Championship Week is ESPN's annual college basketball showcase of conference tournament games in the United States, which decide NCAA bids in early-to-mid-March. It typically lasts a little under 2 weeks, before basketball post-season play begins. The minor and mid-major conferences typically begin Championship Week and it ends on Selection Sunday with the brackets being unveiled. Over the years, more games have been added with the expansion of ESPN's numerous multicast channels.
Coverage of the NCAA conference tournaments is no longer mostly limited to ESPN, since the proliferation of competing sports networks such as CBS Sports Network and Fox Sports 1, as well as CBS's longstanding over-the-air coverage of the last weekend of conference championships, all of which air similar marathons opposite Championship Week. This has allowed even further exposure of the tournaments on national television.
ESPN typically schedules the games a year in advance. Many conferences get their only nationally televised game of the year during this week. ESPN programmer Burke Magnus points out that a single change can result in a domino effect.
Due to the popularity of the expanded coverage of the college basketball tournaments aired on ESPN, it was later coined Championship Week.
In 1999, the two ESPN networks at the time aired 51 games, 25 of which were conference title games.
In 2001, there were 57 games in 9 days (25 of the 31 automatic berths). This also marked a turning point for the women's game, as their championship games were aired for the first time.
In 2003, ESPN and ESPN2 showed 61 games. ESPN2 added the Big 12 semifinals that year.
In 2005, the ESPN family of networks aired 99 men and women's games. They aired 26 of the 31 games which determined bids.
In 2007, ESPN and its sister stations aired 89 games in 11 days. The networks had parts of 25 tournaments, including 24 championship games.
In 2008, it lasted 10 days and featured 81 total games (63 men's games and 18 women's games). They televised 24 D-I men's title games and a D-II conference title. Also, 18 women's games were televised highlighted by 11 Division I and a Division II title contest. Also, Bobby Knight debuted as an ESPN commentator.
In 2009, ESPN Radio broadcast the Championship Week for the first time with the Big 12 Tournament with coverage of the semifinals and championship games. The ESPN family of networks televised 20 women's games including 13 title games. On the men's side, the ESPN networks televised 63 games, from 27 D-I conferences including 24 title games and a D-II conference title.
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