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Jimmy Traina: CBS, ESPN Have To Let Dick Vitale Call Tournament Games

“Vitale has never called an NCAA Tournament game—for an American audience—and Traina would love to see it happen.”

Russ Heltman

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Courtesy: ESPN Images

ESPN’s Dick Vitale returned to calling college basketball games on Tuesday night in No. 1 Gonzaga’s blowout victory over No. 2 UCLA. Sports Illustrated’s Jimmy Traina floated a great idea that ESPN and CBS/Turner could work together on.

Vitale has never called an NCAA Tournament game—for an American audience—and Traina would love to see it happen.

“Dick Vitale has been calling college basketball game for ESPN for 41 years. Forty. One,” Traina explained in his Traina Thoughts column. “Yet, he has never called an NCAA Tournament game* simply because ESPN has never had the rights to the NCAA Tournament.

“I added the asterisk because Vitale has called NCAA Tournament games for ESPN’s international feed. However, that is not the same thing as calling the games for CBS and the U.S. audience.”

Traina highlighted prior instances where all of the sides worked together to make a special moment happen.

“Like his style or not,” Traina wrote. “There has not been a bigger ambassador for college basketball than Vitale. No one has had more passion and enthusiasm for the sport. He should’ve been thrown a bone a long time ago, and ESPN should’ve worked out some kind of deal with CBS/Turner to allow Vitale to call a tournament game. There is precedence for an arrangement. ESPN’s Jay Bilas was able to call tournament games for CBS/Turner for several years. And ESPN had TNT’s Craig Sager work the sidelines for an NBA Finals game for the first and only time in his career in 2016.”

The idea doesn’t seem like it would take moving mountains to pull off. If anything, it could be a selling point for CBS/Turner to promote the tournament even more. ESPN would likely want something in return for Vitale’s services. Time will tell whether Vitale ever gets to call the NCAA Tournament for an American audience.

Sports TV News

FOX Confirms It Will Be a Part of USFL’s Second Season in 2023

The network will continue to be a USFL TV partner next year, according to Fox Sports CEO Eric Shanks. Shanks is the chairman of the league’s board of directors.

Jordan Bondurant

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The USFL appears to be headed for a second season in 2023, and Fox Sports will be along for the ride.

The network will continue to be a USFL TV partner next year, according to Fox Sports CEO Eric Shanks. Shanks is the chairman of the league’s board of directors.

Between Fox and NBC, game broadcasts in the league’s inaugural season averaged 695,000 viewers.

The league does not plan to add new teams for 2023, but Shanks indicated the league is planning to have regular season games played in other cities, not just Birmingham, Alabama where this season was held.

Shanks did say there is a desire to add more teams potentially in 2024 as well as having teams play in their home cities.

The USFL championship game will be this Saturday at 7:30 p.m. between the Philadelphia Stars and the Birmingham Stallions. The game will air on FOX.

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Sports TV News

Ben Bitonti Hired to Head Unscripted Programming at Game1

Game1, a production company focused on original sports content, have hired Ben Bitonti to be its chief creative officer and head of unscripted programming.

Jordan Bondurant

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Game1

Game1, a production company focused on original sports content, have hired Ben Bitonti to be its chief creative officer and head of unscripted programming.

Bitonti joins Game1 after previously serving at 101 Studios as EVP of non-fiction TV and alternate programming. He helped launch the company’s unscripted division.

Ben has a range of experience in both unscripted and scripted content production.

“Adding a supremely talented executive like Ben to the game1 team will truly help transform our business,” said Game1 co-founder and chairman Basil Iwanyk. “His expertise and creative storytelling instincts in the unscripted realm are unparalleled. He will help us take the solid foundation that we’ve already built and get it to the next level.”

Bitonti said he’s ready to hit the ground running.

“I’m thrilled to dig in and help build out unscripted efforts and more with our team at game1,” he said. “Sports and athlete driven content continue to be a constant growth sector of our industry, and game1 is uniquely positioned to be a leading contributor to that growth.”

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Sports TV News

Lindsay Czarniak Says the Timing Was Right to Leave ESPN

“The end there it was something that I look back on, and it wasn’t a negative,” she said. “I think at the time the timing was right for it to happen”.

Jordan Bondurant

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Lindsey Czarniak

Lindsay Czarniak holds no ill-will towards ESPN. She is enjoying having the chance to work on FOX’s NASCAR and NFL coverage in addition to working on CBS’ coverage of the Superstar Racing Experience (SRX).

Talking to Jon Lewis and and T.J. Rives on the Sports Media Watch Podcast, Czarniak said she loved having the chance to anchor SportsCenter, but her heart was in actually being at events on the ground.

“The end there it was something that I look back on, and it wasn’t a negative,” she said. “I think at the time the timing was right for it to happen. And truth be told, they were really great.”

“I knew at that point that there was other stuff that I wanted to do,” she added. “And so the way that it played out it became very apparent that this is the time where if I can go out and explore doing some more event coverage rather than just doing solo studio hosting only, that’s what I wanted to do.”

Czarniak cleared up a point about the end of her run on SportsCenter. She said she knew before she was slated to go on maternity leave in 2017, she would no longer be anchoring the 6 p.m. show. So she wasn’t caught off guard or left in the dark about changes the network made to the show at the time.

But Czarniak said she never lost sight of the opportunity she had at ESPN. She just felt like she needed to get back to reporting.

“(Hosting SportsCenter) was a blast, and there were certain times that it felt like, wow this is the best thing I’ve ever done on a national level and this is awesome,” she said. “But I also just really loved being able to develop those relationships on my own and have that access.”

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