ESPN is reportedly making a huge change to the duo that calls its primetime college basketball games. According to a report by The Big Lead, the Worldwide Leader has decided to replace longtime college basketball color commentator Dick Vitale with analyst Jay Bilas during its marquee game on Saturday nights.
According to multiple people close to the show, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the move has not yet been publicly announced, ESPN recently made the decision to promote Bilas to calling the Saturday night game in addition to extending his contract with the network through 2023. Vitale had been calling the Saturday primetime games with Dan Shulman since 2005, when they debuted.
According to The Big Lead’s report, Vitale will still call games, he’s just being replaced during the biggest game of the week. The 75-year-old Vitale signed an extension with ESPN, where he has been an employee since the 1979, so he’s not going anywhere for the foreseeable future, as his extension runs through 2017.
As for Bilas, this is a much deserved promotion. He is arguably the network’s top analyst — whether it is in the studio or live during College GameDay — and always does a great job when he is asked to do color commentary. He also has a huge personality and has a keen eye for what happens over the course of the game, two things that are necessary for the job.
This isn’t the only major change ESPN made to its college basketball coverage on Saturdays: College GameDay is replacing Jalen Rose and Digger Phelps with Jay Williams and Seth Greenberg, who have both proven to be fantastic analysts for the network. It was also announced on Tuesday that the show will not have a set schedule for which schools it will visit. Rather, the basketball version of GameDay will do what the football version of the show does and announce its location the week before.
ESPN’s college hoops coverage is changing, and one can argue that all of these changes are improvements, especially replacing the popular Bilas with the polarizing Vitale. Per usual, 2014 should be another great year of college hoops coverage by the Worldwide Leader in Sports.