It really is hard to imagine ESPN’s college basketball coverage without Dick Vitale.
He’s been with the network since the literal beginning, calling ESPN’s first ever college basketball broadcast in 1979. Now he’ll be with them through the 2022-2023 season after agreeing to a new contract extension.
Dick Vitale talks about one day calling a college basketball game at age 100. The 81-year old announcer is still on track, scoring a contract extension with ESPN that will take him through the 2022-2023 college basketball season.
That would take the legendary men’s college basketball analyst through his 44th year at ESPN. But “Dickie V” feels as young as ever, thanks to singles tennis and a regular workout regimen. He’s poised to call one Final Four game and the NCAA Championship for ESPN International.
“I really want to keep going. I feel great,” said Vitale, who called ESPN’s first-ever NCAA basketball game in 1979. “I’ve said this 5 million times: If the day ever comes I don’t recall names, I can’t recall information I need to share, I’ll be the first guy to pick up the phone and say the party’s over. But I feel better than ever. In fact, people tell me you sound more enthusiastic than ever.”
Vitale, presumably still celebrating the Tampa Bay Super Bowl win, told McCarthy just how much ESPN has meant for his life, in ways that go beyond just a career:
Lorraine Vitale, now his wife of 50 years, convinced him to stop feeling sorry for himself — and get off his ass. “She’s been the backbone of our family,” Vitale said.
His exuberant personality caught the eye of the late Scotty Connal, an executive at the fledgling ESPN. After resisting the move to TV, Vitale gave it a shot.
The rest was television history. Under the tutelage of the late Jim Simpson and a young Bob Ley, Vitale quickly became one of ESPN’s signature personalities along with Ley, Chris Berman, Robin Roberts and the late John Saunders. He now has the virtual equivalent of a lifetime contract.
“ESPN? Those four letters changed my life,” Vitale said. “They took me from the depths of despair.”
Vitale’s new deal takes him through what would be his 44th season calling games at ESPN. That’s an incredible run, and it doesn’t sound like Vitale plans on stopping at any point, either.