As a kid in Texas, Carter Blackburn decided that he wanted to become a sportscaster.
“I remember when it dawned on me that Harry Caray’s job was to go to Wrigley Field and talk about baseball,” Blackburn recalled. “I figured out that this was a career option — to talk about sports for a living — and I began to tell people that I wanted to become a sports announcer. It started in high school, when I worked for the local radio station in Kerrville, Texas.”
In 2008, at the age of 28, Blackburn became the second-youngest person to do NCAA Tournament television play-by-play. Only Jim Nantz was younger (26) at the time of his first.
On Wednesday, the now-36-year-old Blackburn worked in Dayton, Ohio — the site of Michigan’s victory over the University of Tulsa in an NCAA Tournament First Four game. From there, he and color analyst Mike Gminski were flown to Oklahoma City. On Friday, they will provide the call during TNT’s afternoon telecast of Oklahoma’s first-round meeting with Cal-Bakersfield.
“There will be a major upset at some point in this tournament — or multiple major upsets — but does OU have a really good chance of going to the Final Four and winning it all? Absolutely,” Blackburn said. “If Oklahoma becomes the national champion, it finally brings full national recognition to Lon Kruger and Oklahoma basketball. One of the all-time great hires by (Sooner athletic director) Joe Castiglione.
“One of the really good stories in this season is Buddy Hield, Lon Kruger and the Oklahoma Sooners, and I’m not just saying that because I’m in Oklahoma.”
A dream career: After examining an alumni list that included distinguished sports television figures like Marv Albert, Dick Stockton, Bob Costas, Mike Tirico, Ian Eagle, Sean McDonough and Dave Pasch (along with, by the way, Harold Kuntz of the Channel 6 sports staff), Blackburn decided to make the move from south Texas to upstate New York and study at Syracuse University.
Blackburn’s first NCAA Tournament assignment was two first-round games. His partner was Jay Bilas.
“When James Brown, in the New York studio, said, ‘And now we send you out to the opening-round game in Anaheim, and here’s Carter Blackburn and Jay Bilas,’ and the music hits and you think, ‘Oh. I’m on CBS. Doing the NCAA Tournament. Now.’ In that moment, you realize it’s not just one game,” Blackburn said. “It’s one shining moment, and it still is.
“Even the people who have done this for many, many years, they say it’s special every time and you never know what’s going to happen in March. That’s the magic of it.”
By the age of 31, Blackburn had done NFL play-by-play for Fox Sports, NCAA Tournament assignments for CBS and college football telecasts for ABC. Last year, he was involved in CBS’ coverage of the Masters.
A Tulsa fan: Blackburn resides in Austin and describes himself as “a big music guy.” For CBS Sports Network, Blackburn has been courtside for several Tulsa Golden Hurricane home games. While in Tulsa, he says he has sampled the city’s music culture.
“I’ve visited the Woody Guthrie Museum many times,” Blackburn said, “and now Tulsa is getting the Bob Dylan archives. I’m a Woody Guthrie guy, a Bob Dylan guy and a Leon Russell guy. I have a great appreciation for Tulsa’s musical place and I’m very much looking forward to visiting the Dylan archives.
“I have lots of friends saying, ‘When we get priced out of Austin, Tulsa sure looks good.’”