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CBS college basketball analyst Billy Packer criticized CBS's "60 Minutes" for its recent segments on college basketball, with much of his remarks relating to Mike Wallace's examination of the Frenso State program which aired March 15. Packer told Larry Stewart of the L.A. TIMES: "'60 Minutes' is a cancer in our organization, and you can quote me on that. I don't care how much money they bring in. ... They've done four college basketball stories around NCAA tournament time, and they always look for the most negative thing they can find. They go in with a preconceived plan and stay on the story until they get what they want. About 99% of college basketball is positive, and they look for the 1% that is negative. I'll tell you, I wouldn't want to find them on my team in a foxhole." Packer: "[T]hey spent three days on a story that bastardized the University of Louisville and Denny Crum and they had Leslie Stahl do a story on sneakers. Leslie Stahl wouldn't know a sneaker if she saw one" (L.A. TIMES, 3/20). WALLACE'S RESPONSE: CBS's Mike Wallace responded to Packer's comments: "Although I've never met him, I'm sure Billy Packer is a fine fellow. ... I believe our report on the Bulldogs was a fair one." As for Frenso State coach Jerry Tarkanian, Wallace said, "I actually like the man, and he is accurate when he says I told him he wouldn't be disappointed in the piece. But that was before we got very deep into the story. As it developed, I mean, what could we do?" (L.A. TIMES, 3/20). In L.A., columnist Tim Kawakami called Packer's comments "sadly revealing -- about Packer and CBS. ... '60 Minutes' is the best hour of journalistic story-telling ... on TV. Granted, it is sometimes naive when it reports on sports issues, but it is always brave and the reporting is usually indefatigable" (L.A. TIMES, 3/21).
CBS'S NCAA MEN'S TOURNAMENT COVERAGE: CBS Sports President Sean McManus said CBS, in conjunction with the NCAA, is "exploring the long-term benefits of possibly providing out-of-market games as the NFL does on DirecTV's 'NFL Sunday Ticket'" for the NCAA tourney. USA TODAY's Rudy Martzke writes that PPV games may be available by the 2000 Tournament, with CBS making all games in the first and second weekend available in a package for $69 or $79 (USA TODAY, 3/23). In N.Y., Phil Mushnick calls CBS's Tournament coverage the "best logistical work in the 16 years it has owned the rights" (N.Y. POST, 3/23). But in Boston, Howard Manly wrote that studio analyst Dean Smith "is not an asset on the air. For one thing, his Southern storytelling style does not fit today's sound-bite world" (BOSTON GLOBE, 3/22). WHITHER ESPN TOWN HALL? While a White House spokesperson said last week that a Presidential Town Hall meeting focusing on race and sports would be held April 14 in Houston, an ESPN spokesperson said Sunday "that while the idea had been discussed, neither the date nor the site has been set in stone" (HOUSTON CHRONICLE, 3/23). Charles Barkley, on the meeting that will focus on race and sports: "I find that racist in its own right. The black people can't do anything but sports?" (HOUSTON CHRONICLE, 3/21). OTHER NOTES: The IOC's new TV deal with the CBC/TSN, from 2000-2008, "marks the first time the IOC has handed a Canadian broadcaster rights to a series of Olympic games under a multiyear deal. Previously, rights were sold on a Games-by-Games basis" (HOLLYWOOD REPORTER, 3/23)....MSG Network and Fox Sports NY have a toll-free number (1-888- 6743769) that viewers can call to locate their teams on nights when multiple games are being telecast (N.Y. POST, 3/23)....Reggie White is being considered for a studio analyst position with CBS (MIL. JOURNAL SENTINEL, 3/22).
Despite denials by USA Network, sources said the cable network will "drop its long-running" weekly boxing series, "Tuesday Night Fights," later this year, according to Royce Feour of the LAS VEGAS REVIEW-JOURNAL. USA Network spokesperson David Schwarz called it a "pure rumor." But boxing industry sources, including Top Rank promotor Bob Arum, said the network will drop its boxing coverage in August. Arum said that the series' possible demise makes Monday night's Fox-televised card "even more important for boxing." Arum said that Fox "might enter" a contract with Top Rank for several boxing cards per year, "particularly if the first card is a success" (L.V. REVIEW-JOURNAL, 3/22). OH, OSCAR! Fox took out ads for tonight's "Oscar De La Hoya's Big Fight Night," up against ABC's Academy Awards telecast, in today's sports sections of USA Today and N.Y. Post reading: "Tonight, It's Oscar's Night on FOX."