Past alcohol abuse cause of Summerall's illness

Updated: April 2, 2004, 11:16 AM ET news services

DALLAS -- Veteran broadcaster Pat Summerall is scheduled to undergo a liver transplant after being flown to Jacksonville, Fla., by air ambulance Thursday.

The surgery is expected to occur this weekend at the Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville, The Dallas Morning News reported on its Web site. A spokesman said early Friday that the exact surgery schedule for Summerall, 73, is uncertain.

Summerall's longtime agent, Sandy Montag, confirmed to The Associated Press that Summerall, 73, was flying to Florida to have the transplant.

"It's been a difficult time for the Summerall family," Montag, said. "But I think the support of family and friends have been very important to Pat and his family at this time."

Summerall is a recovering alcoholic who was convinced by friends in 1992 to enter the Betty Ford Treatment Center in California. His wife, Cheri, told The Dallas Morning News that he accepted that his past alcohol abuse is the reason he is in the hospital now.

"Although this month marks his 12th year of sobriety, alcoholism is a progressive disease, and the damage to his liver reached the point where a transplant is the only option for survival," she said.

Summerall, who was a kicker and tight end for the Chicago Cardinals and New York Giants for 10 seasons before becoming a broadcaster, has spent more than 40 years in the booth, beginning in 1961. He teamed with John Madden to call Fox's lead game from 1994-01, and they were the No. 1 team on CBS for 13 seasons before that. The two called eight Super Bowls together, and Summerall was in the broadcast booth for a total of 15.

The Morning News reported that Summerall, who lives in Southlake, had been hospitalized this week at Methodist Medical Center in Dallas to undergo tests and wait for a possible transplant surgery there. But a donor was then found in Florida, the newspaper reported.

The newspaper said Summerall qualified for a transplant through blood tests that rank potential recipients anonymously through a computerized system known as the MELD Model.

Summerall told the newspaper that he had recently undergone tests at the Mayo Clinic in Florida that confirmed he needed the transplant.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.