College Basketball on NBC

College Basketball on NBC
Genre College basketball telecasts
Presented by See List of College Basketball on NBC personalities
Country of origin United States
Original language(s) English
Camera setup Multi-camera
Running time 120 minutes or until end of game
Production company(s) NBC Sports
Original network NBC
Picture format 480i (SDTV)
Original release March 8, 1969 (1969-03-08) – February 28, 1998 (1998-02-28)
External links

College Basketball on NBC is the branding used for broadcasts of NCAA Division I men's college basketball games formerly produced by NBC Sports, the sports division of the NBC television network in the United States. The network broadcast college basketball games in some shape or form between 1969 and 1998.


From 1969 to 1981,[1] NBC covered the NCAA Men's Division I Basketball Tournament. It became the first major network to broadcast the championship game, at a cost of more than US$500,000 in 1969.


NBC did not start airing regular season games until about 1975–76,[2] when the network partnered with the ad-hoc sports service TVS Television Network. While NBC Sports' on-air talent was used, the production was covered by TVS. By this point, NBC would air regional and national games on Saturdays, and national games (called by Dick Enberg, Al McGuire[3] and Billy Packer[4]) on Sundays. As for the regional telecasts on Saturdays, typically in the Northeast, before the game featuring the Big East or Atlantic 10 conferences, it was the "ECAC Game of the Week".

For NBC's first year of tournament coverage in 1969, the network aired the consolation game nationally and the national semifinals on a regional basis (which were held on a Thursday night). 1972 marked the final year that NBC aired the consolation game. The following year marked the first time that the Final Four was held on a Saturday, and was the first prime time championship game[5] to air on NBC.

By 1974, NBC was providing coverage of nine games in seven windows (a far cry from the current tournament coverage). 1974 also marked the first year that Billy Packer helped commentate an NCAA tournament game, starting a streak continued well into the 2000s. The following year, NBC aired ten games in nine windows – presenting the regional finals as a tripleheader with regional coverage in the middle time slot; this was also the first year that Billy Packer covered the Final Four.

Coverage of the 1976 tournament served as an awkward transition period from Curt Gowdy to Dick Enberg. Although Enberg was NBC's lead college basketball play-by-play announcer during the regular season, Gowdy had a clause in his contract to do the NCAA championship game. As a compromise, NBC decided to put each of them on one national semifinal game along with Billy Packer. Then for the title game, both play-by-play voices worked together while Packer was relegated to the network's New York City studio (where he worked with Bryant Gumbel and Lee Leonard).


In the 1977–78 season, C.D. Chesley (who controlled the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) rights at the time) wanted NBC to televise select ACC games as part of its national package as it had the previous few years. However, NBC wanted to feature intersectional games. This action greatly upset Chesley, who wound up selling the rights to the ACC Tournament final to ABC. As a result, there was a notable absence of ACC home games in NBC's college basketball schedule for the 1977–78 season.

In 1978, NBC aired all regional finals games nationally for the first time, moving two of the games to Sunday. While Dick Enberg served as the play-by-play announcer for NBC's Final Four coverage, Curt Gowdy moved over to a hosting role for the Final Four coverage.

On February 25, 1979, NBC added a game featuring the undefeated Indiana State (which went up against Wichita State on that particular day). This was the first time that Larry Bird played on a national basketball telecast.[6] Also in 1979, the tournament expanded to add Thursday and Friday first-round games (done by NCAA Productions, which also again produced the regional semifinals). Like it did the previous year, NBC split up the analysts from its primary announcer team for the first two weekends of the tournament, with Jim Simpson (in his last year with NBC before moving on to the newly launched ESPN cable network) working with Billy Packer while Dick Enberg worked with Al McGuire.

NBC's coverage of the 1979 NCAA championship game between Indiana State and Michigan State to this day, remains the highest-rated game in the history of televised college basketball. The final game marked the beginning of the rivalry between future Hall of Famers Magic Johnson and Larry Bird. Both Johnson and Bird would enter the NBA in the fall of 1979, and the rivalry between them and their respective teams (the Los Angeles Lakers and Boston Celtics) was a major factor in the league's renaissance in the 1980s and 1990s. The game also led to the "modern era" of college basketball, as it introduced a nationwide audience to a sport that was once relegated to second-class status in the sports world.

In NBC's final year covering the NCAA tournament, 1981 (on March 14[7] to be exact), the network introduced a policy of switching from game to game (and buzzer beater to buzzer beater, for that matter) on the fly. Before this, NBC would naturally, would stay with the regionally-televised games to their conclusion.

After losing the Division I Basketball Tournament rights (1982–1989)

After NBC lost the tournament rights to CBS (which started a separate regular season package) beginning in 1982, they continued with TVS through 1983, wrapping up with the ACC Tournament Final[8] (which NBC had traditionally wrapped up their coverage with, by this point). After TVS went back to broadcasting separate, regional games beginning in 1983–84 (in the 1986–87 season for instance, NBC carried several Pac-10 telecasts on a regional basis), NBC was left to pick up the games that CBS did not want (save for the ACC Final) for the rest of the 1980s.

During this period, NBC's promotional slogan for its game broadcasts was "College basketball, it's the stuff Saturdays are made of!"[9][10] Another slogan that NBC used in game promotions was "Sunday come on home to college basketball on NBC!"[11]

Decline (1990–1998)

With CBS and ESPN gaining strength in the 1990s, all NBC could put together was a 4–5 game package featuring a then-mediocre Notre Dame program. By the 1992–93 season, NBC only broadcast two games, both involving Notre Dame (a February 6 contest against Duke, and a February 13 contest against Kentucky). NBC was seeing much more success with its broadcasts of Notre Dame football games than the team's basketball telecasts by this point.

In the meantime, NBC also aired the Wooden Classic from 1994 to 1996, as well as occasionally showing non-Notre Dame related games such as those between the Oklahoma Sooners and Kansas Jayhawks in 1991, Virginia Cavaliers and North Carolina Tar Heels in 1992, Syracuse Orange-West Virginia Mountaineers in 1997 and 1998, and the Boston College Eagles and Georgetown Hoyas in 1998.

NBC's final college basketball broadcast to date was a February 28, 1998 contest between Notre Dame and the Providence Friars. NBC continues to maintain a broadcasting relationship with the university as it airs all Notre Dame football home games and select away games.

Present day

The NBC broadcast network does not currently televise any college basketball games, however its sister cable channel NBCSN currently broadcasts games from the Mountain West Conference under the Mountain West College Basketball brand. NBCSN also shows the Mountain West Men's and Women's Conference Championships.

On February 13, 2012, the Colonial Athletic Association became the first collegiate athletic conference to sign a broadcast agreement with the then NBC Sports Network. The five-year deal beginning with the 2012-13 season, would provide national television coverage of a minimum of 12 men's basketball games each year, including the semifinals and finals of the CAA Men's Basketball Championship. The deal, which also involves the Comcast SportsNet slater of regional sports networks, also allowed NBCSN the rights to televise a minimum of five CAA football games annually.[12]



Color commentary


Commentator pairings

As previously mentioned, NBC and TVS were partners in televising college basketball from 1975 to 1983. Typically on Saturdays, NBC and TVS would broadcast a regional slate of college basketball from the various conferences.

Conference Play-by-play Color commentator(s)
Big East/ECAC Marv Albert/Andy Musser Bucky Waters
Big 10 Merle Harmon/Bob Costas Jerry Lucas/Fred Taylor/Steve Grote
Big 8 Fred White/Jay Randolph/Merle Harmon Gary Thompson
SEC John Ferguson/Tom Hammond Joe Dean
Pac-10 Ross Porter/Barry Tompkins Lynn Shackelford
SWC Frank Fallon/Frank Glieber Rudy Davalos/Dan Spika

See also


  1. "Chronology of NCAA Tournament TV coverage (1969-1981)". Classic Sports TV and Media. March 18, 2013. Retrieved March 20, 2013.
  2. "Milestone firsts in college basketball TV history". Classic Sports TV and Media. November 15, 2013. Retrieved November 21, 2013.
  3. Hagger, Jeff (March 7, 2016). "The unique Al McGuire - from TV sidekick to star". Classic TV Sports.
  4. "The first game called by Dick Enberg and Billy Packer". Classic Sports TV and Media. December 27, 2012. Retrieved March 20, 2013.
  5. "The first NBC prime time NCAA basketball title game". Classic Sports TV and Media. March 26, 2013. Retrieved March 25, 2013.
  6. "First network TV game for Larry Bird (2/25/1979)". Classic Sports TV and Media. February 25, 2013. Retrieved March 7, 2013.
  7. Tim Layden (March 14, 2012). "March 14, 1981: When the NCAA tournament became Madness". Sports Illustrated. Time Inc. Retrieved March 14, 2012.
  8. NBC College Basketball Theme Intro on YouTube
  9. 80's Commercials Vol. 117 on YouTube
  10. NBC Intershow February 1986 on YouTube
  11. An NBC College Basketball Double-Header on YouTube
  12. "CAA and NBC Sports Group Reach Five-Year Agreements for National Basketabll and Football Rights". Retrieved February 14, 2012.
Preceded by
NCAA Men's Division I Basketball Championship television broadcaster
1969 - 1981
Succeeded by
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