Football: Purcell lands gig on FSSW

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Ken Purcell was three hours away from retiring as the Denton school district’s athletic director when Jon Heidtke approached him on the sideline at Arlington’s AT&T Stadium in December.

Heidtke, the senior vice president and general manager of Fox Sports Southwest, was watching Guyer pick up the Class 4A Division I state football title alongside Purcell and wanted to know if the two could grab lunch a couple of months later.

Lunch turned into an audition that ended up with Purcell joining the network’s Fox Football Friday telecast this fall. Purcell learned this week that he will be a studio analyst for the high school football show that gives viewers updates and highlights from games around the state.

“I’ve been booked every Friday night for the last 40 years, so it’s not like it’s a big change for me,” Purcell said.

Dave Campbell’s Texas Football managing editor Greg Tepper will be the other studio analyst for the four-hour telecast.

Purcell retired as DISD’s athletic director at the end of 2013, wrapping up a tenure that started in July 1997. He was the head football coach at Allen for 13 years and served as an assistant at Plano.

Matt Scales, the senior producer of studio programming for FSSW, was working on a project when Heidtke was giving Purcell a tour of the network studio in the Las Colinas area of Irving.

Scales immediately distinguished the drawl Purcell picked up during his time in Vega, a town located about halfway between Amarillo and the New Mexico border.

It was the same voice Scales remembered coaching him when Purcell was the defensive backs coach at Plano. Scales said he had only seen Purcell once in more than 30 years since they were teacher and pupil.

Decades later, those roles have flipped.

“He has a wealth of knowledge,” Scales said. “He knows football. He knows a lot of people. He’s just conversational, and that’s what you look for in television — someone who is conversational, can express themselves and get that message across to an audience.”

Erin Hartigan, one of the hosts of the show, said she’s looking forward to picking Purcell’s brain and seeing what the mindset of a former coach will bring to the telecast.

“I could sit and listen to stories from him for hours,” Hartigan said. “He has seen and experienced so many different things that none of us could even script.”

Purcell said he was told to just be himself when he filmed his audition for the show. Purcell said he’d been rehearsing for 66 years.

Purcell in his natural element wears a signature cowboy hat that made him stick out like a steer among sheep in press boxes for decades.

“I told him [Heidtke] nobody would be able to recognize me without it,” Purcell said. “He told me that’s what they wanted.”

Purcell said he will start out the summer in his straw Stetson and switch to a black, beaver felt Stetson for the winter.

The former Denton ISD athletic director said he’s excited about the show and staying informed about teams in the Dallas-Fort Worth area and around the state. The only question that remains is which of 12 commemorative rings Purcell will wear for the telecasts.

He’s contemplating the ring honoring Guyer’s back-to-back state championships and the Ryan equivalent that was made after the Raiders’ 4A titles in 2001 and 2002.

“Who knows?” Purcell said with a laugh. “It’s a nice problem to have.”

BEN BABY can be reached at 940-566-6869 and via Twitter at @Ben_Baby.

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