College Basketball on ABC
Also known asCollege Basketball on ABC
GenreCollege basketball telecasts
Country of originUnited States
Original languageEnglish
No. of seasons24
Camera setupMulti-camera
Running time120 minutes or until end of game
Production companiesABC Sports
Raycom Sports
Original release
ReleaseJanuary 18, 1987 (1987-01-18) - present
ESPN College Basketball

ABC first broadcast selected college basketball games of the now-NCAA Division I during the 1960s and 1970s, before it began televising them on a regular basis on January 18, 1987, with a game between the LSU Tigers and Kentucky Wildcats). As CBS and NBC were also broadcasting college games at the time, this put the sport on all three major broadcast television networks.

After the ABC Sports division was merged into ESPN Inc. by parent company Disney in 2006, broadcasts have since been produced by ESPN, and have primarily used the ESPN College Basketball branding and graphics instead of the College Basketball on ABC branding.

After a five-year hiatus, ABC returned to airing college basketball in 2019 with five games on the network, and has continued to do so since.[1]

Men's coverage overview

1962, 1973, 1978

ABC first broadcast college basketball games in 1962, when the network aired the NCAA Championship Game on a day-behind delayed basis, as part of its Wide World of Sports anthology series. On December 15, 1973, ABC aired what is considered to be the first[2] telecast of a regular season college basketball game by a major broadcast network. A feature of the afternoon episode of the program, ABC's Wide World of Sports, the game was a special presentation rather than the start of regular telecasts.,[3] and matched UCLA and North Carolina State in St. Louis). Previously, postseason games in the NCAA tournament had been shown on NBC. Regular season college basketball games, though not on ABC, NBC or CBS, had been syndicated to U.S. television stations, such as the so-called ""Game of the Century"" sold to stations nationwide by the TVS Television Network in 1968. ABC (which had recently lost the NBA rights to CBS) televised this game using its former NBA announcing crew of Keith Jackson and Bill Russell.

In the 1977–78 season, C.D. Chesley (who controlled the rights to the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) at the time) wanted NBC to televise select ACC games as part of its national package as it had done the previous few years. However, NBC wanted to feature intersectional games. This action greatly upset Chesley, who wound up selling the rights to the ACC Tournament final to ABC. ABC would televise the 1978 ACC Tournament final as part of Wide World of Sports. The game, called by Keith Jackson and Bill Russell, marked the first time Duke University's Blue Devils basketball team played on national television.


When ABC's coverage[4][5] began in 1987,[6][7][8] the network primarily covered[9][10] the Big Ten,[11] Big 8[12] and Pac-10 Conferences. By 1991 (around the time NBC was phasing out their own college basketball coverage), ABC ramped up its basketball coverage in an effort to fill the void.[13][14] As a result, the network also started to cover games focusing on teams from the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) and Southeastern Conference (SEC). Otherwise, it was essentially, a considerable hodge-podge with an ACC game one week, or a Pac-10 or Big 10 game the next. The games that were broadcast were a hodge-podge of conference matchups even after the ESPN on ABC brand change, with SEC and Big East match-ups occasionally being shown alongside frequent ACC, Big 12 and Pac-10 match-ups.

ABC's early regular season broadcasts were, for the most part, technically time buys from organizations such as Raycom[15][16][17][18] (particularly, around 1990–91) or sister network ESPN. This in return, was a way to avoid union contracts which require that 100% of network shows had to use crew staff who were network union members.[19] During the early 1990s, Raycom paid ABC US$1.8 million for six weeks of network airtime of 26 regional games. The format allowed Raycom to control[20] the games and sell the advertising.[21]

In the 1987–88 season, ABC did not air any college basketball games during the last three weekends of February due to the network's coverage of the Winter Olympics. As previously mentioned, coverage by ABC steadily increased during the early 1990s;[22] by the 1991–92 season, ABC was carrying regional games in many timeslots on Saturday and Sunday afternoons. By 1997, ABC's presenting sponsor was Paine Webber.[23]

Starting in 1997,[24][25][26] coverage of the PGA Tour limited the number of games that the network showed; this continued through 2006. Coverage of the NBA further decreased college basketball coverage on the network when ABC Sports acquired the broadcast rights to the league (through a production arrangement with ESPN) beginning in 2002. Beginning with the 2007 season, all games were rebranded as part of the integration of ABC Sports into ESPN as ESPN on ABC (meaning that all sports telecasts on ABC would exclusively feature ESPN's graphics, music and announcers) and Sunday games were discontinued. From 2007 to 2009, all games began at 3:30 p.m. Eastern Time, which was a departure from the differing broadcast times that were previously assigned to the game telecasts.

From 2010 to 2013, ABC broadcast the semi-finals and finals of the SEC men's basketball tournament. In 2014, ABC only broadcast the semi-final round of the tournament.[27]


For the first time since 2009, ABC returned to airing regular season college basketball games in 2019. The network would air 5 games, starting on December 8, when the Texas Longhorns hosted the Texas A&M Aggies, and has slowly increased since then.[1][28]

In 2022, the numbers of college basketball games on ABC was reduced due to ABC's coverage of the XFL.[29][30]

In 2023–2024, ABC aired one men's college basketball game between Kansas and Baylor, though women's college basketball games will continue to air on the network.[31]

Women's coverage overview

Beginning with the 2021 NCAA Division I women's basketball tournament, select women's college basketball games have also aired on ABC. In December 2021, the first regular season women's college basketball game aired on ABC.[32] Beginning with the 2022 NCAA Division I women's basketball tournament, ABC also airs the final of the tournament, along with select weekend tournament games.[33]


See also: List of College Basketball on ABC personalities and ESPN College Basketball broadcast teams

Currently, Dan Shulman and Jay Bilas are the primary announcing team for men's college basketball, while Beth Mowins and Rebecca Lobo are the primary announcing team for women's college basketball, with Ryan Ruocco joining Lobo during the NCAA Tournament.

In the early years of ABC's regular college basketball coverage, Keith Jackson[34][35][36] and Dick Vitale[37][38] were the primary announcing crew, while Gary Bender[39][40] was the secondary play-by-play announcer behind Jackson. Meanwhile, Al Michaels[41] did regional games during this period.

When Brent Musburger[42] came over from CBS in late 1990, he started working with Dick Vitale on the main team. Jim Valvano[43][44] did color commentary on games for ABC for a few years until his death in 1993; Vitale and Valvano were paired as co-analysts on ABC's college basketball broadcasts a few times during the 1991–92 season. In the 1992–93 season, Terry Gannon filled in on a few games for Valvano, who at the time was battling cancer, which would ultimately claim his life in April 1993.

Steve Lavin replaced Dick Vitale as the lead analyst beginning in 2005, as Vitale moved to ESPN's weekly primetime showcase game. From 2010 until 2014, when ABC only aired the SEC men's basketball tournament, Brad Nessler and Jimmy Dykes served as the broadcast team. When college basketball returned to ABC during the 2019-2020 season, a variety of ESPN College Basketball analysts were used, including Dick Vitale.

See also


  1. ^ a b Jim Donnelly (November 18, 2019). "Watch 2019-2020 College Basketball on ABC & ESPN". (Press release). Retrieved November 5, 2023.
  2. ^ "Milestone firsts in college basketball TV history". Classic Sports TV and Media. November 15, 2013. Retrieved November 21, 2013.
  3. ^ "What to Do Today: Television Highlights", Ithaca (NY) Journal, December 15, 1973, p. 25
  4. ^ William Oscar Johnson; William Taaffe (December 26, 1988). "A Whole New Game". Sports Illustrated. Time Inc. Meanwhile the cupboards of the other two networks are comparatively bare. Once the colossus of TV sports, ABC has a good college-football package, Monday Night Football (a so-so performer these days); a middling college-basketball contract; and a number of individual events, including the Triple Crown races, the Indianapolis 500, the Rose Bowl, the Sugar Bowl and golf's U.S. Open, British Open and PGA Championship. ABC's biggest shortcoming, at least in terms of prestige, is that for the first time since 1960 it doesn't have either a Winter or Summer Games in its lineup. Indeed, after losing the Barcelona Olympics, the network decided not to adorn a new truck, which it had recently ordered, with its traditional ABC Sports Olympic slogan.
  5. ^ William Oscar Johnson (December 12, 1988). "A Golden Opportunity". Sports Illustrated. Time Inc. Not only that, but ABC, the once reigning champion of TV sports, is widely expected to deal itself out of baseball's new television contract, which will be announced later this month. This would leave the network with week-to-week sports programming consisting of the NFL's less-than-splendid Monday Night Football, some college football, lots of golf and a college basketball package that doesn't include the NCAA Final Four.
  6. ^ LSU vs Kentucky College Basketball on WLKY Jan 18 1987 Complete w/Commercials on YouTube
  7. ^ Kentucky vs Indiana NCAA College Basketball Dec 5 1987 Complete w/Commercials on YouTube
  8. ^ ABC Intershow February 1987 on YouTube
  9. ^ "ABC Men's College Basketball TV Schedule".
  10. ^ William F. Reed (December 12, 1988). "College Basketball". Sports Illustrated. Time Inc. The Big Four Classic has two more years left in its TV contract with ABC; if NCAA sanctions, that Kentucky seems sure to get, include no regular-season TV appearances, what would the Big Four do? Postpone the classic until the Cats get out of the doghouse? Play as scheduled with ABC televising only the game not involving Kentucky? Replace the Wildcats with, say, Western Kentucky?
  11. ^ Homer, Jody (August 5, 1986). "BIG 10, PAC-10 IN 4-YEAR ABC DEAL". Chicago Tribune.
  12. ^ ABC Sports Sunday Promo (Mar. 8, 1991) on YouTube
  13. ^ 90's Commercials Vol. 60 on YouTube
  14. ^ 1992 ABC College Basketball - Duke vs. UCLA commercial on YouTube
  15. ^ 1994-95 ABC Sports College Basketball Intro/Theme on YouTube
  16. ^ Nebraska Basketball vs. #3 Kansas - Feb. 7, 1993 (Part 2 of 2) on YouTube
  17. ^ "Sports4". Online Sports. Archived from the original on September 28, 2011. The biggest time-buy arrangement is between Raycom and ABC. For the 1991–92 season, it paid ABC $1.8 million for six weeks of air time—13 telecasts—covering 26 college basketball games regionally. Raycom used ABC on-air talent including Brent Musburger, Dick Vitale, Jim Valvano, Gary Bender, Cheryl Miller, and Mark Jones.
  18. ^ "PaineWebber to sponsor ABC/Raycom college basketball". Archived from the original on March 5, 2016. Retrieved January 18, 2008.
  19. ^ William Taaffe (October 12, 1987). "It's Bottom-line Time". Sports Illustrated. Time Inc. Also revealing is ABC's whirlwind use of network crews on last season's college basketball games. The cameramen and technicians typically arrived at an arena to set up at around 2:00 a.m. on the day of the game so the network could save on expenses. They then caught a few hours' sleep, returned to the arena to televise the game, broke down the equipment and flew home so as not to run up costs the following day.
  20. ^ "Raycom Sports Company History" (PDF).
  21. ^ Richard Sandomir (January 31, 1992). "TV SPORTS; Syndicator Gives ABC Easy Fast Break on Profit". The New York Times. Retrieved May 12, 2010.
  22. ^ ABC Sports College Basketball Intro/Theme 1990-1993 on YouTube
  23. ^ Handful of March 1997 ABC commercials on YouTube
  24. ^ 02/01/1997: #2 Wake Forest Demon Deacons at #5 Maryland Terrapins on YouTube
  25. ^ Handful of March 1997 ABC commercials on YouTube
  26. ^ 02/20/2000: #15 Temple Owls at #1 Cincinnati Bearcats on YouTube
  27. ^ Matt Scalici (March 8, 2014). "SEC Basketball Tournament 2014: TV times, bracket and full schedule". Retrieved November 5, 2023.
  28. ^ Evan Roberts (October 15, 2019). "Tip Times and TV Games Finalized for 2019-20 Season". Retrieved November 5, 2023.
  29. ^ "ABC 33/40 to air seven XFL games including championship during 2023 season". January 5, 2023. Retrieved May 11, 2023.
  30. ^ "XFL and ESPN Update Game Times and Networks for Multiple Games". March 7, 2023. Retrieved May 11, 2023.
  31. ^ "ESPN's Industry-Leading Men's College Basketball Coverage to Feature Over 4,200 Games During the 2023-24 Season". November 1, 2023. Retrieved November 5, 2023.
  32. ^ "ESPN Announces 2021-22 Women's College Basketball Schedule". November 3, 2021.
  33. ^ "ABC to Air NCAA Women's Basketball National Championship for First Time". August 23, 2022. Retrieved November 5, 2023.
  34. ^ UNLV vs Arizona 1990 NCAA Basketball on YouTube
  35. ^ "Abc's Keith Jackson: A Hoss Of A Broadcaster".
  36. ^ William Taaffe (February 9, 1987). "Abc's Keith Jackson: A Hoss Of A Broadcaster". Sports Illustrated. Time Inc. Archived from the original on October 25, 2012. During ABC's series of Sunday afternoon games KJ will team with DV, Dick Vitale, who has made his name as a wild and crazy commentator on ESPN.
  37. ^ "Biography of Dick Vitale". Dick Vitale Online. Archived from the original on February 4, 2010. Retrieved March 5, 2012. He has been a college basketball analyst for ABC Sports since 1988, and has also covered the NBA Finals and the 1992 Summer Olympics for ABC Radio.
  38. ^ Jack McCallum (November 2, 1987). "In Your Face, Comrades!". Sports Illustrated. Time Inc. And for just a moment Dick Vitale actually lowered his voice. Later, Vitale, who did color commentary on ABC's telecast of Sunday's game, interviewed Gomelsky.
  39. ^ "Biography of Gary Bender". Archived from the original on July 24, 2008. Retrieved January 18, 2008. 1987–1991: Sportscaster for ABC covering college football, basketball and Monday Night Football
  40. ^ ABC Sports College Basketball Intro (1989) on YouTube
  41. ^ "AL MICHAELS - ABC Sports Commentator". Archived from the original on July 4, 2008. Retrieved March 5, 2012. Michaels also has worked on ABC's "NCAA Football' and college basketball telecasts, in addition to covering a variety of "ABC's Wide World of Sports" events and "The Superstars."
  42. ^ "Brent Musberger bio". ESPN. A preeminent voice of college football and college basketball play-by-play, Musburger also hosted the 1991 Pan American Games from Cuba.
  43. ^ "Valvano Agrees To 3-Year Abc Deal". The Washington Post. Archived from the original on May 16, 2011 – via HighBeam Research.
  44. ^ "Take The V Out Of Tv, Please". Sports Illustrated. Time Inc.
Preceded byNone NCAA Men's Division I Basketball Championship television broadcaster 1962 Succeeded bySNI Preceded byESPN NCAA Division I women's basketball tournament television broadcaster 2022–present Succeeded byIncumbent