Culture / Sporting Life

Having Lived His Ultimate Houston Fan Dream, Jim Nantz Is Missing the Duke Game For a Touching Family Reason — The Voice of CBS Asks UH Fans to Make the Elite Eight Happen

A PaperCity Exclusive

BY // 03.29.24

DALLAS — Dressed in a Cougar red sweatshirt, his 8-year-old son Jamo watching wide-eyed next to him, Jim Nantz lived his ultimate University of Houston fan life last weekend in Memphis. Now, the longtime voice of CBS Sports and proud Houston grad is just hoping that Kelvin Sampson, Jamal Shead and the horde of UH fans in Dallas can help him do it again.

Nantz is missing this Friday night showdown between Sampson’s No. 1 seed and blue blood Duke for a very good reason. His oldest daughter Caroline’s husband Andy Delaney, a Naval officer, is going through his Winging Ceremony on this Friday night. This is a major honor and when Andy and Caroline will find out where he is being assigned — and what the young couple’s future holds. Nantz isn’t going to miss such a huge moment for one of his kids and a son-in-law who he’s immensely proud of.

Getting winged as a Navy pilot is a gigantic moment in a military career.

Which does not mean he won’t be thinking of — and following — Houston battling Duke.

“I never imagined Houston vs. Duke,” Nantz tells PaperCity. “There are going to be so many eyes on us — Houston, a university that deserves to have all eyes on it.”

If Houston, which is the No. 1 seed favorite in this matchup, can beat Duke in this Sweet 16 showdown, Nantz plans to fly into Dallas for the Cougars’ Elite Eight game on Sunday. He won’t miss that game for the Final Four. He’s just hoping Sampson, Shead and the army of University of Houston fans who turned a I-45 Buc-ee’s into an impromptu Cougars rally site and figure to paint American Airlines Center red can help get UH there.

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“If America didn’t know who we were — and of course, it’s just part of our nature just being Cougars we always feel like we’ve always got a little bit of a chip — there’s a whole new legion of fans who saw that (Texas A&M) test,” Nantz says. “That was a gut test. When was the last time you watched a game when four starters fouled out?

“And you’ve got to go win a game in overtime?! To get to the Sweet 16. I only did 354 NCAA Tournament broadcasts, 96 Final Four games, 32 national championships, and I’ve never seen a team have to band together like we did (against Texas A&M).”

This is Jim Nantz, University of Houston fan unplugged. The voice of CBS Sports is getting to watch the UH basketball team and the coach he texts with all the time as a fan.

“Never experienced this before,” Nantz tells PaperCity. “I’ve waited for decades to be able to live it as a fan full time. It’s nice at this stage in life to have something that’s like the first time.”

Jim Nantz UH
Jim Nantz certainly enjoys everything about being tied to the University of Houston. He still remembers calling this 2020 game at Fertitta Center fondly. (Photo by F. Carter Smith)

The 64-year-old Nantz watched the UH vs. Texas A&M Round of 32 NCAA Tournament game from the stands with Jamo. First, he held a 40 minute “town hall” with Otis Birdsong for UH boosters at the Peabody hotel, where Kelvin Sampson’s team stayed in downtown Memphis. Attended the team sendoff with the Houston band playing, cheerleaders dancing and Jamo excitedly asking when the players like Jamal Shead are coming. Posed for countless smartphone photos with UH fans, happily accepting the request and asking everyone’s name every name each and every time.

Yes, Jim Nantz certainly packed a lot into his first UH basketball fan experience in more than 40 years. Now, he just hopes he gets to do it again on Sunday in Dallas with Houston playing for the Final Four. If Kelvin Sampson’s team can keep advancing, Nantz also will be in the stands in Arizona for all the Cougar Final Four games.

“Never experienced this before. I’ve waited for decades to be able to live it as a fan full time. It’s nice at this stage in life to have something that’s like the first time.” — Jim Nantz on watching NCAA Tournament games as a UH fan from the stands

Of course, Nantz “retired” from calling college basketball games after last year’s hometown Final Four in Houston, having been the voice of 32 Final Fours and 354 NCAA Tournament games overall. He first told PaperCity he planned to follow Kelvin Sampson’s UH team in this NCAA Tournament — in his break between the Super Bowl and The Masters — back in October.

The only reason Nantz didn’t attend Houston’s first round win over Longwood is that he flew to Las Vegas to keep a longtime celebratory dinner promise with Bob Dekas, the CBS producer who did the Final Four with Nantz for almost 30 years. Nantz is eager to keep living his best UH fan life though. He’s more than good with not calling college basketball games on TV anymore after so many years of relentless preparation.

“It’s tough,” Nantz tells PaperCity of all the prep work he put in every year during the NCAA Tournament. “And I did it all those years. And I loved it. The preparation process is a lot of fun. But this has been so vastly, vastly different for me.”

Jim Nantz actually got to go on a spring break trip to Cabo with his wife Courtney and his kids Jamo — which is short for Jameson — and his 10-year-old daughter Finley this year. Then, he got to bring Jamo with him to Memphis for that epic NCAA Tournament win over Texas A&M. Jamo loves Houston players like Jamal Shead and J’Wan Roberts and he watched completely transfixed as the players talked to reporters in the locker room after the Texas A&M game. Jamo even managed to sneak in a few selfies. Earlier in that dream day, Nantz asked his 8-year-old son to stand up and name the entire Houston starting lineup in front of a big Houston crowd at the town hall event in Memphis. And Jamo nailed it.

“Watching it through his eyes is the best for me,” Nantz says. “He’s a rabid Cougar already.”

Now Jim Nantz is just asking all those Cougar fans in Dallas to help get this team to Sunday and the Elite Eight so he can live his ultimate UH fan dream for a little while longer, right alongside them in the stands. He’ll be there for his oldest daughter to see his son-in-law’s military honor on this Friday night, hoping for Sunday all the while.

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