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Jimmy Traina: CBS, ESPN Have To Let Dick Vitale Call Tournament Games

“Vitale has never called an NCAA Tournament game—for an American audience—and Traina would love to see it happen.”

Russ Heltman

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Courtesy: ESPN Images

ESPN’s Dick Vitale returned to calling college basketball games on Tuesday night in No. 1 Gonzaga’s blowout victory over No. 2 UCLA. Sports Illustrated’s Jimmy Traina floated a great idea that ESPN and CBS/Turner could work together on.

Vitale has never called an NCAA Tournament game—for an American audience—and Traina would love to see it happen.

“Dick Vitale has been calling college basketball game for ESPN for 41 years. Forty. One,” Traina explained in his Traina Thoughts column. “Yet, he has never called an NCAA Tournament game* simply because ESPN has never had the rights to the NCAA Tournament.

“I added the asterisk because Vitale has called NCAA Tournament games for ESPN’s international feed. However, that is not the same thing as calling the games for CBS and the U.S. audience.”

Traina highlighted prior instances where all of the sides worked together to make a special moment happen.

“Like his style or not,” Traina wrote. “There has not been a bigger ambassador for college basketball than Vitale. No one has had more passion and enthusiasm for the sport. He should’ve been thrown a bone a long time ago, and ESPN should’ve worked out some kind of deal with CBS/Turner to allow Vitale to call a tournament game. There is precedence for an arrangement. ESPN’s Jay Bilas was able to call tournament games for CBS/Turner for several years. And ESPN had TNT’s Craig Sager work the sidelines for an NBA Finals game for the first and only time in his career in 2016.”

The idea doesn’t seem like it would take moving mountains to pull off. If anything, it could be a selling point for CBS/Turner to promote the tournament even more. ESPN would likely want something in return for Vitale’s services. Time will tell whether Vitale ever gets to call the NCAA Tournament for an American audience.

Sports TV News

Pac-12 Networks Content Could Be Headed To ACC Network

“Dellenger and Forde report that talks to make the deal a reality are in the very early stages.”

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ESPN has been at the center of a lot of conversations about the future of college sports following the Big Ten plucking UCLA and USC out of the Pac-12. The network could be part of a broadcasting partnership that is meant to secure the futures of the Pac-12 and the ACC.

In a joint report for Sports Illustrated, Ross Dellenger and Pat Forde write that the two conferences would not merge, but that the ACC Network could get renamed and include content centered on both conferences.

A deal like this would pay dividends for all involved. The ACC would get more TV revenue and the Pac-12 would get broader distribution that it had with its proprietary Pac-12 Networks, which was reportedly struggling to even stay afloat. It could also secure the conference’s future as some members consider leaving for the Big 12. As for ESPN, this deal would put them back in business with the Pac-12.

A programming alliance between the two conferences could create some marquee non-conference matchups for football and basketball. That would give ESPN event programming to promote and sell.

Dellenger and Forde report that talks to make the deal a reality are in the very early stages. They write that “those briefed on the ACC–Pac-12 proposal believe it has plenty of hurdles to clear and details to be ironed out before becoming a reality.”

The obvious question all parties involved will want to be answered is would merging ACC Network and Pac-12 Networks content generate enough new revenue to make the move viable. Sources told Sports Illustrated that it is what they will be focused on if talks progress.

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Sports TV News

UFC Draws Record Ratings for UFC 276 Prelims on ESPN and ABC

The ratings make it the second-most watched UFC telecast since the promotion began airing on ESPN in 2019. It was also the top telecast ever for a preliminary card.

Jordan Bondurant

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UFC, ESPN and ABC have plenty to celebrate following this weekend’s UFC 276 pay-per-view.

Ratings for the preliminary card show a combined audience of 1.8 million tuned in across ABC and ESPN. ABC drew 929,000 viewers for their portion of the card, which marked the first time UFC aired in primetime on the network.

ESPN drew 871,000 in the lead-up to the main card from Las Vegas.

The ratings make it the second-most watched UFC telecast since the promotion began airing on ESPN in 2019. It was also the top telecast ever for a preliminary card.

UFC will return to ABC on July 16 but won’t air in primetime. Coverage of UFC Fight Night from UBS Arena on Long Island will air in the afternoon.

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Sports TV News

Brian Windhorst Explains What Was Behind His Viral Rant

“To be honest with you, part of what I was doing was trying to do was avoid aggregation,” he said. “Because if I come out and go I think the Jazz are going to trade Rudy Gobert today, then everything on the internet is ‘Windhorst Report: Jazz trade Gobert.’ And then maybe they don’t trade him.”

Jordan Bondurant

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There wasn’t a ton of NBA free agency news leading into the long holiday weekend last week, but what news there was became wildly more interesting thanks to ESPN’s Brian Windhorst.

Windhorst, appearing on First Take on Friday, went on an entertaining rant about the Utah Jazz trading Royce O’Neale to Brooklyn, throwing tidbits out there that insinuated more was to come.

The monologue went viral and became the subject of plenty of memes.

Talking on his podcast Brian Windhorst & The Hoop Collective, Windhorst explained that the ‘A’ block of First Take is 30 minutes long, much different than the other ESPN shows he appears on. He said he approached it from a podcasting perspective and added that First Take was really the only place he could’ve pulled something like that off given a multitude of factors.

“It had to have occurred on a show like that,” Windhorst said. “So I was able to kind of draw out and kind of have a conversation about the Utah Jazz.”

Windhorst said he knew the Jazz were going to trade Rudy Gobert, which happened not long after his rant started circulating the internet. But he said he needed to avoid tipping others in the media off or potentially even wrecking the trade before it became official.

“To be honest with you, part of what I was doing was trying to do was avoid aggregation,” he said. “Because if I come out and go I think the Jazz are going to trade Rudy Gobert today, then everything on the internet is ‘Windhorst Report: Jazz trade Gobert.’ And then maybe they don’t trade him.”

Windhorst said he knew he was becoming the subject of many a meme, but after being on the road so long and away from home covering the NBA playoffs, he didn’t really have a chance to relish in the moment.

“I came back home and had nonstop family stuff to do, and they didn’t care about any of that,” he said. “I was getting like 250 text messages and seeing all these memes, but I had to prepare for the people we had coming over for the 4th of July. I couldn’t really focus on it.”

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