It’s the end of an era for Saturday night college basketball games at ESPN, as the network has made the decision to replace analyst Dick Vitale with Jay Bilas, Inside Blitz can exclusively report.
According to multiple people close to the show, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the move has not yet been publicly announced, ESPN recently made the decision to promote Bilas to calling the Saturday night game in addition to extending his contract with the network through 2023. Vitale had been calling the Saturday primetime games with Dan Shulman since 2005, when they debuted.
An ESPN spokesman had no comment.
The Saturday primetime change makes sense for Bilas, since he’s already on site for Gameday, a show he’s been part of since it was created nine years ago.
For longtime fans of the ebullient Vitale, don’t worry, he’s not going anywhere. He’s still going to call college basketball games all season for ESPN, and he too had his contract extended (to 2017), a source at ESPN tells us.
As has been documented here, there are several changes coming to ESPN’s college basketball coverage this season. Former Connecticut coach Jim Calhoun has been added to the ESPN roster to provide analysis, and so have former coaches Stan Heath and Craig Robinson. Former Duke star Shane Battier is going to be part of ESPN’s college basketball coverage this season, too.
And Gameday is shaking up the set: Out with Jalen Rose and Digger Phelps, in with Seth Greenberg and Jay Williams. ESPN confirmed that yesterday. There’s one more wrinkle to the show: Instead of announcing the sites in the preseason, ESPN announced it will do what College Football’s Gameday does – make a decision each week based on games that matter most or have the best storyline.
So when Duke is unbeaten in January, and travels to Louisville on the 17th, Gameday will almost certainly be there, even though there’s a chance they’ll have been at a Louisville game the week prior, when the Cardinals play at UNC. All three of those teams should be in the Top 15 all season.
This exchanged happened Sunday on CBS Sports Network’s, “The Other Pregame show,” according to the New York Daily News:
"When explaining Bortles’ attributes, Tierney spoke of the quarterback’s presence on and off the field, which includes “his beautiful fiancé.” Amy Trask, who previously worked in the Raiders’ front office: What does “the beauty of a player’s girlfriend or fiancé have to do with anything?” Tierney: “A man with the confidence to pursue then eventually secure a beautiful woman, well, I feel pretty good about that guy in the huddle telling 10 other guys what to do.” Trask: “Wow, wow. I don’t even know where to begin with you on this, to quantify a woman. Beauty takes on many forms.” "
So Lindsay Duke is a big enough deal to get asked about by teams interviewing him at the NFL Combine, get talked about on ESPN Gameday last season, and get discussed by coaches … but she’s out of bounds on a Sunday morning NFL pregame show that a handful of people are watching?
While I’d agree with Trask that there’s zero correlation between the ability to “secure a beautiful woman” and take command of a huddle – I certainly think it’s OK to bring her name up on a pregame show setting. It’s not like that cast is breaking down game film and Xs and Os. How many times have NBC/CBS/ESPN/Fox mentioned Tom Brady and Gisele over the years?
LOCK OF THE WEEK
Lesson learned: Never, ever ride with Brady Hoke in a must win, save-your-job spot. The Wolverines gagged at home and lost some sort of jug to hapless Minnesota, and Hoke is a goner. That makes three straight losses for the Lock of the Week. As such, it’s time to rebound. Dennis Rodman-with-the-Bulls style: We’re quadrupling down.
TCU +5 at home against Oklahoma. The Sooners looked impressive in the second half in Morgantown last week, pulling away from WVU 45-33. But this pick is mostly about next week’s opponent for Oklahoma: Rival Texas. Also, in the last two losses to the Sooners, TCU lost by a combined 10 points.
Baylor -17 at Texas. Can you believe some Longhorns actually put down the Bears this week? Absurd. If this column ran Fridays, I’d recommend just the 1st half line – where Baylor has been a lock all season. No team in college football executives better offensively. Art Briles may get 35 in the first half on the Longhorns.
Mississippi +6.5 vs. Alabama. Did you see the Rebels struggle with Memphis last week (as predicted)? Ole Miss nearly got caught looking ahead, but covered with a late TD. This is the season for the Rebels, who have the athletes to play with the Tide. This is Alabama’s first true road game. Ole Miss beat LSU at home last year, and nearly beat Johnny Manziel.
Mississippi State -1 vs. Texas A&M. The Aggies were lucky to rally and beat Arkansas on a neutral field in overtime last week, while the Bulldogs came off the biggest victory of the Dan Mullen era, winning in Baton Rouge. The line opened with the Aggies -1.5 and has flipped so that the Bulldogs are the favorite. Will it hit -3 by kickoff? What the heck, why not Dak?
Odds and Ends:
After nearly 25 years at the Tampa Bay Times, Gary Shelton is departing … Sideline reporter Jamie Little leaves ESPN/ABC after 16 years and heads to Fox Sports … Jesse Palmer, the college football TV analyst, will also be hosting a “Food Truck Face Off” show on the Food Network … TNT’s Kenny Smith and his wife are getting a reality TV show … former Philadelphia sports broadcaster admitted in court on Monday that he defrauded more than 200 people and several local charities of more than $300,000 in a scheme that promised cheap tour packages to the Super Bowl and other events … Josh Elliott of NBC Sports got engaged to New York ABC news anchor Liz Cho.