Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Wilt 100 documentary on NBA TV

NBA TV is premiering a documentary on the Wilt Chamberlain 100 point game on Fri 3/2 at 7 pm ET. This marks the 50th anniversary of this historic game which went untelevised. This documentary which will be narrated by Bill Russell sounds extremely interesting.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Chronology of NCAA Tournament TV coverage (1982-1990)

CBS took over the network rights to the NCAA Tournament in 1982 and expanded its coverage over what NBC had done. Here is a summary of my research on NCAA tournament TV coverage for this time period: (all times are ET)

Note: The above link takes you to a section of 506sports which contains detailed TV schedules and announcers for these tournaments (free registration required to view).

UPDATE: This is the second of a three-part series. The first installment covers 1969-1981 while the third one covers 1991-present.


CBS introduced a half hour show on 3/7 at 5:30 pm to announce the 1982 tournament bracket on what is now known as Selection Sunday. CBS added coverage of the opening round with live late night games from the West Region on Thursday and Friday at 11:30 pm. On the opening weekend, CBS televised a tripleheader on Saturday beginning with a national telecast at noon and a regional doubleheader on Sunday. CBS actually televised an NBA game at noon on Sunday before its NCAA coverage, but would never cover an NBA game on an NCAA Tournament day again. For the regional semifinals, CBS carried a live 11:30 pm game from the West Region on Thursday and a tape delay game in the same timeslot on Friday. CBS also moved the first Final Four Saturday game to 3:30 pm. When NBC had the rights, the first Final Four game often started at 1 or 2 pm. The #1 CBS announcer team was Gary Bender and Billy Packer.

NCAA Productions televised all tournament games not picked up by CBS. ESPN continued to pick up many of these feeds and carried live doubleheaders on the opening Thursday and Friday nights. ESPN also ran many games on tape delay after the CBS 11:30 telecast both nights. For the regional semis, ESPN carried a prime time doubleheader each night along with a tape delay game after the CBS late night window.

In 1983, the tournament added four play-in games on the opening Tuesday. ESPN carried a live prime time doubleheader that night and showed the other two games on tape delay. Otherwise, the tournament coverage was similar to 1982.

In 1984, CBS expanded the opening weekend to a Sunday tripleheader which begin with a national telecast at noon. The rest of the CBS coverage was the same as the previous two years. This year there were five play-in games on the opening Tuesday. ESPN showed three of these live and the other two on tape delay. In the late night window on the Friday night of the 1984 regional semis, CBS provided regional coverage between a live game and another on tape delay. Otherwise, all of the CBS late night games of this era were national telecasts.


In 1985, the tournament expanded to 64 teams which eliminated the Tuesday play-in round. ESPN expanded its opening round coverage to carry five live games starting at noon on Thursday leading up to the 11:30 pm game on CBS. Then ESPN ran other games on tape delay overnight and the next morning. ESPN did the same thing on Friday. This resulted in almost non-stop basketball for 55 consecutive hours from Thursday noon through early Saturday evening. During its coverage, ESPN would also provide live cut-ins on other NCAA Productions games often providing the finish of a close game. However, the NCAA placed limits on how much live action ESPN could show from games other than the one it had selected as its primary telecast in that timeslot.

CBS also expanded the regional semifinals to a doubleheader each night in 1985. On Thursday CBS provided regional coverage of two games at 9 pm and carried a tape delay game at 11:30 pm. On Friday CBS aired a game at 10 pm and a tape delay game at 12:30 am. This left ESPN with only one live game each night. CBS also set the game times for the regional finals as 1:30 pm and 4 pm on both Saturday and Sunday, a pattern that would remain intact through 1990. Brent Musburger took over in 1985 as the CBS lead play-by-play voice and called the Final Four with Packer.

The 1986 and 1987 coverage was essentially the same as 1985. One interesting note from 1987 is that CBS televised a live game in the Friday night regional semifinal 12:30 am window. This marks the latest start time ever for a live NCAA Tournament telecast. Also, 1987 was the last year that CBS televised a tournament game on tape delay. During this era, when CBS aired a game on tape delay, in some cases a CBS affiliate in the local market of one of the schools would televise the game live.


In 1988, CBS took over the entire regional semifinals round showing doubleheaders both nights with two games regionalized in each window with tip times staggered by about 25 minutes. On these nights, CBS would only come on the air at 7:30 pm for tournament coverage in those markets which aired the 7:30 pm game in the early regional window. In all other markets the CBS prime time tournament coverage didn't start until 8 pm. CBS also moved the opening Final Four Saturday game to 5:30 pm. The 1989 coverage was similar to 1988.

In 1990, CBS expanded the opening Saturday to a quadrupleheader. Otherwise, the coverage was similar to the previous two years. This was the last year of the 11:30 pm CBS games from the opening round. It was also the final year of the ESPN/NCAA Productions involvement as CBS would take over the entire tournament the following season.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Chronology of NCAA Tournament TV coverage (1969-1981)

The TV coverage of the early years of the NCAA Tournament was a far cry from the live national coverage of every game that we have today. Here is a summary of my research on NCAA tournament TV coverage for this time period:

Note: The above link takes you to a section of 506sports which contains detailed TV schedules and announcers for these tournaments (free registration required to view).

UPDATE: This is the first of a three-part series. The second installment covers 1982-1990 while the third one covers 1991-present.


NBC started covering the NCAA Tournament in 1969. On the opening day of that tournament (Saturday 3/8) NBC televised a doubleheader. On Saturday 3/15, NBC provided a regional doubleheader of the regional finals with each market getting just two of the four regional final games. The Final Four was on Thursday night 3/20, but each market only got one of the two national semifinals. NBC showed the early game in the eastern half of the USA and the late game in the western half. On Saturday afternoon 3/22, NBC televised the consolation game followed by the championship game.

At the time, the NCAA placed teams into the tournament bracket based on geography so, for example, the West Regional only contained western schools. Also, the Final Four pairings were always locked in as East vs Mideast and Midwest vs West. These factors facilitated NBC in regionalizing its TV coverage essentially by geography and time zone no matter what schools were involved.

NBC used the same scheduling pattern through 1972. Therefore, during these years, each market received only seven games of the entire tournament on NBC (and one of those was the meaningless consolation game). This also meant that many areas of the country never got a chance to see UCLA until the championship game.

Interestingly, in each of these years, CBS televised the NIT championship game head-to-head against the NCAA consolation game on NBC.

Curt Gowdy and Jim Simpson called the Final Four for NBC in 1969 and 1970. Gowdy and Tom Hawkins formed the #1 team starting in 1971.


In 1973, the NCAA moved the Final Four to a Saturday/Monday format. For the first time, NBC televised both national semifinals nationally on Saturday afternoon. NBC aired the championship game in prime time on Monday night and stopped covering the consolation game. For the rest of the tournament, NBC used the same TV schedule pattern as for 1969-1972. The 1974 TV coverage was the same as in 1973.

In 1975, NBC expanded its opening Saturday coverage to a tripleheader. NBC also expanded its regional finals coverage to a tripleheader (with one timeslot featuring regional coverage of two games). So each market got to see three of the four regional finals. Also, in 1975, Billy Packer replaced Hawkins as the lead analyst and called the Final Four with Gowdy.

The 1976 TV coverage was the same as in 1975. From an announcer standpoint, NBC used Dick Enberg and Gowdy essentially as co-#1 play-by-play announcers. Each called one national semi with Packer. For the championship game, NBC put Gowdy and Enberg together (with Curt handling play-by-play) and relegated Packer to the studio.

During the early NBC years, the TVS television network syndicated many NCAA tournament games which NBC did not cover.


In 1977, NBC added Sunday coverage to the opening weekend and went with doubleheaders on both Saturday and Sunday. In a unique change of pace, on Thursday night 3/17, NBC also provided prime time regional coverage of four regional semifinal games with each market getting one game. This was the only year that NBC provided any coverage of this round. NCAA Productions syndicated the other four regional semifinals plus all other tournament games (including the Final Four consolation game) which NBC did not carry. NBC handled the announcer situation for the Final Four similarly to 1976, but this time added Packer to the championship game booth with Gowdy and Enberg.

In 1978, NBC continued to show Saturday and Sunday doubleheaders on the opening weekend, but covered three games regionally in each timeslot. Prior to this season, NBC would either show a national game or just two regional games in each opening weekend timeslot. Also, the NCAA scheduled two of the regional finals on Sunday so, for the first time, NBC televised all four regional finals nationally. NBC dropped the Thursday night regional semifinals coverage, but otherwise used the same schedule pattern as in 1977 for the remainder of the tournament. NCAA Productions carried the entire regional semifinals round and continued to televise all tournament games not picked up by NBC. In 1978, Gowdy called one national semi, but this time NBC assigned Enberg the lead play-by-play role for the championship game. Enberg called that contest with Packer and Al McGuire. That trio called all the Final Four games through 1981.

The NBC schedule for 1979-1981 was essentially the same as in 1978 except that NBC included all 16 games on the opening weekend as part of its regional coverage.

In 1980, six-month old ESPN picked up the NCAA Productions feeds of two games on the opening Thursday night and three on the opening Friday night of the tournament. ESPN also picked up these feeds for the regional semifinals the following Thu/Fri carrying five games live and the other three on tape delay.

In 1981, ESPN aired the NCAA Productions telecasts of all 16 Thu/Fri first round games (four live and the remainder on tape delay). ESPN provided the same regional semis coverage as in 1980.

ESPN also carried the NCAA Productions feed for the Final Four consolation game in both 1980 and 1981.

Monday, February 13, 2012

ESPN Classic replay of 1960 World Series game 7

ESPN Classic is replaying game 7 of the 1960 World Series on Tues 2/14 at 7 pm ET. This classic TV footage comes from the kinescope found in the wine cellar of Bing Crosby that was previously featured in a special aired on MLB Network in December 2010. The NBC telecast was called by Bob Prince and Mel Allen.

Here is the complete list of baseball rebroadcasts on ESPN Classic on Tues 2/14:
  • 1986 ALCS game 5 at noon
  • 1986 World Series game 6 at 2 pm
  • 1997 World Series game 7 at 4 pm
  • 1960 World Series game 7 at 7 pm

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Research tools

Here are various sources I have found helpful in researching sports TV history and in constructing historical TV schedules and announcer assignments:

Online newspaper/magazine archives
  • Historical newspaper digital archives such as Proquest, Newsbank, and Factiva. Many public and school libraries offer online access to one or more of these databases. Check with your library for the appropriate URLs and logon details.
  • Google News Archive has a collection of archived newspapers, some of which are free. It also provides subsets of the "paid" content in the free search results.
  • The SI Vault is a fascinating collection from the archives of Sports Illustrated, but the magazine has has a relatively small amount of coverage in the area of broadcasting.

Original game footage
  • Youtube contains a large volume of original game clips. While the majority of the content is quite recent, the site does have a sizable amount of footage from the 1990s and 1980s, a fair amount from the 1970s, and some from earlier years.
  • ESPN Classic replays a number of original game telecasts (mostly college football and basketball from ABC or the ESPN networks.). Regional sports networks such as MASN, conference networks such as BTN, and league owned networks such as MLBN, NFLN, NBATV, also rebroadcast older games.
  • TV4U has a relatively small inventory, but some truly classic material including a 1956 college basketball game called by a then 27-year old Keith Jackson.

  • Regular Google searching can provide useful information. For example, some sports DVD/tape trading sites list announcers.
  • Many official college web sites contain archived game notes with TV/radio announcer information. 

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

NFLN documentary on 1971 Dolphins-Chiefs playoff game

NFL Network will be replaying its 40th anniversary special titled "The Longest Game Ever Played" which covers the 12/25/1971 Dolphins-Chiefs double OT AFC playoff game. This was the first time that the NFL ever scheduled games on Christmas Day. That decision generated a fair amount of controversy at the time and the NFL wouldn't do so again for 18 years.

I recorded this show when NFLN first aired it in December and found it quite interesting. The documentary includes a lot of unique NFL Films footage and features modern interviews with many of the participants looking back on the game. The special also contains some original NBC video footage of the second OT period, but that footage was accompanied by radio clips, not the NBC TV audio. This aspect was disappointing especially since Don Banks on had previewed this show and claimed that it would contain some original Curt Gowdy audio.

Here is the replay schedule: 
  • Tue 2/7 at 11:59 pm
  • Wed 2/8 at 5 pm

Sunday, February 5, 2012

The myth of three consecutive buzzer beaters in the 1981 NCAA tournament

Saturday 3/14/1981 was unquestionably one of the more memorable days in NCAA tournament history. NBC televised a regional doubleheader and the day featured these three shocking last second finishes (but not quite in the way that a myth would have you believe):

  • St Joseph's over DePaul on a John Smith layup
  • Arkansas over Louisville on a halfcourt shot by U.S. Reed
  • Kansas St over Oregon St on a Rolando Blackmon jumper

DePaul and Oregon St were both 1-seeds and were ranked #1 and #2 in the country. Louisville was the defending champion. All three received first round byes and all there were ousted in the second round.

I watched the action on NBC that day. In the early afternoon timeslot, St Joseph's stunned DePaul with Don Criqui exclaiming "Look at this! Look at this!" as the winning play developed.

The other two thrillers were in the late afternoon timeslot and ended very close to one another. NBC (which was covering four regional games in that timeslot) had taken viewers live to see Marv Albert and Bucky Waters call the end of the Arkansas game. After the Reed halfcourt shot, NBC quickly switched everyone to the live ending of the Kansas St game with Jay Randolph and Steve Grote at the mikes.

The late afternoon fireworks took place about two hours after DePaul was upset. However if you perform a Google search on this, you will find multiple sites and blogs which talk about this day featuring three consecutive buzzer beaters and some which claim that the St Joseph's win was the last of the three fantastic finishes.

And the misinformation on this is not limited to so-called amateur publishers. In 2002, Alexander Wolff on contributed to this myth and claimed that these three games finished "within minutes". In 2006, was at it again, as Tim Layden described the DePaul and Oregon State finishes as being "televised minutes apart on NBC".

Most surprisingly, Gary Thompson who was the NBC analyst on the St Joseph's game perpetuated this myth in a 2005 quote which appeared on

Thompson was also involved in what was arguably one of the greatest five-minute stretches in NCAA Tournament history in 1981.

"It was called the greatest live switch in NCAA history," Thompson said. "I was broadcasting the DePaul-St. Joseph's game, where top-seeded DePaul was upset in the final seconds to this unheralded St. Joseph's team. When the game ended, we immediately went live to the Arkansas-Louisville game just in time to see U.S. Reed's famous halfcourt shot at the buzzer to win the game for Arkansas. When that ended, we switched live to the Kansas State-Oregon State game and saw Rolando Blackman drive down the sideline and hit the fadeaway shot from the corner to win the game in the final seconds for the Wildcats."

For the record, Thompson was calling the Indiana-Maryland game with Criqui during the late afternoon window. But since he was directly involved in the telecast of one of these fantastic finishes, you would think he might have a better recollection of the facts.

So why has this myth persisted? I have a guess. I recall that the sports report on many news programs that weekend ran highlights of these buzzer beaters. And I remember NBC doing the same thing on its tournament coverage the next afternoon. I suspect that many people who didn't see these games live watched these highlight packages. The images of the three finishes consecutively in highlight format likely caused people to incorrectly perceive the three games as actually finishing back-to-back-to-back.

In any case, I have always believed that the games on 3/14/1981 and the NBC live switches to catch the ending of the two late afternoon games helped jumpstart the phenomenon now called March Madness.