For the first time in his career, legendary ESPN college basketball analyst Dick Vitale will call NCAA Men’s Division I Basketball Tournament Final Four games this year. Vitale will serve as the analyst on Final Four telecasts from Atlanta, calling a semifinal and the championship for ESPN International. Longtime ESPN college basketball analyst Jay Bilas will work the semifinal telecast not called by Vitale. Brad Nessler will call play-by-play on all three Final Four games.
The telecasts will reach sports fans in 150 countries and territories across 35 television and broadcast networks outside the United States. ESPN International will distribute the games in Latin America (Caribbean, Mexico, Central and South America), Europe, the Middle East and Africa, Australia, New Zealand and the Pacific Islands, Japan, and Canada.
Vitale, a member of the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame, has worked more than 2,000 college basketball telecasts from hundreds of venues in his 34-year career with ESPN. While he has been a studio analyst on ESPN’s coverage of the Men’s Tournament every year since he joined ESPN in 1979 – including at the Final Four every year since 1983 – he has never called a game of the marquee event. His first game assignment for ESPN was Wisconsin at DePaul on Dec. 5, 1979 (a 90-77 DePaul win).
“I am thrilled for this awesome opportunity to sit courtside for the NCAA Championship game,” said Vitale. “I learned from the great Jim Simpson years ago that the championship game is the most important moment in the athletic career to many of the kids who are playing in it. I will deliver the same enthusiasm, energy, excitement and respect as I do with every game I work. I can’t believe it. All my buddies in Italy are going to be able to hear me. I just hope they can understand what I’m saying. It’s going to be Awesome Baby, with a Capital A!”
John Wildhack, ESPN executive vice president of production, added, “Dick has played a key role in the growth of college basketball over his Hall of Fame career. Fans around the world will now experience his passion and enthusiasm for life and the game.”
Said Tim Bunnell, senior vice president, production and programming, ESPN International, “For decades, ESPN’s international networks have brought the distinctive passion and drama of college basketball to hundreds of millions of fans around the world, and Dick Vitale has brought an infectious excitement for the game to so many people. Combining the two, around one of the great annual sporting events, will deliver something truly unique for fans around the world while continuing to support the NCAA globally.”
Vitale, college basketball’s top analyst and ambassador, joined ESPN in 1979 – just after the network’s launch – following a college and pro coaching career. His thorough knowledge of the game is brought forth in an enthusiastic, passionate – but never boring – style. He writes regular pieces for ESPN.com/dickvitale, and has his own web site – www.dickvitaleonline.com.
He received the sport’s ultimate honor in 2008 when he was selected as an inductee into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame (after being named a finalist in 2004, 2006 and 2007) as a contributor. Vitale is a member of 12 halls of fame, adding the Little League Museum Hall of Excellence and National Sportscasters and Sportswriters Association Awards (NSSA) Hall of Fame in 2012.
In addition to his dedication to basketball, Vitale is a passionate philanthropist. He’s on the Board of Directors of The V Foundation, a non-profit organization dedicated to finding a cure for cancer and founded in 1993 by ESPN and the late Jim Valvano. He hosts an annual V Foundation Gala in Florida which gathers numerous celebrities to raise money and honor individuals such as Krzyzewski, Bob Knight, Roy Williams, Billy Donovan and Pat Summitt. Additionally, he works very closely with many other charitable organizations, including the Boys & Girls Club of Sarasota (Fla.), which named a building after him for his great contributions — The Dick Vitale Physical Education and Health Training Center.