College Basketball on CBS Sports
Logo as part of CBS Sports' new look launched on February 7, 2016
GenreCollege basketball telecasts
Presented bySee List of CBS Sports college basketball commentators
Theme music composerBob Christianson
Opening theme"CBS NCAA Basketball Theme"
Ending theme"One Shining Moment"
Country of originUnited States
Original languageEnglish
No. of seasons36 (through the 2016-17 season)
Camera setupMulti-camera
Running time120 minutes or until game ends
Production companyCBS Sports
Original release
NetworkCBS (1981–present)
CBS Sports Network (2006–present)
ReleaseNovember 28, 1981 (1981-11-28) –
NCAA March Madness (CBS and Turner Sports)

College Basketball on CBS (usually referred to on-air as the Road to the Final Four) is the branding used for broadcasts of men's NCAA Division I basketball games that are produced by CBS Sports, the sports division of the CBS television network in the United States.

From 1982 to 2015, CBS Sports obtained broadcast television rights to the NCAA Men's Division I Basketball Championship from NBC (which had been airing the game since 1969). Beginning in the 2016 season, TBS will hold the rights to broadcasting the NCAA Division I Championship in Men's Basketball in even-numbered years, while CBS will continue to air the game this time in odd-numbered years.

In addition, CBS currently holds broadcasting rights to conference regular season and tournament games, including the American Athletic Conference, Atlantic Coast Conference, Big 12 Conference, Big East Conference, Big Ten Conference and Southeastern Conference.


Coverage of the National Invitation Tournament (1966-1975)

See also: List of National Invitation Tournament postseason broadcasters

From 1966-1975,[1] CBS provided national television coverage for selected games from the National Invitation Tournament. Before 1975, the NCAA only allowed one team per conference to play in the NCAA tournament. Therefore, the NIT got many top teams and was considered somewhat comparable in quality to the NCAA men's basketball tournament.

In the early part of this era (circa 1966-1968), CBS carried one game on the opening Saturday and the championship game the following Saturday. By 1969, CBS moved their first round coverage from Saturday to Sunday to avoid conflicting with the NCAA tournament regional finals coverage on NBC. In the process, the NIT title game went head-to-head with the NCAA consolation game. The same would be true on both counts for the next three years.

In 1973, CBS expanded their NIT coverage to four games. The March 17 game (Notre Dame-USC) went up against an NCAA regional final on NBC. Meanwhile, the March 24 game (Notre Dame-North Carolina) went up against the first NCAA Final Four game.

In 1974, CBS covered went from covering four to covering five games in the NIT. The March 16 doubleheader (Md E Shore-Manhattan and Purdue-North Carolina) went up against the NCAA regional finals on NBC. Meanwhile, the March 23 doubleheader (Purdue-Jacksonville and Utah-Boston College) went head-to-head against the NCAA Final Four.

In 1975, CBS did not cover any NIT games on the first weekend, but did carry the semifinals and finals. The March 22 doubleheader (Providence-St John's and Princeton-Oregon) went head-to-head with the NCAA regional finals.


See also: NCAA basketball tournament selection process § Selection Sunday

Besides being their first year covering the NCAA tournament,[2] 1982 also marked the first year that the Selection Show[3] was broadcast on television.

For their inaugural season,[4] CBS had to scramble to arrange a regular season schedule as NBC still held exclusive rights to certain collegiate conferences. CBS also signed Billy Packer away from NBC to be its top analyst (teaming with play-by-play announcer Gary Bender,[5] and later Brent Musburger and Jim Nantz). Packer also played a key role in helping CBS put together its schedule. In the 1981–82 season, CBS did however, happen to obtain contracts with the Metro and Missouri Valley Conferences. During the 1982 tournament, CBS introduced 11:30 p.m. (Eastern Time) games on Thursday and Friday nights for the first two weekends. CBS also aired an NBA game in the noon timeslot on Sunday, March 14 while only showing a doubleheader of NCAA games.

Tom Brookshier, who was a play-by-play broadcaster for the NFL on CBS at the time, became the subject of controversy because of a remark he made during a Philadelphia Eagles vs. New Orleans Saints game broadcast on December 11, 1983. After a program note for an upcoming telecast of an NCAA men's basketball game involving the University of Louisville, Brookshier said that the players on the Louisville team had "a collective I.Q. of about 40". This resulted in Neal Pilson, then president of CBS Sports, apologizing to Louisville school officials and later suspending Brookshier for the last weekend of the NFL's regular season. Louisville's athletic director, Bill Olsen, felt that the remark was racist, since Louisville's starting five were all African American. Brookshier later apologized, calling his remark "stupid" and "dumb," but was angered over CBS' reaction, saying "I'm not about to be judged on one comment." He added, "I've done a lot of things for charity. Now my own network is bailing out on me and taking me off the air. After 20 years at CBS, I deserve better than this."[6] The apology was accepted by the university, as its president, Donald Swain, invited Brookshier to be the featured speaker at the school's annual football kickoff luncheon in Clarksville, Indiana on August 2, 1984.[7][8] Brookshier was reinstated in CBS's announcing lineup for the 1984 season, continuing as a network commentator through 1987.

For the 1984 tournament, CBS expanded its coverage on the first Sunday to a tripleheader. In areas which received the March 23 Wake Forest-DePaul game (most of the nation), CBS joined the Georgetown-UNLV game in progress around 1:30 a.m. ESPN re-aired the CBS feed of the Georgetown-UNLV game at 2:30 am.

The following season marked the first year that CBS had aired a regional semifinal tournament doubleheader, leaving ESPN with only one live game on each of these nights. Also this year, Brent Musburger took over from Gary Bender in the top CBS play-by-play role (but worked in the studio on the first weekend). Meanwhile, Pat Summerall made a return to basketball play-play during the tournament after having not worked any basketball games since the 1974 NBA playoffs). Summerall called second round tournament games in Atlanta alongside Larry Conley.

In 1986, Jim Nantz made his NCAA tournament play-by-play debut, calling second round games in Greensboro with Bill Raftery. 1987 marked the first year that CBS used the song "One Shining Moment" for its tournament epilogue.


For the 1990 tournament, CBS expanded its coverage on the first Saturday to show a quadrupleheader. This particular tournament also marked Brent Musburger's last assignment for CBS. Although Musburger was fired on April Fools' Day (which fell on the Sunday of Final Four weekend that year), he still did play-by-play for the championship game. Musburger had done play-by-play (although he worked in the studio for the first weekends) for CBS' coverage of the Final Four since 1985.

During the 1990–91 season, CBS' February 10, 1991 broadcast of a game between UNLV and Arkansas (which, respectively, were the #1 and #2 college basketball teams in the nation at the time) drew the highest rating for a regular season college basketball game since 1985.

In 1991, CBS assumed responsibility for covering all games of the NCAA tournament, with the exception of the single Tuesday night "play-in" game (the play-in game – between teams ranked as #64 and #65 seeds – is televised by ESPN, except for the first one, which was aired on then-CBS owned cable channel TNN, and used CBS graphics and announcers). For the evening sessions in the first round, CBS only came on the air at 7:30 p.m. for basketball games in the regions which received a 7:30 game broadcast. Otherwise, most of the country was "in the dark" until 8:00 p.m. 1991 was also the first year that the Saturday regional finals started at 3:30 p.m.

In 1992, CBS adopted their current theme, which has been used in variations ever since (the first update coming in 2003).

The 1995 tournament was the first year that CBS moved the Sunday regional finals to 2:30 p.m. During the 1995–96 season, CBS used a "wheel" concept on selected days, using a set of games with start times that were usually staggered by one hour. For example, CBS might have a game starting at 2:00 p.m., another one at 3:00 p.m., and a third one at 4:00 p.m. Some areas of the country would see the 2:00 p.m. game, then join the middle game in progress around 4:00 p.m. (likely seeing the second half only), and then join the late game in progress around 5:00 p.m. Other areas might see the first half of the 2:00 p.m. game, then see the entire 3:00 p.m. game and then join the late game in progress. CBS would periodically use this concept the next few seasons as well. It would influence how the 2011 tournament was conducted in terms of start times, except by that time, four different networks would be airing games.

With the 1998 tournament, CBS started using the team of Jim Nantz and Billy Packer to call games the first weekend. The previous several years, Nantz worked the studio on the first weekend (as was the case with his predecessor, Brent Musburger) while Packer called games with various partners.


In 1999, CBS began broadcasting its coverage of the Final Four in high definition. From 2000 to 2004, only one first- or second-round site and one regional site were designated as sites for the high definition broadcasts. In 2005, all regional games were broadcast in HD, and four first- and second-round sites were designated for HD coverage. Local stations broadcasting in both digital and analog had the option of airing separate games on their high definition and standard definition channels, to take advantage of the available HD coverage.

In 2001, CBS assigned the team of Jim Nantz and Billy Packer to a Thursday/Saturday tournament regional for the first time ever. The following year had CBS broadcast the Saturday second round quadrupleheader at 1:00 p.m. and the Final Four to 6:00 p.m. for the first time.

On March 20 and 21, 2003, CBS provided Iraq War coverage during the afternoon sessions. As a result, ESPN carried the tournament games using CBS announcers. This also led CBS to expand to a quadrupleheader for its Sunday game broadcasts on March 23. Also in 2003, CBS struck a deal with Yahoo! to offer live streaming of the first three rounds of the tournament through its Yahoo! Platinum service, for US$16.95 a month.[9]

For 2004, CBS assigned Jim Nantz and Billy Packer to a Thursday through Saturday regional for the third time in four years. This was also the only year that Nantz and Packer worked Thursday through Saturday tournament games on each of the first two weekends. That year, CBS sold access to March Madness On Demand for US$9.95, which provided games not otherwise shown on broadcast television. The service was available for free to AOL subscribers.[10] In 2005, the service charged US$19.95 for a subscription, but offered enhanced coverage of pregame and postgame interviews and press conferences.[11]

In 2006, March Madness On Demand was available free of charge, but dropped the coverage of interviews and press conferences. The service was profitable and set a record for simultaneous online streams at 268,000.[12] March Madness On Demand has been available free to online users in all subsequent years.

In addition, College Sports Television (later CBS College Sports Network, now CBS Sports Network) broadcast two "late early" games that would not otherwise be broadcast nationally. These were the second games in the daytime session in the Pacific Time Zone, to avoid starting games before 10:00 a.m. These games are also available via March Madness on Demand and on CBS affiliates in the market areas of the teams playing. In most markets, stations break between 5:00 and 7:00 p.m. Eastern Time for regular late afternoon programming, which consists of local newscasts and the CBS Evening News, as well as any other syndicated programming such as The Oprah Winfrey Show. In areas where The Price Is Right was pre-empted for basketball, the game show aired within this window. CSTV also broadcast the official pregame and postgame shows and press conferences from the teams involved.[13]

Beginning in 2007, all games in the tournament (including all first and second-round games) were available in high definition, and local stations were required to air the same game on both their analog and digital channels. However, due to satellite limitations, first round "constant" feeds were only available in standard definition.[14] Some stations that operate digital television chose not to televise high-definition broadcasts of the first and second rounds and the regional semifinals, and split their signal into digital subchannels to show all games going on simultaneously. Most notably, WRAL-TV in Raleigh, North Carolina provided four separate feeds on its digital signal from 2000 to 2010 in order to show all of the games.[15] In 2007, CBS broadcast all games from each regional site in high definition, however, due to limitations in the CBS Broadcast Center, only the "Flex" feeds were available in HD, constant feeds were in standard definition. Upgrades at the CBS Broadcast Center allowed all feeds, flex and constant, to be presented in high definition for the 2008 tournament.

For the 2008 tournament, CBS moved the Saturday regional final doubleheader to 6:30 p.m. 2008 also marked the last NCAA tournament in which Billy Packer would serve as a color commentator, a run that started in 1974 (he would be replaced by Clark Kellogg for the 2009 tournament).


See also: NCAA March Madness (TV program)

Despite CBS' contract to carry the tournament until 2013, the NCAA had the option of ending its agreement with the network after the 2010 championship. This led to speculation that ESPN would snag the rights to future tournament games[16] However, on April 22, 2010, the NCAA signed a 14-year agreement with CBS and the Turner Broadcasting System[17] worth more than $10.8 billion, allowing CBS to continue airing the entire regional finals through the national championship, with CBS and Turner splitting coverage of earlier rounds in the now 68-team field. After 2015, the regional finals, Final Four and national championship will alternate between CBS and TBS.[18]

CBS receives the same number of "windows," or time slots, for its tournament coverage as in previous years. However, all games will now be nationally – rather than regionally – televised. Both games from a particular section and site are shown back-to-back on the same network each day, except for the second session on March 20, 2011, which was split between CBS and TruTV so that CBS could show 60 Minutes at its regular time, or as close to it as possible. CBS also keeps coverage of the Division II final, which is part of the larger contract for this tourney.

In 2014, analysts Greg Anthony and Clark Kellogg switched roles, with Anthony moving to the broadcast booth and Kellogg returning to his previous role as a studio analyst. However, on January 17, 2015, halfway through the 2015 season, CBS announced Anthony would be suspended indefinitely following his arrest in Washington, D.C. the previous day on charges of soliciting prostitutes.[19]

Under a sub-license agreement with its new rightsholder Fox (following their breakaway from the football-playing members, now known as the American Athletic Conference), CBS acquired rights to selected Big East Conference games beginning 2013-14, mainly airing on CBS Sports Network, but with selected games airing on broadcast TV). As of the 2019-20 season, CBS will air 20 games per-season, with at least 2 on broadcast TV.[20]

Under a sub-license agreement with its rightsholder (ESPN), CBS also acquired rights to selected Atlantic Coast Conference, Big XII Conference and Pac-12 Conference games beginning 2012-13.[21]

In 2017, CBS extended its contract with the Big Ten as part of a new, six-year contract.[22]

Tournament feed overview


Until 2010, CBS broadcast the remaining 63 games of the NCAA tournament proper. Most areas saw only eight of 32 first-round games, seven second-round games, and four regional semifinal games (out of the possible 56 games during these rounds). Coverage preempted regular programming on the network, except during a two-hour window from about 5:00 until 7:00 p.m. Eastern Time when local affiliates were allowed to carry local newscasts and/or syndicated programming. The structure used by CBS resulted in far fewer hours of first-round coverage than under the former ESPN scheduling structure, but allows the games to reach a much larger audience than ESPN is able to reach.

CBS provided three sets of feeds from each venue, a "constant" feed, a "swing" feed and a "flex" feed. Constant feeds remained primarily on a given game, and were used primarily by stations with local interest in a game. Despite its name, a constant feed would occasionally veer away to other games for brief updates, however coverage generally remained with the initial game. Swing feeds tended to stay on games of natural interest, such as teams from local conferences, but would go to other games that have close scores. On a flex feed, coverage flipped from one venue to another, depending on the action at the various games in progress. If one game was a blowout, coverage would switch to a more competitive game. Flex games had no natural interest for the stations carrying them, allowing the flex game to be the best game in progress. Station feeds were planned in advance and individual owned-and-operated and affiliated stations had the option of requesting either constant or flex feed for various games. All games on DirecTV's Mega March Madness were sourced from the constant feed. In contrast, the regional finals, the national semifinals and the national championship were broadcast throughout the country.

From 2011 to 2013, CBS aired all of its game broadcasts on a national basis. The network aired a total of 26 games in each of the three years (which did not include the games to which Turner Sports held broadcast rights): eight second-round games (four games per day), seven third-round games (four games during the first day and three games on the second due to the network's broadcast of 60 Minutes), four games in the Sweet 16 (two games per day), all four of the Elite Eight games (two games per day), both of the Final Four games and the Championship Game.

In 2014 & 2015, CBS aired all of its game telecasts nationally. The network aired a total of 22 games in each of the two years (not including the games broadcast through the Turner Sports' end of the agreement): eight second-round games (four games per day), seven third-round games (four games on the first day and three games on the second to accommodate its airing of 60 Minutes), four games in the Sweet 16 (two games per day), two of the Elite Eight games (both of which were played on a Sunday) and the Championship Game.


In 2016, CBS once again aired all of its game broadcasts nationally. The network aired a total of 21 games (not including the games broadcast through the Turner Sports' end of the agreement): eight first-round games (four games per day), seven second-round games (four games on the first day and three games on the second to accommodate its airing of 60 Minutes) four games in the Sweet Sixteen (two games per day) and two of the Elite Eight games (both of which were played on a Saturday).


Main article: College Basketball on CBS results

Each year, CBS broadcasts a number of regular-season match-ups from every major conference, in addition to carrying the Big Ten Conference Men's Basketball Tournament.


Main article: List of CBS Sports college basketball commentators

Theme music

The current theme for CBS' coverage, simply titled "CBS NCAA Basketball Theme," was written by Bob Christianson and has been in use by the network since the 1992–1993 season.[23] While different arrangements have been used over that time, the melody has remained largely the same. The theme has also been used for tournament coverage on TBS, TNT and truTV as part of its broadcast partnership with CBS. Although this new theme is different from the CBS version, it is only used for the NCAA Tournament broadcasts and for CBS coverage of conference tournaments. CBS continues to use the version in use since 2004 as its main theme for its regular-season coverage.

At the end of CBS' coverage, a highlight reel featuring memorable moments from the tournament is shown, set to the song "One Shining Moment" originally written and performed by David Barrett (1987–1993 and 2000–2002), and subsequently covered by Teddy Pendergrass (1994–1999), Luther Vandross (2003–2009 and since 2011) and Jennifer Hudson (2010).

Before "One Shining Moment"

The following is a list of songs that CBS used during their closing montages from 1982–1986:

Year Song Artist
1982[24] "There's No Stopping Us" Sister Sledge
1983[25] "All Right" Christopher Cross
1984 "Whatever We Imagine" James Ingram
1985[26] "Theme from Patton" Jerry Goldsmith
1986[27] "Being Alive" Barbra Streisand


  1. ^ A complete TV schedule with announcers for the NIT from 1966-1975
  2. ^ "CBS at 75". Archived from the original on October 6, 2011. March 29, 1982 In CBS Sports' first-ever broadcast of the NCAA Men's Basketball Championship game, University of North Carolina, with freshman Michael Jordan, beats Georgetown for the NCAA crown. CBS Sports wins the Outstanding Live Sports Special Emmy Award for its coverage.
  3. ^ "CBS at 75". Archived from the original on October 6, 2011. March 7, 1982 For the first time ever, the "NCAA Selection Show" is broadcast live to a national audience by CBS Sports.
  4. ^ "Milestone firsts in college basketball TV history". Classic Sports TV and Media. November 15, 2013. Retrieved November 21, 2013.
  5. ^ "CBS at 75". Archived from the original on October 6, 2011. April 14, 1983 In an NCAA Men's Basketball Championship game upset, Gary Bender and Billy Packer call North Carolina State's upset of the University of Houston.
  6. ^ "SPORTS PEOPLE; Brookshier Penalized". The New York Times. December 14, 1983. Retrieved August 13, 2010.
  7. ^ "SPORTS PEOPLE; Louisville Gesture". The New York Times. July 12, 1984. Retrieved August 13, 2010.
  8. ^ "SPORTS PEOPLE; Brookshier's 'Penance'". The New York Times. August 3, 1984. Retrieved August 13, 2010.
  9. ^ "Yahoo unveils Platinum paid service". CNET Retrieved March 17, 2007.
  10. ^ . March 17, 2004 Archived from the original on July 18, 2006. Retrieved November 24, 2008. ((cite news)): Missing or empty |title= (help)
  11. ^ "NCAA MARCH MADNESS ON DEMAND SPEARHEADS CSTV.COM'S ONLINE COVERAGE :: Features Exclusive Blogs From Coaches Norm Roberts, Steve Fisher And Pat Kennedy, Streaming Video of Classic NCAA Tournament Moments, Exclusive Columns From Matt Doherty, Brian Curtis, Debbie Antonelli, Jerry Palm". College Sports Television.
  12. ^ "CBS's NCAA March Madness On Demand Sets Internet Record For Simultaneous Live Viewing Of An Entertainment Or Sports Event".
  13. ^ "CSTV: #1 in College Sports – Men's Basketball".
  14. ^ "Why we didn't get Stanford in HDTV (but the rest of the country did) – Morning Buzz". March 15, 2007.
  15. ^ "WRAL Digital Airs Entire NCAA Basketball Tournament". Capitol Broadcasting Company. March 16, 2000.
  16. ^ Don Surber. "ESPN to snag the Final Four?". The Daily Mail.
  17. ^ Fang, Ken (March 17, 2017). "Looking back at how the NCAA-CBS/Turner partnership began". Awful Announcing.
  18. ^ "NCAA Mens Basketball Tournament Expands To 68 Teams; CBS Adds Turner To Television Team". CBS (Press release). TV by the Numbers (Zap2It/Tribune Media). April 22, 2010. Archived from the original on May 1, 2010.
  19. ^ "Greg Anthony suspended indefinitely by CBS, Turner Sports after arrest for soliciting prostitute". USA Today. Gannett Company. Associated Press. January 17, 2015. Retrieved February 2, 2015.
  20. ^ "CBS will sublicense Big East basketball games from Fox through 2024-25". Awful Announcing. 2019-05-09. Retrieved 2019-05-10.
  21. ^ ((cite web)): Missing or empty |title= (help)
  22. ^ Stubbs, Roman (2017-07-24). "Big Ten formally announces six-year media rights deal with ESPN, FOX and CBS". Washington Post. ISSN 0190-8286. Retrieved 2018-02-09.
  23. ^ "CBS NCAA Basketball Theme Made Composer Big Bucks". AOL. March 22, 2007. Archived from the original on October 6, 2012.
  24. ^ CBS 1982 NCAA Tournament Ending (Pre-One Shining Moment) on YouTube
  25. ^ CBS NCAA 1983 "Pre" One Shining Moment on YouTube
  26. ^ 1985 NCAA Championship Villanova vs Georgetown on YouTube
  27. ^ 1986 NCAA on CBS "Pre" One Shining Moment on YouTube
Preceded byNBC NCAA Men's Division I Basketball Championship television broadcaster 1982 – Succeeded byIncumbent