Dick Vitale exudes more enthusiasm for college basketball than anyone. ESPN no longer shows much enthusiasm for Dickie V.
The network served up a Wilson Sandwich to Vitale by pulling him from the UNC-Duke game on Wednesday. For as long as there has been an ESPN, there has been Vitale announcing Blue Devils-Tar Heels basketball on the network. But the Worldwide Leader in Sports dished the rock to Jay Bilas, who joins Dan Shulman at the broadcast table later this week.
ESPN no longer sees the colorful color commentator as a P.T.P.—that’s “prime-time player” for those uninitiated in Vitalespeak. He becomes an M.I.A.er on Wednesday, though fans can still catch Vitale giving ESPN broadcasts flavor—just not likely on too many more surf-and-turfer events like UNC-Duke.
“In college basketball, it doesn’t get any better than the Tar Heels and Dukies, especially when there is a lot at stake,” Vitale reflected on the rivalry game in 2008. “It is great right before the game, with the intensity, emotion and passion as the players get Goosebumps. To be honest, I get Goosebumps calling this match-up. I have been doing this for 29 years and the excitement and enthusiasm when I walk into that arena is so special.”
The former Detroit Pistons head coach joined ESPN in 1979 and has called every Tar Heels-Blue Devils matchup broadcast by the network since then. But at Cameron Indoor Stadium on Wednesday, when the nation’s #4 team hosts college basketball’s #12 team, Dick Vitale won’t be there.
“Yes 35 straight years,” Vitale announced on Twitter. Calling the series “fun,” the broadcaster conceded: “I will miss it but ESPN has been great to me/No Hall of Fame w/o ESPN.”
To borrow another of the broadcaster’s terms, he’s a “blender”—an unselfish team player.