50 Years Later, Enberg Preps for Another NCAA Championship

In 1961, Dick Enberg called his first NCAA Basketball Championship game. Cincinnati defeated Ohio State 70-65 in a game that the announcer smilingly suggests was important only to viewers in Cincinnati and Columbus.

“Back then, it was naïve and pure,” says the Sports Broadcasting Hall of Fame announcer. “Nobody really knew what we had. Basically, you had a director and the announcer. You were kind of a producer and announcer.

“As television has grown with the growth of the sport,” he continues, “it has become more and more complicated. You have people building TV packages. We’ve got the graphics, we’ve got the promos, we’ve got the color man. The role of the play-by-play announcer has really shrunk in that you call some of the action but it’s really an analyst’s game.”

The multi-Emmy Award-winning Enberg has covered NFL and collegiate football, U.S. Open tennis, the World Series, and heavyweight boxing, but, as March Madness approaches, he remembers the days when he, Al McGuire, and Billy Packer teamed for college basketball duties. “Al, Billy, and I would go down to a college [for a Game of the Week]. We were like movie stars. Billy didn’t care, but Al loved it.”

Enberg believes that television and the technology incorporated in that coverage have encouraged people to watch. “People say during the course of the year, the ratings are down. They really aren’t! Now you can watch 20 games on any given night. If you add up all the ratings, you’ve got a sizable [audience].” Today’s coverage shows “there is interest in the college game, and it all comes to a boil in March. I think we entertain the audience better than we ever have.”

At the same time, one can hear a note of nostalgia in his voice. “You look back at some of the old games, and you see the screen unencumbered. No scores, no ‘how many fouls or timeouts.’ Or ‘stay tuned for this.’ There’s a kind of beauty about just a clean screen.

“Those days are long gone,” he says, “and I understand why it’s changed.”

Fifty years after his first NCAA championship, Enberg recalls advice he was given when he first started: “Just report the ball. The ball will take you to what’s going to happen.”

NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Championship coverage tips off on March 18 on CBS.

Dick Enberg was inducted into the Sports Video Group Sports Broadcasting Hall of Fame in 2009.

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