College Basketball on NBC

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College Basketball on NBC
Created by NBC Sports
Starring See List of College Basketball on NBC personalities
Country of origin United States
Running time 120 minutes +
Original channel NBC
Picture format 480i (SDTV)
Original run March 8, 1969 (1969-03-08) – February 28, 1998 (1998-02-28)
External links

College Basketball on NBC is a former television program created and produced by NBC Sports that broadcast NCAA Division I men's basketball games.


The program existed in some shape or form from 19691998. From 19691981,[1] NBC covered the NCAA Men's Division I Basketball Tournament. They became the first major network to broadcast the championship game, at a cost of more than $500,000 in 1969.


NBC didn't start airing regular season games until about 1975–76,[2] when they partnered with TVS. While NBC Sports' on-air talent was used, the production was covered by TVS. By this point, NBC would air regional/national games on Saturdays and national games (called by Dick Enberg, Al McGuire and Billy Packer[3]) 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, they actually aired the consolation game nationally and the national semifinals regionally (which were 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 on a Saturday, and the first prime time championship game[4] to air on NBC.

By 1974, NBC was providing coverage of 9 games in 7 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 (decade). The following year, NBC aired 10 games in 9 windows - presenting the regional finals as a tripleheader with regionalized coverage in the middle time slot. This was also the first year, Billy Packer, worked on coverage of the Final Four.

The 1976 tournament coverage served as an awkward transition period from Curt Gowdy to Dick Enberg. Although Enberg was NBC's lead college basketball play-by-play man 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, they put both play-by-play voices together and relegated Packer to the studio (where he worked with Bryant Gumbel and Lee Leonard).


In the 1977–78 season, C.D. Chesley (who controlled the ACC rights at the time) wanted NBC to televise some 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 the 1977–78 NBC college basketball schedule.

In 1978, NBC for the first time, aired all regional finals games nationally, moving two of the games to Sunday. While Dick Enberg served as the play-by-play man 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 on to show undefeated Indiana State (who went up against Wichita State on that particular day). This was the first time many fans had ever seen Larry Bird play.[5] Also in 1979, the tournament expanded to add Thursday-Friday first round games (done by NCAA Productions, which also again did the regional semifinals). And like the previous year, NBC split up the analysts from its #1 announcer team for the first two weekends of the tournament. Therefore, Jim Simpson (in his last year with NBC before moving on to the brand new ESPN cable network) worked with Billy Packer while Dick Enberg worked with Al McGuire during this period.

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 Magic and Bird would enter the NBA in the fall of 1979, and the rivalry between them and their teams (respectively, 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[6] to be exact), they introduced the 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 broadcast games to their conclusion.

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

After NBC lost the tourney rights to CBS (who started a separate regular season package) beginning in 1982, they continued with TVS through 1983, wrapping up with the ACC Tournament Final[7] (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 did a lot of Pac-10 telecasts on a regional basis), NBC was left picking up the scraps that CBS didn't want (save for the ACC Final) for the rest of the 1980s.

During this period, NBC's slogan was "College basketball, it's the stuff Saturdays are made of!"[8][9] Another slogan that NBC used was "Sunday come on home to college basketball on NBC!"[10]

Decline (1990–1998)[edit]

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 (a February 6 contest involving Duke at Notre Dame and a February 13 contest involving Kentucky at Notre Dame). NBC was seeing much more success with a package of Notre Dame football games than the basketball games by this point. NBC's final college basketball broadcast to date was a February 28, 1998 contest between Notre Dame and Providence. NBC does still air all Notre Dame football home games to this day, maintaining some relationship with the university.


There are currently no college basketball games on NBC, but the NBC Sports Network currently shows college basketball from the Mountain West Conference under the Mountain West College Basketball brand. NBCSN also shows the Mountain West Men's and Women's Conference Championship.

On February 13, 2012, the Colonial Athletic Association became the first collegiate athletic conference to sign a broadcast agreement with the NBC Sports Network. The five-year deal beginning with the 2012-13 season, will provide national television coverage for a minimum of 12 men’s basketball games each year, including the semifinals and finals of the CAA Men’s Basketball Championship. The NBC Sports Network will televise a minimum of five CAA Football games annually. Comcast SportsNet regional networks are also involved in the deal[11]


See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Chronology of NCAA Tournament TV coverage (1969-1981)". Classic Sports TV and Media. 18 March 2013. Retrieved 20 March 2013. 
  2. ^ "Milestone firsts in college basketball TV history". Classic Sports TV and Media. 15 November 2013. Retrieved 21 November 2013. 
  3. ^ "The first game called by Dick Enberg and Billy Packer". Classic Sports TV and Media. 27 December 2012. Retrieved 20 March 2013. 
  4. ^ "The first NBC prime time NCAA basketball title game". Classic Sports TV and Media. 26 March 2013. Retrieved 25 March 2013. 
  5. ^ "First network TV game for Larry Bird (2/25/1979)". Classic Sports TV and Media. 25 February 2013. Retrieved 7 March 2013. 
  6. ^ Layden, Tim (14 March 2012). "March 14, 1981: When the NCAA tournament became Madness". Sports Illustrated. Retrieved 14 March 2012. 
  7. ^ NBC College Basketball Theme Intro on YouTube
  8. ^ 80's Commercials Vol. 117 on YouTube
  9. ^ NBC Intershow February 1986 on YouTube
  10. ^ An NBC College Basketball Double-Header on YouTube

External links[edit]

Preceded by
NCAA Men's Division I Basketball Championship television broadcaster
1969 - 1981
Succeeded by