UCLA honored Dick Enberg Thursday night, which makes them even.
For 12 seasons Enberg honored UCLA basketball by narrating the exploits of Lew Alcindor, Bill Walton and the rest of John Wooden’s ruthless college basketball tyrants.
The games were on KTLA and were televised live on the road, tape delayed at home.
Back then college basketball was only visible in newsprint. The sheer grandiosity of Alcindor made it possible for the home telecasts and when UCLA won three national championships with him, two more with Bill Walton and two in between, the networks finally bought the idea that the NCAA Tournament was worth it.
Enberg was the Bruins’ voice from 1967 through 1978 and in one nine-year period he watched them lose only 12 games.
He also narrated Wooden’s final season in 1975, which ended with an NCAA championship game victory over Kentucky, in the same San Diego building where the Ducks’ AHL team plays today.
“I always talked about the 1968 game with Houston, and then the loss at Notre Dame that broke the 88-game winning streak,” Enberg said before Thursday’s game with Oregon.
“Coach Wooden would hear me talk about how important those games were and he’d say, ‘You know, Dick, we did win a few games ourselves.’” As he spoke, North Carolina and Duke were playing on a nearby TV and the Indiana-Purdue replay was on another.
On Wednesday night you could watch Stanford at Arizona, and Cal at Arizona State.
It has to be a really, really obscure college game if TV avoids it altogether. The games generally have gruesomely bad ratings as the product is sliced into irrelevant slivers.
With a 68-game NCAA Tournament, everybody knows the regular season is a charade. The Bruins had to win the conference to get an invitation to the NCAAs.
They usually had no problem doing that, but when they traveled to Maryland in 1976 or played North Carolina State on a neutral St. By then Enberg had spun his UCLA visibility into NBC’s main chair.