In prepping for a stint on “Steve Gorman Sports!” for FOX Sports Radio on Monday, I read a report that made me take pause and, frankly, made me a bit sad. It was revealed through a Tampa Bay Times article that Dick Vitale was removed from this week’s iteration of the UNC-Duke rivalry. Jay Bilas and Dan Shulman will call the game for ESPN, thus marking the end of Vitale’s oversight of these matchups. He’d been present since 1979.
Ponder that for a moment.
It’s been a year of highs and lows in the state of North Carolina. Earlier this season, Coach K notched his 1,000th career win. Just two weeks ago, the college basketball world and the United States as a whole bid farewell to legendary Tar Heels coach Dean Smith. His work for equality and fairness through his post as a head basketball coach, not to mention his 97% graduation rate, set him among the most revered figures in sport.
So, it came as a bit of a shock to me when news hit that the greatest single cheerleader for the college basketball universe and a walking encyclopedia of information about this rivalry, would be left off the broadcast. Vitale’s been the third man on the broadcast the past few years, and this would certainly be the year to layer the broadcast with historical notes and anecdotes.
I get it. Vitale is a polarizing character, and the sheer length of his tenure leads many to call for an infusion of “new blood” into the broadcast. But, we know Shulman and Bilas. Why not leave Vitale to add an extra layer of color to the broadcast?