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Circle Your Sets, College Basketball Stampede Is Coming

November 28, 1986|LARRY STEWART

Less than 15 years ago, it was hard to find a college basketball game on television.

Fledgling networks like TVS or independent regionally oriented syndicators were the major sources. Most games were relegated to hard-to-find UHF channels.

But as cable television grew, so did the number of college basketball telecasts. In recent years, there have been games all over the dial.

That will be the case again this season. "It's gotten to a point of over-saturation," said Al McGuire, NBC basketball commentator. "There are just too many games on TV."

But although that's a negative to broadcasters and schools trying to make money, it's a plus to college basketball junkies. For them, the situation provides a daily smorgasbord.

This season, for the first time, all three of the major networks will be involved with college basketball. ABC is a new player, but its first telecast won't be until Jan. 18. CBS and NBC will start televising college basketball Dec. 13.

This weekend, though, there are several games on cable, including the Great Alaska Shootout on ESPN and the NIT preseason tournament on USA. Channel 9 will also carry the NIT final Saturday, delayed.

ESPN again will be the major carrier of college basketball this season, offering 100 regular-season telecasts. For the first time, they will all be live.

"I remember someone called me and told me they watched 35 games in one week," said Dick Vitale, ESPN's expert analyst who will also work the ABC games this season. "Thirty-five games. I didn't think anyone else besides me would watch that many games in a week."

ABC has paired Vitale with Keith Jackson, who years ago worked NBA games for ABC.

"I've always enjoyed basketball and working with Dick. Well, it's going to be different, but we're going to get along just fine," Jackson said.

Vitale, former coach of the Detroit Pistons and the University of Detroit, said: "A lot of people say I'm making the big time by doing ABC. I say wrong, baby. I've been doing games on ESPN with a deep penetration. I've done the big time."

ABC's kickoff attraction Jan. 18 will be a doubleheader, Louisiana State at Kentucky, followed by defending national champion Louisville at Purdue.

CBS will open Dec. 13 with Arizona at Georgetown, while NBC will begin its 12th consecutive year of regular-season coverage the same day, highlighting DePaul at Louisville.

The USA cable network opens with UCLA at Temple Monday, Dec. 15.

New field for Winfield: He's not ready to take over for Mike Wallace or Barbara Walters, but New York Yankee outfielder Dave Winfield is now, among other things, a television interviewer.

Winfield is the latest host of "Greatest Sports Legends," television's longest running syndicated sports show.

Past hosts of the show, which will be in its 14th season next year, include Paul Hornung, Reggie Jackson, Tom Seaver, George Plimpton, Ken Howard, Jayne Kennedy and Steve Garvey.

"Jayne Kennedy is the best host we've had," said Berl Rotfeld, who founded the show in 1973 and is still its executive producer. "But when we're through editing our latest shows, I might be saying that about Dave.

"He works hard studying his subject and comes across very well. He's a natural."

Does that mean television looms in Winfield's future?

"I've been playing baseball for 14 years--a lot of people don't realize that--and plan to play five or six more years," Winfield said while at La Costa recently for a taping session. "I want to have a lot of options open to me after I retire. I hope television work is one of them."

Winfield is the only athlete ever drafted in three sports. He was selected by the San Diego Padres, the Atlanta Hawks and, as a tight end, by the Minnesota Vikings. He played basketball and baseball at the University of Minnesota, where he was both a pitcher and outfielder.

But Winfield is more than just a talented athlete.

The 35-year-old bachelor designs his own clothes, owns an art gallery in his hometown of St. Paul, Minn., and has many business ventures. For instance, he owns four Burger King restaurants in Norfolk, Va. His hobbies include photography--he recently had an exhibit in St. Paul--and black contemporary art.

Also, he's the president of the Dave Winfield Foundation, which started in San Diego in 1977 and then went to New York along with Winfield. Since its inception, it has assisted more than 250,000 youngsters in the areas of health and education.

Add "Legends:" Among the 10 subjects being taped at La Costa for the new season was Mean Joe Greene, who had a short and not-so-sweet career as a pro football commentator. He worked six games for CBS in 1982, the strike year, then was fired.

"I wasn't very good," Greene said during a break. "But I think CBS made a mistake with me. They tried to make a celebrity out of me. I was a celebrity as a football player, but I was not a celebrity as an announcer."

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