By David Mullen
While the U.S. was not among the 32 teams that competed in the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia, which culminated in a 4-2 victory by France over Croatia on July 15, Dallas was well represented by a familiar voice on the local radio and television scene for more than two decades.Mark Followill was one of the play-by-play voices on World Cup coverage on Fox Sports. But that didn’t mean he made it to Red Square.
“It is something that happens fairly frequently in soccer,” Followill, 47, said, “where announcers are often offsite, because of the global nature of the game. In my particular case, I am used to it, having done it with other events on Fox that took place overseas. It was not the type of scenario that I was walking into without a great deal of familiarity.”
Soccer is also not new to Followill. He has called games for Fox Sports’ coverage of the Copa America Centenario, CONCACAF Gold Cup, UEFA Europa League, Major League Soccer, FIFA U-17 World Cup and the FIFA U-20 World Cup. He also called men’s and women’s soccer matches for NBC’s coverage of the 2016 Summer Olympics, and is in his seventh season as the play-by-play voice of FC Dallas, where he also does road games from a studio.
Working from a broadcast facility in Los Angeles, Followill said: “We had a large monitor that gave us the scenes that you were seeing. We also had several monitors that were showing what you weren’t seeing. The benches. The crowd shots. Players warming up. Those types of things. We also had access to feeds coming down from FIFA. The entire world is getting the same feed, basically, just with different graphics and announcers. They gave us everything we needed to do a successful broadcast. “I can’t stress enough what the announcers go through, and I am proud to be associated with that group.” Followill said. “But I also can’t stress enough the directors, producers and technical staff that had been making multiple trips to Russia over the last three years building up to the games. There are a lot of people that don’t get mentioned. The amount of work and dedication people put into it — with long hours, sleep deprivation and basically giving up their life — it was a great privilege to be associated with that group at Fox.”
Paired with analyst Warren Barton, Followill called nine World Cup games, including eight in the group stage and one knockout stage game. The broadcast quality was outstanding. You would never have known that Followill wasn’t in the stadium.
“It was a great thrill to call a knockout stage game between Croatia and Denmark,” Followill said, “which went all the way to penalties and ended up being the third highest rated game of the World Cup. Also Brazil versus Costa Rica was fun, when Philippe Coutinho and Neymar scored in stoppage time to win it. Spain versus Morocco was a match with great atmosphere and some drama to it as well.”
Followill is currently preparing for the college football season, providing play-by-play for Big 12, Big 10 and Conference USA football games for Fox Sports. He has been a longtime contributor to SportsRadio 1310 The Ticket since the station’s beginning in 1994. Followill grew up in Lewisville, lives in Dallas and attended the University of North Texas.
He credits his father, who once dabbled in radio including a stint as disc jockey, for his powerful, recognizable voice. Followill is best known in the metroplex as the television-play-by-play announcer of the Dallas Mavericks, working with former Maverick Derek Harper and sport show host Ben “Skin” Wade.
“In the late 1990s, KLIF was the flagship station for the Mavs and I was working for The Ticket,” Followill said. Both stations were owned by Susquehanna Broadcasting at the time. “I had the opportunity to do the pre- and post-game shows. The Mavericks weren’t very good, so not a lot of announcers were looking to do those shows, but my relationship allowed me to fill in on some games on the radio side for about two months. When they later made changes to the broadcast structure, I moved in and starting doing radio full time.” He became the team’s lead television announcer in 2005.
Regarding the expectations for the upcoming Mavericks season, Followill said: “I am excited to see how Dennis Smith, Jr. has grown from year one to year two. I don’t know that I would apply the exact same thought as Jimmy Johnson used to say about NFL players that ‘the most important year for them is year one to year two.’ I think the learning curve is a little more gradual from an NBA standpoint. Careers are longer and there is a more cerebral element to the game, I would say. Obviously physical elements are in play, but I think it will be an important jump in his career.“I am excited to see [Mavericks first round pick Luka] Dončić and I think that DeAndre Jordan is definitely going to help them. So my expectations would be that they will be a significantly more entertaining team to watch. There will be improvement, but how much improvement remains to be seen. Making progress in the [NBA’s] Western Conference is a Herculean task.”
And Followill should know. Doing nine World Cup broadcasts, working FC Dallas matches, preparing for next month’s college football slate and getting ready for 82 2018-19 Mavericks regular season games, Followill is amidst a Herculean tasks as well.