ESPN will air the opening-round game of the NCAA Division 1 men's basketball
tournament one year early.
Through a multifaceted agreement between the NCAA, ESPN and CBS, the cable
network will televise 'March Madness' game action for the first time since 1990,
when it airs the so-called play-in contest, pitting the tourney's 64th-
and 65th-seeded teams, March 12 at 7 p.m. from the University
The survivor's reward: the daunting task of playing against a No. 1 seed
later that week.
In 2001, this game was produced by CBS and aired on sister network TNN: The
ESPN had televised NCAA Division 1 tournament games from 1980 through
Last July, ESPN and the NCAA finalized an 11-year agreement beginning with
the 2002-03 school year for 21 NCAA men's and women's championship events,
including the entire women's Division 1 tourney, as well as the opening-round
An ESPN spokesman said the timetable for this game was moved up through 'a
cooperative effort between the NCAA and its two rights holders.' Asked if ESPN
had paid a rights fee, the spokesman would not discuss specifics.
In addition to the opening-round game, ESPN will also produce Final Four
Friday, a live, four-hour show Friday, March 29, during the practice
sessions at the 2002 NCAA Men's Final Four in Atlanta.
Lastly, ESPN will air its men's basketball tournament-selection special at 7
p.m. Sunday, March 10, after CBS' NCAA selection show