Hall of Famer Dick Vitale, one of sport’s most influential and recognizable personalities, has reached a new contract extension with ESPN to continue as a college basketball analyst with the company through 2016-17. Vitale will call some of the season’s top games across ESPN networks, including regular-season action primarily on ESPN and ESPN2 and the Men’s Final Four for ESPN International. The agreement was announced by John Wildhack, ESPN Executive Vice President, Production and Programming.
“Dick is the ultimate ambassador who has always recognized the importance of both educating and entertaining the audience,” Wildhack said. “He puts his heart and soul into everything he does – his work, his life, his family – and we are all better for it. We are thrilled to have his unmistakable presence on ESPN for years to come.”
Vitale added, “I am just so honored to be at ESPN for over three decades. I am absolutely thrilled, at my relatively young age of 75, ESPN feels I am still passionate enough to talk about a game I love, college basketball. I am just so grateful to be part of the ESPN family. Without ESPN, there would no Dickie V; there would be no Hall of Fames. I am forever indebted to them.”
Vitale joined ESPN during the 1979-80 season — just after the network’s September 1979 launch — following a successful coaching career. He called ESPN’s first-ever major NCAA basketball game – Wisconsin at DePaul on Dec. 5, 1979 (a 90-77 DePaul win). Since then, he’s called more than a thousand games.
Over the years, Vitale has been widely recognized for his work and his positive impact on others. Just recently, he was honored by the American Cancer Society for his dedication to cancer awareness; by the National Association of Basketball Coaches (NABC) with a Court of Honor Award; as well as by Seton Hall University with the Humanitarian Award.
Beyond the numerous awards he’s received for his work, including the sport’s highest honor in 2008 (Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame inductee in the contributor category), Vitale has been celebrated for his many charitable contributions. He’s been an outspoken and passionate fundraiser and board member for The V Foundation for Cancer Research and has also worked closely with the Boys & Girls Club and Make-A-Wish, among other organizations.
While his knowledge, preparation and enthusiasm are unparalleled, his “Vitale-isms” have become part of the sports lexicon, including “Awesome, Baby!,” “Get a TO, Baby!” and “PTP’er.” Vitale, who has authored nine books, has been selected for nine halls of fame. In addition to TV, he contributes to numerous other ESPN outlets, including ESPN Radio, ESPN.com and more.
Vitale’s roots are in teaching the game he’s loved since childhood. Following college, he got a job teaching at Mark Twain Elementary School (Garfield, N.J.) and coaching junior high school football and basketball. He began coaching for eight years at the high school level in 1963, and in 1970, moved on to his first of seven years of college jobs with Rutgers and later University of Detroit. In May 1978, he was named head coach of the NBA’s Detroit Pistons, the job he held prior to joining ESPN.