Hall of Famer Dick Vitale, college basketball’s top analyst and ambassador, has reached a new contract extension to remain with ESPN through the 2014-2015 season, it was announced by Norby Williamson, ESPN executive vice president, production.
“Simply put, Dick Vitale is college basketball,” Williamson said. “He embodies all the great characteristics of the sport he loves and has entertained millions with his unmatched passion and knowledge for more than 30 years. Dick’s connection with fans of all ages is stronger than it’s ever been and we’re thrilled he will continue for years to come.”
Vitale added: “There is nothing greater than walking into an arena and feeling the excitement and energy of a big-time college basketball game. I can’t thank ESPN enough for allowing me to be a kid at heart by giving me the opportunity to sit courtside for games I would pay top dollar to see. I’m living a dream. I’ve been extremely blessed to work with so many beautiful people and to talk about the game I love.”
Vitale joined ESPN during the 1979-80 season — just after the network’s September 1979 launch — following a successful coaching career. He called ESPN’s first-ever major NCAA basketball game – Wisconsin at DePaul on Dec. 5, 1979 (a 90-77 DePaul win). Since then, he’s called more than a thousand games.
Beyond the numerous awards he’s received for his work, including the sport’s highest honor in 2008 (Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame inductee in the contributor category), Vitale has been recognized for his many charitable contributions. He’s been an outspoken and passionate fundraiser and board member for The V Foundation for Cancer Research and has also worked closely with the Boys & Girls Club and Make-A-Wish, among other organizations.
While his knowledge, preparation and enthusiasm are unparalleled, his “Vitale-isms” have become part of the sports lexicon, including “Awesome, Baby!,” “Get a TO, Baby!” and “PTP’er.” Vitale, who has authored nine books, has been selected for nine halls of fame. In addition to TV, he contributes to numerous other ESPN outlets, including ESPN Radio, ESPN.com and more.
Vitale’s roots are in teaching the game he’s loved since childhood. Following college, he got a job teaching at Mark Twain Elementary School (Garfield, N.J.) and coaching junior high school football and basketball. He began coaching for eight years at the high school level in 1963, and in 1970, moved on to his first of seven years of college jobs with Rutgers and later University of Detroit. In May 1978, he was named head coach of the NBA’s Detroit Pistons, the job he held prior to joining ESPN.