBC executives favored Gumbel as Brokaw's replacement, another contingent within the NBC News division felt strongly that Brokaw should be replaced by a fellow news correspondent, not a sports reporter. Chris Wallace was the favored candidate of then-NBC News president Bill Small. NBC News decided to split the difference, selecting Gumbel as the program's anchor and Wallace as the Washington-based anchor. Jane Pauley would remain co-anchor in New York. Brokaw signed off of Today on December 18, 1981, and Gumbel replaced Brokaw on January 4, 1982.

The Gumbel-Pauley-Wallace arrangement, known internally as the "Mod Squad," lasted only nine months. It was an arrangement that proved intriguing on paper but unwieldy on television. Gumbel served as the show's traffic cop, opening and closing the program and conducting New York-based interviews, but Pauley and Wallace handled newsreading duties, and Wallace conducted all Washington-based hard news interviews. With ABC's Good Morning America in first place and expanding its lead, NBC News made Gumbel the principal anchor of Today beginning September 27, 1982, with Jane Pauley as his co-anchor. Wallace became chief White House correspondent covering President Reagan, and John Palmer, previously a White House correspondent, became Today's New York-based news anchor.

Gumbel and Pauley had a challenging first two years together as Today anchors as they sought to find a rhythm as a team. Good Morning America solidified its lead over Today in the ratings during the summer of 1983, and Pauley's departure for maternity leave sent Today into a ratings tailspin. But when Pauley returned in February 1984, she and Gumbel began to work well together as a team. NBC took Today on the road in the fall of '84, sending Gumbel to the Soviet Union for an unprecedented series of live broadcasts from Moscow. Gumbel won plaudits for his performance in Moscow, erasing any doubts about his hard-news capabilities. That Moscow trip began a whirlwind period of travel for Today. Remote broadcasts from Vietnam, Vatican City, Europe, South America, and much of the United States followed between 1984 and 1989. Today began to regain its old ratings dominance against Good Morning America throughout 1985, and by early 1986, the NBC program was once again atop the ratings.

In 1989, Gumbel, who was already known for his strong management style as Today anchor, wrote a memo to Today executive producer Marty Ryan, on Ryan's request, critiquing the program and identifying its shortcomings. Many of Gumbel's criticisms were directed at fellow Today staffers. This memo was leaked to the press. In the memo, Gumbel commented that Willard Scott, "holds the show hostage to his assortment of whims, wishes, birthdays and bad taste...This guy is killing us and no one's even trying to rein him in". He commented that Gene Shalit's movie reviews "are often late and his interviews aren't very good."[5]

There was enough negative backlash in regard to Gumbel's comments toward Scott, that Gumbel was shown making up with Scott on Today.[6]

Following Jane Pauley's departure from Today in December 1989, Gumbel was joined by Deborah Norville in a short-lived partnership that lasted just over a year. Today dropped to second place in the ratings during this period as a result of intensely negative publicity surrounding Norville's replacement of Pauley, and Gumbel's feud with Scott. Norville was replaced by Katie Couric in April 1991, and the Gumbel-Couric team helped refocus Today as the morning news program on public affairs during the 1992 presidential campaign. The program returned to first place in the ratings in December 1995.

Gumbel's work on Today earned him several Emmys and a large group of fans. He is the second longest serving co-host of Today, serving two months less than Couric. Gumbel stepped down from the show on January 3, 1997 after 15 years.

Public Eye with Bryant Gumbel

After 15 years on the Today show, Bryant Gumbel moved to CBS to host a new prime time news-magazine called "Public Eye with Bryant Gumbel" during the 1997-1998 television season. The show lasted just one season before being cancelled. The show aired on Wednesday nights between 9 and 10 pm. [7]

The Early Show

After leaving the Today Show and Dateline NBC in 1997, Gumbel moved to CBS, where he hosted various shows before becoming co-host of the network's morning show The Early Show on November 1, 1999. Gumbel left The Early Show (and CBS that same year) in May 2002. He returned to his morning television roots when, in the spring and summer of 2010, he served as special guest moderator of ABC's "The View" for multiple days.

Boy Scouts

A CBS camera caught a disgusted Bryant Gumbel blurting out "What a fucking idiot" just after he had finished a hostile interview with Robert Knight of the Family Research Council (FRC). The incident occurred at about 7:15 a.m. ET on Thursday, June 29, 2000 following Knight's appearance to defend the Boy Scout policy of excluding gays from being leaders. The Media Research Center reported that he uttered those words; Gumbel openly admitted to saying so when guest-hosting a June 2007 episode of Live with Regis and Kelly.[8]

Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel

Gumbel has concentrated most of his energy recently on his duties as host of HBO's acclaimed investigative series Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel (a show that he has hosted since 1995). HBO's web page claims that Real Sports has been described as "flat out TV's best sports program" by the Los Angeles Times.[9] Also according to HBO, Real Sports has earned 15 sports Emmys, and a 2006 Alfred I. duPont-Columbia University Award for broadcast journalism, the first time in the award's history that it was given to a sports program.[10] The award was for a story called "The Sport of Sheikhs", an investigation into the exploitation of children as camel jockeys in the United Arab Emirates.

Controversial remarks

In February 2006, Gumbel made remarks regarding the Winter Olympics and the lack of African-American participation.[11]

So try not to laugh when someone says these are the world's greatest athletes despite a paucity of blacks that makes the Winter Games look like a GOP convention.

On the August 15, 2006 episode of Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel, Gumbel made the following remarks about former NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue and Players' Union president Gene Upshaw and directed these comments to new commissioner Roger Goodell:

Before he cleans out his office have Paul Tagliabue show you where he keeps Gene Upshaw's leash. By making the docile head of the players union his personal pet, your predecessor has kept the peace without giving players the kind of guarantees other pros take for granted. Try to make sure no one competent ever replaces Upshaw on your watch.

In response, Tagliabue said:

What Gumbel said about Gene Upshaw and our owners is about as irresponsible as anything I've heard in a long time.[12]

Gumbel's response was:

It's a lot like covering any story [...] You see what is in front of you and you report on it.[citation needed]

On the October 18, 2011 episode, Gumbel evoked slavery in his criticism of NBA Commissioner David Stern over the league's lockout.[13]

His efforts are typical of a commissioner who has always seemed eager to be viewed as some kind of modern-day plantation overseer, treating NBA men as if they were his boys. ... His moves are intended to do little more than show how he's the one keeping the hired hands in their place.

The Weather Man

Gumbel made a cameo appearance alongside Nicolas Cage and Michael Caine in The Weather Man, a film directed by Gore Verbinski. In the film, Gumbel co-hosts a morning show entitled Hello America for which Cage's character, a depressed weatherman, auditions.

The NFL Network

In April 2006, the NFL Network announced that Gumbel, along with Cris Collinsworth and Dick Vermeil, would commentate on its new package of NFL games. Unlike his brother Greg, Bryant had never called play-by-play[14][15] for live sporting events in his career. Before his first game commentary for the network, Gumbel's status was brought into question after he stirred up controversy in his closing remarks on his HBO program on August 15, 2006, in which he criticized NFL Players Association head Gene Upshaw and outgoing NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue. Gumbel would later reconcile with the NFL and retained his play-by-play job with the NFL Network.[16] On December 29, 2007, Gumbel had a reunion of sorts as he called the Patriots-Giants game on the NFL Network, CBS, and NBC. This is the first 3-network simulcast NFL game and coincidentally Gumbel has worked for all three networks during his career. He also had a strong affiliation with NFL films.

Gumbel was fired as play-by-play announcer in April 2008, prior to the 2008 NFL season. He would be replaced on the NFL Network telecasts by Bob Papa.

Personal life

In October 2009, Bryant Gumbel had surgery to remove a malignant tumor near his lung.[17]


  • 4 Emmy Awards (Likely for his play-by-play on the NFL Network)[18]
  • Frederick D. Patterson Award from the United Negro College Fund[18]
  • Martin Luther King Award from the Congress of Racial Equality[18]
  • Three NAACP Image Awards[18]
  • Edward R. Murrow Award for Outstanding Foreign Affairs work from the Overseas Press Club, September 1984
  • Edward Weintal Prize for diplomatic reporting
  • Peabody Award for his reporting in Vietnam
  • International Journalism Award from TransAfrica
  • Africa's Future Award from the U.S. Committee for UNICEF
  • Leadership Award from the African-American Institute
  • Best Morning TV News Interviewer, the Washington Journalism Review, 1986
  • National Association of Black Journalists, Journalist of the Year Award, 1993
  • Trumpet Award of the Turner Broadcasting System, Inc.
  • Alfred I. duPont-Columbia University Award for outstanding broadcast journalism for Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel (HBO), December 2005[10]
  • Clinton Award [1]


  1. Bryant Gumbel Biography
  2. "Gumbel, Bryant (1948- ) | The Black Past: Remembered and Reclaimed". The Black Past. Retrieved March 2, 2013.
  3. "Overview for Bryant Gumbel". Retrieved March 2, 2013.
  4. Fitzhenry, Joseph (December 5, 2012). "Bryant Gumbel speaks his mind to students and faculty". Retrieved March 2, 2013.
  5. Monica Collins, "Memo to NBC: We Love Scott", USA Today, March 1, 1989.
  6. Brian Donlon, "On Today, it's kiss and make up", USA Today, March 14, 1989
  8. Baker, Brent (2000-06-30). ""F***ing Idiot" Outburst by Gumbel; Donaldson Also Dissed a Conservative". CyberAlert. Media Research Center. Retrieved 2008-11-16."CBS News Anchor Bryant Gumbel Says He Was Right to Call Pro-Family Advocate a F***ing Idiot". 2007-06-06. Retrieved 2008-11-16.
  9. HBO: Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel - About the Show
  10. 10.0 10.1 HBO: Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel - Awards
  12. Michael McCarthy, "Gumbel's remarks strike ill chord with Tagliabue", USA Today, 22 August 2006.
  14. "Gumbel's move to play-by-play was a bad call"
  15. Sports Media Watch presents the ten worst personnel moves of the 2000s. #6: Bryant Gumbel calls NFL games (2006-08, NFL Network)
  16. Gumbel, NFL reconcile after ‘leash’ comment - NFL -
  17. Bryant Gumbel fights lung cancer, Variety December 8, 2009
  18. 18.0 18.1 18.2 18.3 HBO: Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel - Bryant Gumbel Bio

External links

Preceded by
Tom Brokaw
Today Show Host
January 4, 1982–January 3, 1997
with Jane Pauley from 1982 to 1989
Deborah Norville from 1990 to 1991
and Katie Couric from 1991 to 1997
Succeeded by
Matt Lauer
Preceded by
Jim McKay
American television prime time anchor, Summer Olympic Games
1980 (with Dick Enberg)
Succeeded by
Bob Costas
Preceded by
First play-by-play commentator
NFL Network play-by-play commentator
Succeeded by
Bob Papa

Template:Major League Baseball on NBC