Dick Vitale, ESPN agree to extension

Dick Vitale, a fixture in ESPN's coverage of college basketball since the network's earliest days, will have a courtside seat with the network from which to share his love of the game and distinctive catchphrases for at least four more seasons.

The network announced Wednesday the irrepressible announcer had agreed to a contract extension through 2014-15.

Vitale joined ESPN soon after its September 1979 launch and called its first major NCAA basketball game. The former coach and his trademark phrases have been synonymous with the network ever since.

"Simply put, Dick Vitale is college basketball," said Norby Williamson, ESPN's executive vice president for production, who announced the deal. "He embodies all the great characteristics of the sport he loves and has entertained millions with his unmatched passion and knowledge for more than 30 years. Dick's connection with fans of all ages is stronger than it's ever been and we're thrilled he will continue for years to come."

The Hall of Famer missed more than two months during the 2007-08 season after having throat surgery for ulcers on his left vocal cord. He returned with a pared-down schedule, working with a voice coach to put less strain on his vocal cords.

"There is nothing greater than walking into an arena and feeling the excitement and energy of a big-time college basketball game," Vitale said. "I can't thank ESPN enough for allowing me to be a kid at heart by giving me the opportunity to sit courtside for games I would pay top dollar to see. I'm living a dream."

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.