Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Rundown of Dick Vitale's college basketball TV partners

This week, ESPN college basketball analyst Dick Vitale is scheduled to call a game with Karl Ravech for the first time. Ravech will become the sixth play-by-play announcer this season to receive a first-ever TV pairing with Dickie V.

After noticing a recent flurry of such first-time pairings, I wondered how many different play-by-play partners have shared the broadcast table with Vitale over the years. So I attempted to compile a list of all play-by-play announcers who have worked with Vitale on college basketball. (Note: I am almost certainly missing some announcers from the early ESPN years as these the hardest to research.)

Vitale called the first college basketball game ever on ESPN back in December 1979 alongside Joe Boyle. Eventually, ESPN paired him regularly with Jim Simpson. In subsequent years, his most common ESPN partners included Mike Patrick, Tim Brando, Brad Nessler, and Dan Shulman. When ABC started carrying college games, he frequently worked with Keith Jackson and later Brent Musburger.

The list is a mix of prestigious broadcasters and lesser-known voices. One interesting name (perhaps surprising to some) is Al Michaels who worked a single time with Vitale (the 1989 Pac-10 championship game on ABC).

I find the pattern intriguing. Starting from the late 1980s, Vitale was acquiring about two new partners per year. Then after 1997, Vitale went without any new partners until 2005 and only picked up three additions to this list from through 2013. However, a few years ago, ESPN installed Jay Bilas as its top analyst to work with Shulman on the highest profile games. This move has resulted in Vitale working with a wide variety of first-time partners in recent seasons (10 since 2014).

Here is the list that my research uncovered (with calendar year of the first such telecast for which I found evidence). Again, note that I am very likely to be missing some names from the first decade.
  1. Joe Boyle - 1979
  2. Jim Simpson - 1980 
  3. Jim Thacker - 1982
  4. Fred White - 1982
  5. Bob Ley - 1983
  6. John Sanders- 1983
  7. Kevin Slaten - 1983
  8. Mike Patrick - 1983
  9. Sam Rosen - 1984
  10. Rich Winter - 1984
  11. Tim Brando - 1985
  12. Jim Kelly - 1986
  13. Andy McWilliams - 1986
  14. Bob Rathbun - 1986
  15. John Saunders - 1987
  16. Keith Jackson - 1987
  17. Gary Bender - 1988
  18. Al Michaels - 1989
  19. Roger Twibell - 1989
  20. Barry Tompkins - 1989
  21. Ron Franklin - 1990
  22. Bob Carpenter - 1990
  23. Wayne Larrivee - 1991
  24. Gary Thorne - 1991
  25. Sean McDonough - 1992
  26. Brent Musburger - 1992
  27. Brad Nessler - 1992
  28. Joel Meyers - 1993
  29. Dave Sims - 1995
  30. Dan Shulman - 1995
  31. Dave Barnett - 1996
  32. Mike Tirico - 1997
  33. Mark Jones - 1997
  34. Dave Pasch - 2005
  35. Dave O'Brien - 2007
  36. Jon Sciambi - 2011
  37. Bob Wischusen - 2014
  38. Rich Hollenburg - 2014
  39. Adam Amin 2015
  40. Rece Davis - 2016
  41. Mike Morgan - 2016
  42. Jason Benetti - 2016
  43. Dave Flemming - 2016
  44. Doug Sherman - 2016
  45. Tom Hart - 2017
  46. Karl Ravech - 2017

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