Dick Enberg called 1961 NCAAs
Even in the post-Billy Packer Era (see post below), CBS' NCAA Tournament roster boasts plenty of experience - nowhere more than in the form of play-by-play man Dick Enberg.
The NCAA Tournament that begins Thursday will be the 50th (!) since Enberg, 75, first called the Final Four in 1961.
Enberg worked those games by himself, as a 26-year-old Indiana grad student, seen only on stations in Columbus and Cincinnati as Cincinnati beat Ohio State in overtime in the final in Kansas City.
"There wasn't even a national radio broadcast of the championship game," Enberg said. "It just reminds me that in my lifetime we’ve gone from a sport that had very little publicity to the giant it now has become."
Enberg had been calling games at Indiana while working on his master's and doctorate degrees in health sciences when someone asked whether he would be interested in working for the Columbus station during the tournament.
A Cincinnati station also picked him up for the final. Enberg said he recently found his pay check for the assignment: $200.
"The story behind the story is in those days, they did a consolation game," he said. "Utah played St. Joe's. I'm getting ready, and I'm nervous as hell. I'm doing the national championship game!
"Then Utah and St. Joe's went [four] overtimes. We're coming on at 9 for the national championship game and they go right through 9 o’clock. I don’t know anything about these teams, and I have no color man. So I start picking it up.
"Then, alone, I had to fill the whole half hour between games. I did everything but interview the guy sweeping the floor."
The experience helped elevate his young career.
"Selfishly, it was great training for me," he said. "I go out to California to teach and coach baseball, and [Gene] Autry hired me in ’66 [for Angels games]. He said, 'You know, John Wooden’s got a pretty good program over there, we ought to televise the UCLA games.'
"So there I am sitting in the right spot. In 1966, Lew Alcindor’s first year, they decided to televise the games. I worked solo. And in nine years all Wooden could do was win eight national titles. Man, was I a good announcer."