Last month, Charles Barkley said in an SI interview that calling a college basketball game with ESPN's Dick Vitale was one thing in broadcasting he'd like to do before leaving the industry. Although there are numerous hurdles and hoops in the way of ESPN's Vitale and Turner's Barkley sharing a booth, momentum is building for the pair to one day announce a game (or games together). Perhaps on ESPN, maybe on CBS, and possibly even for the NCAA Tournament.
CBS has been interested in using Dick Vitale for its NCAA Tournament coverage in past years, but ESPN has said no. Now, there are reports that Bristol may be willing to allow Vitale the opportunity to work tourney games with an ESPN executive VP telling USA Today the network is open to some kind of arrangement. Barkley and Vitale are still publicly stating their interest in working together, but CBS and Turner aren't commenting directly about the future possibility.
Here's the relevant quotes from the parties involved from Michael Hiestand at USA Today:
Barkley: "With the NCAA, I would love to call a game with Dick Vitale. That'd be something I'd really like. I've talked to Dick about it. We're all in the same business of promoting the tournament. We all need to forget the ESPN, CBS, TNT stuff — we're all in the business of promoting college basketball."
Vitale: "I'd love to do a game with him! He's terrific! We'd have so much fun on the telecast… Several times over the years CBS wanted me to do NCAA tournament games. But I didn't get upset with ESPN. I was flattered they thought that much of me."
ESPN: "We are interested."
CBS/Turner: "There have been no discussions and we're very pleased with our CBS/TNT announcer lineup."
Dick Vitale calling NCAA Tournament games for Turner/CBS wouldn't be completely uncharted territory. ESPN's Jay Bilas called games for CBS with Dick Enberg as an ESPN employee from 2005-2010, so there is precedent for the networks working together. Love or hate Vitale, he's as synonymous with the sport as any college basketball announcer and ESPN and CBS/Turner should be able to work together and make this happen before his career comes to an end.
With both Barkley and Vitale on board with the idea, the only thing standing in the way is network red tape. Sports networks collaborating on talent exchanges is about as rare as shaking hands with Sasquatch, but this is a unique situation. All that would need to happen is CBS and Turner finding some room in their 8 tournament booths for Barkley and Vitale – certainly not an impossibility. The pair could even work college or NBA games together on ESPN to square the deal.
Then the work could begin on finding a play by play man willing to take on working with two of basketball's biggest personalities in one booth.