ESPNU announces the Don Meyer Classic – in recognition of the all-time NCAA wins leader in men’s basketball, who has inoperable carcinoid cancer – featuring his former team, Northern State, at Belmont on Tuesday, Nov. 9 at 7 p.m. ET on ESPNU HD. Dave O’Brien will call the game, along with analyst Fran Fraschilla and contributing analyst Buster Olney.
The start of the season for both programs, Northern State will be taking to the court for the first time without Meyer, who retired at the end of the 2009-10 season. During the telecast, segments will take viewers inside Meyer’s story and document his illustrious career. Meyer has faced Belmont head coach Rick Byrd more than any other coach in his career.
Meyer is the winningest men’s college basketball coach among any division in NCAA history, earning 923 wins in a career that spanned four decades at three different institutions. Meyer coached his first three years at Hamline (1972-75), spent the bulk of his profession at Lipscomb (1975-99) and recently retired from Northern State (1999-2010). He continues at Northern State as a Regents Distinguished Professor and Assistant to the President.
Meyer was in a car crash on Sept. 5, 2008, which eventually cost him his left leg. During emergency surgery it was discovered he had cancer of the liver and intestines. At the age of 63, Meyer’s entire perspective on life changed, and guided by his faith, family and friends, he returned to the court and ultimately passed Bob Knight’s all-time NCAA wins record in men’s basketball.
“I am honored that ESPN has decided to televise the Northern State at Belmont game,” said Meyer. “Not only will this highlight two great basketball programs and academic institutions, it provides an opportunity for Carmen and me to return to Nashville to be with our children and grandchildren, along with many friends we made while working at Lipscomb. It will be fun to visit with Coach Byrd – he is a great coach and a greater friend.”
Meyer was awarded the Jimmy V Award For Perseverance at the 2009 ESPY Awards, and most recently received the 2010 John W. Bunn Lifetime Achievement Award, given by the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame for significant contributions to the sport.
Olney, ESPN The Magazine senior writer and an analyst for ESPN’s Baseball Tonight, authored the book “How Lucky You Can Be, The Story of Coach Don Meyer,” available Nov. 9 (Ballantine Books/ESPN Books). Olney developed a close relationship with Meyer when he was assigned to cover baseball in Nashville while Meyer was head coach at Lipscomb.
“Don is one of the most influential people within the college coaching ranks,” said Olney. “If you talk to Pat Summitt, Bob Knight or Tubby Smith, they will all tell you how important he is to the sport and the people he has touched. Within the collegiate coaching circles, he is considered a legend.
Olney continued, “I have known Don for more than 20 years, starting when I worked in the Nashville area coming out of college and covering him at Lipscomb. I have seen what an incredible impact he has had on the lives of the players he coached and people that worked around him.”
Byrd has also had a lengthy career, including the last 24 years at Belmont. He led Belmont in its transition from an NAIA institution to a NCAA Division I contender as part of the Atlantic Sun in 2001-02. Byrd and Meyer coached against each other 37 times, including 34 times while Byrd has been at Belmont. Meyer holds the all-time series advantage with a 12-25 record.
The 24-hour college sports television network televises more than 650 live events annually and offers over 400 original studio shows. ESPNU has seen a dramatic increase since its inception on March 4, 2005 and is now in over 73 million households. The brand is also available in high definition on ESPNU HD, now in over 17 million homes.