Long-time ESPN college basketball analyst Dick Vitale has extended his contract with the company even further. Vitale first joined ESPN during the 1979-80 season, shortly after their September 1979 launch, and last May, he signed a contract extension through the 2019-2020 season. Now, ESPN has announced that they’ve signed the 78-year-old Vitale to a further extension through the 2020-2021 season:
Vitale will continue his work as a game analyst on key matchups each week during the regular season, as well as Champ Week. He will also remain a contributor on numerous ESPN platforms, including SportsCenter, ESPN.com and more.
…“ESPN has been family to me and I am honored that they want me to continue being a contributor on our college basketball team,” Vitale said. “ESPN has provided me a forum that has turned my dreams to reality. I feel young at heart. I said once, and I will say it again – my goal is to be the first in broadcasting to open a hoops game at 100 years old saying “This is Awesome, Baby!’ with a capital A.”
“Dick’s commitment and passion towards college basketball and towards ESPN for the past 39 years has been unmatched,” said Lee Fitting, ESPN vice president of college sports. “It’s tough to imagine that there has been a greater ambassador for the game of college basketball, and we are thrilled to have Dick on our air for years to come.”
It’s interesting that ESPN would sign this extension so far out from when Vitale’s contract expires, but it sounds like he’s eager to stay involved with the network, and like they’re very happy to have him continue. But that was far from a sure thing at one point. Back in 2016, Vitale told Graham Bensinger about how in the mid-2000s, he suffered from dysplasia, or pre-cancerous lesions on his throat, which made broadcasting extremely painful. He said “I couldn’t get words out” and “I thought maybe it was over.” But after surgery, and no talking for a month, he bounced back, and is still going strong.
Vitale is one of the few figures from ESPN’s earliest days still in a prominent role at the network, and it sounds like college basketball fans will be able to hear his commentary for years to come. And we might get some more stops on the Dick Vitale Concert Tour while we’re at it.