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Tournament Time Means a Healthy Dose of Dick Vitale

So, how many college basketball games will be on television this weekend?

“We’re doing 8,000,” ESPN spokesman Mike Soltys said.

Actually, ESPN is doing 15 1/2 today through Sunday. One game, Saturday night’s Big Sky tournament final, will be picked up near halftime.

Another 15 or so weekend games will be televised by other outlets--all three major networks, Prime Ticket and local stations.

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As Dick Vitale would say, college basketball is getting a lot of AT--air time.

Vitale will be working Atlantic Coast Conference tournament games in Atlanta today and Saturday for ESPN, then will catch a flight Saturday night for Los Angeles, where he’ll work Sunday’s Pacific 10 tournament championship game at the Forum for ABC.

Immediately after that game, he’ll shed his ABC jacket, put on his ESPN blazer and discuss the National Collegiate Athletic Assn. tournament pairings moments after they are announced on CBS.

How did Vitale prepare for this big weekend of college basketball? By visiting three baseball spring training camps in Florida, that’s how.

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He went to the Pittsburgh Pirates’ camp near his home in Bradenton, to the Chicago White Sox camp 30 minutes away in Sarasota, and then to the Detroit Tigers’ camp about an hour away in Lakeland.

And what did he talk about? College basketball, mainly.

“The (Cincinnati) Reds were in to play the White Sox, and Pete Rose and Eric Davis were giving me a bad time about my All-American picks,” Vitale said. “And Rose got on me because I was wearing my Dodger cap, which (Tom) Lasorda gave me last year.

“The Pirates are my favorite team because they train in Bradenton, but Lasorda and Sparky Anderson are my favorite managers.”

Can you imagine Vitale and Lasorda together?

“Yeah, it gets a little loud,” Vitale said. “Sparky is a pretty good talker, too, you know.”

In case you missed it, Vitale’s All-American team, which he announced on ESPN this week, consists of forwards Sean Elliott of Arizona and Danny Ferry of Duke, center Stacey King of Oklahoma, and guards Chris Jackson of LSU--"I can’t believe I put on freshman on there,” Vitale said--and Jay Edwards of Indiana.

“I couldn’t leave off Mr. Clutch (Edwards),” he said.

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Asked to name his top eight teams, Vitale, never shy about giving opinions, said: “My super eight are Georgetown, Oklahoma, Arizona, Duke, North Carolina, Michigan, Illinois and Syracuse.

“No real surprises there, except that I leave off Indiana, a team of overachievers. They’ll make it to the round of sweet 16, but that’s about it.

“They’re overachievers just like I’m an overachiever. I haven’t done bad for a 49-year-old former sixth-grade school teacher from New Jersey.”

You try to envision Vitale as a teacher diagramming sentences and it’s a little difficult. “Hey, I was pretty good at that,” he said. “I know my nouns and subjects and verbs.”

Yeah, he just doesn’t use ‘em.

Vitale takes some heat for his brashness, but most of the million or so people who know him like him. Just about every basketball and sports television writer in the country has his home number, and he averages about two or three radio talk shows a day.

“That stuff doesn’t bother me at all,” he said. “I like people and I like talking.”

Even KMPC’s Jim Healy, who doesn’t have much good to say about many of his fellow broadcasters, likes Vitale.

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“I like his enthusiasm, his knowledge and his willingness to express opinions,” Healy said. “His enthusiasm is the big thing.”

Says Vitale: “I don’t stir up controversy, at least not intentionally. I stir up conversation. That’s all I’m trying to do.”

If you’d like to know more about what makes this high-strung Italian tick, a book he has written with Sports Illustrated’s Curry Kirkpatrick, called simply, “Vitale,” offers plenty of insight. It’s an easy read and, according to Sports inc., is currently the No. 2-selling sports book behind John Madden’s new one.

Vitale will be working with Al Michaels for the first time on Sunday’s Pac-10 final.

“I’ve never met Al in person, and I’m really looking forward to it,” Vitale said. “He’s a real pro, as is Keith Jackson.”

Said Michaels: “Vitale comes well-prepared, and he’s a real character. I think working with him will be a kick.”

ABC’s regular team of Jackson and Vitale was originally scheduled to work Sunday’s game at the Forum, with Michaels assigned to Saturday’s Illinois-at-Michigan game.

But Michaels, who lives in Brentwood, is on jury duty through today, making it tough for him to get to East Lansing. So the switch was made.

Jackson will work the Illinois-Michigan game with David Robinson--yes, the former John Wooden Award winner from Navy--who worked a game for ABC last season.

Cheryl Miller will make her debut as a commentator for ABC Sunday, working with Al Trautwig on the Big Eight tournament final.

ABC’s other college game this weekend, Sunday’s Southeastern Conference final, will be handled by Gary Bender and Joe B. Hall.

It gets a little complicated, but ABC’s coverage of Sunday’s Pac-10 final will not be shown in Los Angeles. ABC owned-Channel 7 will carry the Big Eight final instead.

That’s because Channel 2 will have the Pac-10 final as part of its season-long Raycom-produced Pac-10 package.

But because Channel 2 will carry the CBS coverage of Sunday’s Big East final, which won’t end until at least 1:30 p.m., the Pac-10 game, which starts at 1 p.m., will be shown on at least a half-hour delay.

This also messes up CBS’ coverage of the NCAA tournament pairings. When Channel 2 shows it sometime after 3:30, the news will be at least an hour old. Elsewhere, the pairings show will be live at 2:30.

Some West Coast stations, such as Channel 42 in Palm Springs, are carrying all the remaining Pac-10 tournament telecasts via Raycom. But Channel 2 will carry none of today’s quarterfinals and only one of Saturday’s semifinals--the second one at 3 p.m.

ESPN will televise two Pac-10 quarterfinal games today, the first one at 1 p.m. and the last one at 9 p.m.

TV-Radio Notes

Steve Garvey will be Larry King’s guest on CNN next Monday at 6 p.m., PST. Coincidentally, Rebecka Mendenhall, Garvey’s ex-fiance, works for CNN. . . . KMPC’s Jim Healy missed his usual 5:30 p.m. shows Tuesday and Thursday this week because his mother, Rose Moylan Healy, 92, of Beverly Hills, died Monday night. The funeral was Thursday.

According to USA Today, Don Sutton, besides doing Dodger games for Z Channel, will also work some Atlanta Brave telecasts for Turner Broadcasting this season. . . . NBC has named Randy Falco as senior vice president in charge of the 1992 Summer Olympics coverage. Michael Eskridge, who held that position for the Seoul Games, is now president of CNBC, NBC’s new cable consumer news channel. Falco had been vice president of finance for NBC Sports.

Baseball has made another sweet broadcasting deal, this time with CBS Radio. It’s a four-year, $48-million contract, nearly double the contract that expires after this season.

The ECAC North Atlantic final at Hartford, Conn., will be televised at 8:30 a.m. Saturday by ESPN, but because of a measles epidemic, there will be no fans in the stands. To pick up crowd flavor, ESPN will have cameras at sites on the campuses of the two schools involved. . . . Attention track fans: At 3 p.m. Saturday, NBC offers taped coverage of last weekend’s World Indoor Track and Field Championships at Budapest, with Charlie Jones, Dwight Stones and Frank Shorter reporting.

Evander Holyfield and Michael Dokes will meet at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas Saturday night, and Showtime will televise the fight, but on a three-hour delay at 10:05 p.m. The announcers will be Steve Albert, Marv’s brother, and Ferdie Pacheco. . . . The USA network will show a tape of last Monday’s Hector (Macho) Camacho-Ray (Boom Boom) Mancini fight Sunday at 8 p.m. . . . Tony Lopez, who beat Rocky Lockridge in a tremendous fight on NBC last Sunday, will appear on NBC again May 21, when he faces Tyrone (the Harlem Butcher) Jackson--who really is a meat butcher.


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