Andrew Catalon, Catalon
Andrew Catalon (CBS)

F-D-U Believe It! Jersey's Catalon Makes Iconic Call

If you are reading this on Jersey Sporting News, you know by now that Fairleigh Dickinson University shocked the world Friday night, upsetting top-seed Purdue, 63-58, in Columbus, Ohio. The Knights play Florida Atlantic University, who advanced by beating Memphis, 66-65 on a bucket in the final seconds.

FDU vs. FAU. Sunday at 7:45 pm. For a trip to the Sweet 16. At Madison Square Garden. Fairleigh Not-So-Ridiculous after all.

Andrew Catalon was assigned to the Columbus regional. That means he handled play-by-play alongside analyst Steve Lappas and sideline reporter Jamie Erdahl for four NCAA First Round games on Friday and two Second Round games on Sunday.

Catalon’s call at the end of the FDU game, “F-D-U Believe It!” is a line basketball fans will hear countless times over the next few weeks and in the years to come. Instant classic.

Catalon is a Syracuse broadcasting alum and a veteran announcer who has been with CBS since 2013. He does the NFL, college basketball and golf, including the Masters. He is also a New Jersey guy through-and-through. He’s a graduate of Millburn High School, and he and his wife are raising their family here in the Garden State.

In the first two games on Friday, Michigan State beat USC and Marquette defeated Vermont. In the Michigan State postgame interview, Erdahl showed Izzo the clipboard he snapped in two during the game, which made for a fun moment. In Marquette, they were watching a trendy championship selection.

Then came the two evening classics. Freaky Friday.

After what could not have been a good night’s sleep, Catalon spent Saturday talking to the four coaches, watching practices and prepping for his two games tomorrow (Michigan State vs. Marquette tips at 5:15 pm before Knights/Owls in the nightcap). Catalon was also kind enough to respond to a few text messages about what transpired.

“Four games in one day is a marathon but it moves very quickly,” he texted. “There was no time to reflect on the FDU game as by the time we signed off the air, FAU and Memphis were already warming up on the court. But after the final game our entire crew had pizza together back at the hotel and that was fantastic. Hearing about everyone’s day and sharing a historic night is something we’ll never forget.”

As FDU took a one-point lead into halftime, and then stayed tight in the second half, Catalon stayed present, and that showed in the broadcast.

“I tried to stay measured throughout the game. I didn’t want to get ahead of myself and tried to stay in the moment while also understanding something historic could be happening.”

He and Lappas were at the top of their game. They discussed the game plan FDU coach Tobin Anderson installed, the perfect plan against the perfect team. Anderson knew Purdue’s 7-foot-4 all-American center Zach Edey would get his points and rebounds. They made him as uncomfortable as possible and dared the other players to step up and hit three-pointers. Poor-shooting Purdue couldn’t deliver. Lappas was all over the historic upset and the reasons for it in real time.

As for the iconic “F-D-U Believe It!” call. It didn’t come from thin air. “I texted a couple of friends that line at halftime. But I didn’t think of it again until the final minutes of the game, and decided, why not?”

New Jersey is making it’s mark on the NCAA Tournament for the second consecutive year. St. Peter’s as a 15 seed last year won three games, including defeating Purdue, to advance to the Elite Eight. Princeton, a No. 15, defeated Arizona Thursday and routed Missouri on Saturday to breakthrough to the Sweet 16. And then there’s FDU.

If you can bury the lede in a text message, Catalon did so when he was asked about the pride he feels in the success of his home state.

“My father went to FDU. So I know he has a lot of pride! I think it’s great for the state and I’m glad these teams are receiving well-deserved recognition.”

As he finishes his final preparation for his games on Sunday, he took a minute to think about what he expects from Sunday’s matchups.

“One thing I know is that the atmosphere (in Columbus) will be great. I was really impressed with the crowds (Friday) and I’m expecting more of the same (Sunday). FDU and FAU play a similar style so that should be fun. And Michigan State-Marquette has all the makings of a great game.”

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People who follow the broadcasting biz in sports notice the end-of-game calls like Catalon’s classic in the final moments of FDU’s historic victory. Do the words strike the right chord? Sentimental? Clever Pun? Straight Down the Middle? The skill of a talented broadcaster is knowing which lane to take to the final buzzer and then nailing it, whether it’s pre-planned or off-the-cuff.

As Princeton routed Missouri, 78-63 Saturday night, play-by-player Brad Nessler was ready, announcing Princeton’s entry into the Sweet 16.

“It's never been Sweeter if you’re a Princeton fan, then right now.”