40 years ago today, one of the most significant events in college sports TV history took place - the first Super Sunday college basketball TV game. On Sunday 1/14/1973, the ACC and the regional Chesley network produced a national telecast of the NC State at Maryland game on the day of Super Bowl 7.
At the time, college basketball was primarily a regional sport and schools almost never played on Sundays. However, the ACC and TV rightsholder C.D. Chesley decided to schedule this matchup on Sunday, line up 145 stations throughout the country (with help from the Hughes Sports Network), and syndicate this game nationally.
The idea was to provide a sports viewing option to lead fans into the Super Bowl pregame programming. The basketball game started at noon ET so it would end well before the Dolphins and Redskins kicked off at 3:30 pm ET. Chesley originally considered televising this game nationally on Saturday 1/13, but believed he could clear more stations for a Sunday telecast.
The game spotlighted the top two teams in the ACC. Maryland was ranked #2 and featured Tom McMillen, Len Elmore, and John Lucas. NC State was ranked #3 and led by David Thompson and Tom Burleson. All five of these players would become first round NBA draft picks.
Ray Scott and Billy Packer were the announcers for this historic telecast. Even though Jim Thacker was the primary play-by-play announcer on the regional Chesley network, the ACC felt that the unique national stage for this game required a more recognized announcer such as Scott to be the lead voice. Scott of course was a high-profile NFL broadcaster who had called three Super Bowls for CBS. Chesley did include Thacker on the telecast for sideline features.
This game also put Packer in front of a nationwide audience for the first time. The first national network TV deal for the sport was still three years away, but this telecast helped position Packer for the analyst role on that package.
The event worked out perfectly for Chesley as NC State won a thrilling contest 87-85 behind 37 points from Thompson who burst onto the national scene that afternoon. An estimated 25 million TV viewers watched the game, exceeding Chesley's expectations.
A year later, the ACC and Chesley again televised a game nationally on Super Bowl Sunday between the same two schools. That Maryland at NC State game on 1/13/1974 started at 1 pm ET with Thacker and Packer on the call. Scott broadcast the Super Bowl on CBS later that day.
The ACC has a long history of Super Bowl Sunday telecasts and it all started in 1973.