Yesterday we told you about the news that Dick Vitale would not be commentating the Duke-UNC game tomorrow night for the first time in his ESPN tenure. Instead, it’ll be the Saturday primetime duo of Dan Shulman and Jay Bilas. Vitale is an ESPN original, working at the network since their first year in 1979. And although the news isn’t that big of a surprise given Jay Bilas moved into the #1 analyst chair before the season, it’s still a huge deal that Vitale won’t call arguably the biggest game in college basketball’s regular season.
For the first time, Vitale has opened up about moving on from the assignment in quotes to the Raleigh News & Observer:
“I told them that I cannot lie when a writer asks me what’s my feeling not doing the game,” he said. “I said I have to be honest. And my honest reply to you is, obviously, I’m a loyal, team player. I will go where my bosses tell me to go.
“But in my heart I will absolutely miss being a part of North Carolina-Duke.”
“It’s been a special part of my basketball and my announcing career,” Vitale said. “And I will never forget the magical moments that I’ve had, being able to be part of such an incredible of rivalry.”
It’s just one regular season game, but it’s obvious what the Carolina-Duke matchup means to Vitale. It’s been the scene of some of his most iconic moments in broadcasting. Alas, ESPN has turned the page from the Vitale Era to the Bilas Era.