Speech by Reagan Gives ESPN Room for One More Game

Pepperdine was one game away from an appearance on CBS until President Reagan nixed that possibility.

CBS was planning a regional showing of Sunday's 4 p.m. NCAA basketball tournament game at the Long Beach Arena, a game that Pepperdine will be in if it beats Maryland in the first round today at 2 p.m. But then, the President announced that he would address the nation at 5 p.m. Sunday, and since all three networks will carry the speech, CBS couldn't televise a 4 p.m. game.

But all is not lost. ESPN, which is televising the Pepperdine-Maryland game today, stepped in and picked up Sunday's 4 p.m. game as well.

Of course, cynics will say that Pepperdine isn't going to beat Maryland anyway. The Waves have the better record, 25-4 to 18-13, but the Terrapins of the Atlantic Coast Conference face considerably tougher competition and have been playing well lately. Maryland lost to Georgia Tech by only two points in the ACC tournament semifinals.

But even if Pepperdine doesn't make it, Nevada Las Vegas probably will. The Rebels (31-4) will play Northeast Louisiana (20-9) at 11:37 a.m. today in the first round.

Because of Sunday's schedule change, ESPN will join the New York Islander-New York Ranger hockey game in progress at about 6 p.m., an hour after it starts.

Add Pepperdine: The last time Pepperdine appeared on a major network was during the 1983 NCAA tournament, when CBS carried its 69-67 double-overtime loss to eventual champion North Carolina State.

Add NCAA: What we have here is round-the-clock basketball. There were seven NCAA tournament games on ESPN Thursday and one on CBS at 11:30 p.m. Prime Ticket televised the UCLA-UC Irvine NIT game, and SCORE, the sports subsidiary of the Financial News Network, carried another NIT game.

Starting at 5 a.m. today with games left over from Thursday night, ESPN offers 11 more NCAA tournament games today and tonight; CBS will show Auburn-Arizona at 11:30 p.m.; ESPN will have telecasts at 1 a.m. and 3, and, without missing a beat, will pick up with another 5 a.m. telecast Saturday.

The live second-round tripleheader on CBS Saturday will start at 11 a.m. The games will be Duke vs. Old Dominion, Georgia Tech vs. Villanova, and North Carolina vs. Alabama Birmingham.

Barring any major upsets today, CBS's Sunday tripleheader, which now begins at 9 a.m., figures to offer Syracuse vs. Navy or Tulsa, Notre Dame vs. North Carolina State or Iowa, and St. John's vs. Auburn or Arizona.

Gutty move: CBS is trying something different with the NCAA tournament this season. It will offer prime-time telecasts on Thursday and Friday next week, at 6 p.m. Thursday and 7 Friday.

With college basketball ratings generally down and with so many games being televised, CBS figures to take a bath in the ratings.

Boxing beat: Mainly because of Marvelous Marvin Hagler and Thomas Hearns, the middleweight division has become the glamour division of boxing.

But HBO is attempting to restore the fragmented heavyweight division. It recently signed an 18-month agreement with promoters Don King and Butch Lewis that involves seven heavyweight fights presumably leading to a world unification title bout in the summer of 1987.

"This is a heavyweight World Series," said Seth Abraham, HBO senior vice president. "At the conclusion, a single champion will emerge."

Not to be outdone in the hype department, King said: "It's the greatest thing in boxing since Muhammad Ali."

Actually, it does figure to be a good thing for boxing. Currently, there are three heavyweight champions. Want to guess who they are?

Tough one, isn't it? The answer: Pinklon Thomas is the World Boxing Council champion, Michael Spinks is the International Boxing Federation champion and Tim Witherspoon is the World Boxing Assn. champion.

Not since Leon Spinks defeated Muhammad Ali in 1978 has the heavyweight division had a single champion.

Witherspoon, because traces of marijuana were found in his system after he had won the title from Tony Tubbs Jan. 17 at Atlanta, must face Tubbs in a rematch soon or lose his title. Witherspoon also was fined $25,000 by the WBA.

The HBO series will begin March 22, with Thomas defending his title against Trevor Berbick. In the only other fight in the series that is set, Larry Holmes, on April 19, will attempt to regain the IBF title he lost to Michael Spinks last September.

In a separate agreement, HBO this week signed fast-rising heavyweight Mike Tyson to a three-fight deal, which means he probably will be involved in the series as well.

Tyson's first appearance on HBO will be May 20 from Madison Square Garden. An opponent will be named later.

In a cruiserweight title fight on ABC March 22, champion Dwight Muhammad Qawi will fight Leon Spinks. And then, on March 23, heavyweight Tyrell Biggs faces Jeff Sims on ABC.

Add boxing: Suddenly, HBO has a pay-cable competitor in the fight game. Showtime has signed a deal with promoter Bob Arum which involves the cable replay rights of last Monday night's Hagler-John Mugabi fight, three live IBF title fights at the Meadowlands on June 4 and the cable replay rights of the proposed Hagler-Hearns rematch later this year.

Showtime will televise the replay of the Hagler-Mugabi fight, plus Hearns' knockout win over James Shuler, at 9 p.m. Saturday. The show will be repeated at 2:30 p.m. Sunday and again Friday, March 21, at 9 p.m.

Also, a Los Angeles company called Continental Video, which bought the videotape rights, plans to have a tape of the Hagler-Mugabi fight and the Hearns-Shuler bout ready to sell for $29.95 by late next week.

The live title fights on Showtime on June 4 involve junior-middleweights Davey Moore and Buster Drayton, lightweights Jimmy Paul and Darryl Tyson, no relation to Mike, and light-heavyweights Bobby Czyz and Slobodan Cacar of Yugoslavia.

Notes

NBC will televise six World Cup soccer matches on a same-day delayed basis beginning May 31, plus the championship game live June 29. The announcers will be Charlie Jones, Paul Gardner and Ricky Davis. The Spanish International Network, meanwhile, will offer complete World Cup coverage--52 games in all, plus 10 repeats. In cases where two matches start at the same time, SIN will show one on a tape-delayed basis. All commentary will be in Spanish; SIN's agreement with FIFA does not permit any English commentary. . . . NBC will televise the Chicago Bear-Dallas Cowboy exhibition game in London Aug. 3.

With Brent Musburger assigned to work in the studio this weekend, Dick Stockton is paired with Billy Packer on CBS's NCAA tournament coverage through this weekend. . . . Channel 2 sportscaster Jim Hill, who became an Eagle Scout at the age of 15, was chosen by the Los Angeles Council of Boy Scouts as the person the current class of Eagle Scouts would be named after. Hill addressed the newly named Eagle Scouts at a banquet at the Bonaventure Hotel Thursday night. Others who have received the same honor are movie maker Steven Spielberg and gymnast Peter Vidmar. . . . ESPN has hired Larry Burnett, a Minneapolis sportscaster, as an anchor and field reporter on "SportsCenter."

Beano Cook, dismissed by ABC, has been hired by ESPN as an in-studio college football commentator. About being let go by ABC after four years, Cook, 54, told Cathy Harasta of the Dallas Morning News: "In no way am I mad. I'm disappointed. I was hoping to have a run as long as FDR's, instead of Jimmy Carter's. But if you had told me six years ago that I'd be in network television four years, I'd have laughed."

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