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College basketball starts on Ch. 13

Published Oct. 7, 2005

For nearly two months, releases from CBS Sports haven't meant much to me because WTVT-Ch. 13 wasn't airing the network's sports programing.

WTVT thought its switch from CBS to Fox already would have occurred, so it scheduled alternate programing _ like operas _ to fill the void. Releases on the network's Eye on Sports programing made a fast entry to the garbage can because of the situation.

This week, I started crumpling the news release about CBS' college basketball coverage when a light bulb went on. "Wait a minute, they have to find a spot for college hoops."

And it's true. Station officials confirmed Thursday that Channel 13 will air all of the network's college basketball games before becoming a Fox affiliate on Dec. 12. CBS' 31-game season begins Nov. 26 with a doubleheader: North Carolina-Texas and Georgetown-Arkansas.

WTVT also will show the Shark Shootout Nov. 19-20.

The switch: When WTVT makes the move to Fox, WTSP-Ch. 10 will become the CBS affiliate and WFTS-Ch. 28 will become the ABC affiliate. What's it all mean? WTVT will again be the home of NFC games, Monday night football will move to WFTS and WTSP will become the home of CBS' college basketball coverage. Got it?

The big winner?: Becoming the Fox affiliate may turn out to be a brilliant move for WTVT, in terms of sports. Fox's checkbook charge into the industry ($1.58-billion for the NFL, $155-million for the NHL) may add Wimbledon. The network has made a $120-million bid for tennis' most prestigious event, USA Today reported.

The bid is considerably more than the $21-million the newspaper said NBC ($14-million average) and HBO ($6.5-million) paid for rights that have expired, but the networks reportedly could retain the rights with a bid within 10 percent of the high bid.

Way to go, Husker: Three cheers for Nebraska athletic director Bill Byrne, who worked with ABC to turn the Oct. 29 matchup between the No. 3 Cornhuskers and No. 2 Colorado into a nationally televised championship.

ABC had scheduled the game as one of several regional contests in the 3:30 p.m. window after the Michigan-Wisconsin game, which had been slated as a noon national telecast. But Byrne told ABC he would move his game to a noon (EST) kickoff if ABC would it to the nation.

Although ABC had to do some incredible program changes, Byrne got his wish. The change wouldn't have been possible if ESPN hadn't agreed to televise the Wolverines-Badgers matchup. ABC moved several regional telecasts to the 3:30 p.m. slot, including Penn State-Ohio State, Virginia Tech-Miami and North Carolina-N.C. State.

Regional networking is fine, but it would have been a travesty if we were forced to flood the sports bars to see a matchup between No. 2 and No. 3. I wish there could be some kind of viewer voting to determine what regional game we see. I suspect a North Carolina-N.C. State game would have a tough time beating out a Penn State-Ohio State matchup, even though this is considered ACC territory.

Who needs baseball?: Ratings for ABC's Saturday lineup of national and regional games are up 8 percent over last year, and the network says that is partly due to the baseball and hockey work stoppages. ESPN has seen a 52 percent increase.

The hockey and baseball labor problems helped, "but I don't think that's the sole reason," ESPN vice president of programing John Wildhack said. "Our schedule probably is better than last year, and for the most part we've had some pretty compelling games."

Notes: At halftime of Sunday's Pittsburgh-New York Giants game on NBC (WFLA-Ch. 8), Jim Gray will have a rare interview with ex-Steelers guard Carlton Haselrig. Haselrig, a Pro Bowl player two years ago who twice spent time in drug rehab, disappeared from preseason training camp Aug. 15 and wasn't found until Sept. 6, after his wife filed a missing persons report. On NBC's NFL Live, Mike Ditka interviews Giants coach Dan Reeves. And in the wake of the blowup between Raiders quarterback Jeff Hostetler and coach Art Shell, Joe Gibbs discusses player-coach relationships. Tonight, ESPN will replace the NHL with a rebroadcast of the 1980 USA-USSR "Miracle on Ice" Olympic hockey game.