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Volume 25 No. 66
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Closing Bell, March 31, 2006

CBS Set To Air NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament Final Four
MLB Season To Begin Sunday Night With Indians-White Sox On ESPN
MLS To Open Its 11th Season Tomorrow With Chicago Fire-FC Dallas
NASCAR, TNA Wrestling To Hold Event Following Craftsman Series Race

CBS SET TO AIR NCAA MEN’S BASKETBALL TOURNAMENT FINAL FOUR

The NCAA men’s basketball tournament Final Four begins tomorrow in Indianapolis. CBS airs its “Final Four Show” at 4:00pm ET, followed by the George Mason-Florida game at 6:07pm and LSU-UCLA at 8:47pm (THE DAILY).

Coca-Cola will launch a new campaign, which kicks off in North America during the Final Four, called “The Coke Side of Life.” The company plans an int’l launch in July following the FIFA World Cup (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 3/31).

Advertisers report that CBS’ March Madness On Demand drew “more than twice what the net promised,” with 5 million visits instead of the 2.5 million forecast (BUSINESSWEEK.com, 3/30).

Univ. of Tennessee men’s basketball coach Bruce Pearl, West Virgina Univ. coach John Beilein and Hofstra coach Tom Pecora will contribute to CBS’ Final Four coverage. Pearl could also join Clark Kellogg as a guest analyst during tomorrow’s pregame and postgame coverage (Nashville TENNESSEAN, 3/31).

ESPN’s “SportsCenter” is covering the Final Four from The Arts Rose Garden in downtown Indianapolis. Rece Davis and Dave Revsine will each serve as hosts, joined by analysts Dick Vitale, Digger Phelps, Doug Gottlieb, Steve Lavin and Rick Majerus (ESPN).

Meanwhile, ESPN will air the women’s Final Four beginning on Sunday with Maryland-North Carolina at 7:00pm ET, followed by LSU-Duke.


MLB SEASON TO BEGIN SUNDAY NIGHT WITH INDIANS-WHITE SOX ON ESPN

The ’06 MLB regular season begins Sunday night with Indians-White Sox at 8:05pm ET on ESPN.

ESPN’s “Baseball Tonight,” whose coverage begins with a one-hour special starting at 7:00pm, this year “will add live interviews with players, managers and coaches.” The net said that the interviews “will enhance the show by providing first-hand accounts of the day’s significant events” (ORLANDO SENTINEL, 3/31).

ESPN Senior News Editor/Remote Productions Don Skwar, on how much attention will be paid to the steroids story: “We will react according to the news.” Skwar added that the blend of that story with on-field issues “will be a difficult mix” (PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER, 3/31).


MLS SEASON TO OPEN TOMORROW ON ABC WITH CHICAGO FIRE-FC DALLAS

ESPN and ABC Sports’ coverage of MLS’ 11th season begins tomorrow with the Fire-FC Dallas match, which will air on ABC at 4:00pm ET. Play-by-play announcer Dave O’Brien will join the nets’ coverage for the first time, teaming with third-year analyst Eric Wynalda and second-year sideline reporter Brandi Chastain. Other commentators this season include play-by-play announcer Rob Stone, who returns for his fourth season, analyst Marcelo Balboa and sideline reporter Heather Mitts.

ESPN and ABC Sports will use the SkyCam for the second season on select telecasts, and all telecasts will include vignettes from past FIFA World Cups (ESPN).


NASCAR, TNA WRESTLING TO HOLD EVENT AFTER CRAFTSMAN TRUCK RACE

NASCAR and TNA Wrestling will hold an eight-man tag team Lumberjack match following Saturday’s Craftsman Truck Series Kroger 250 at Martinsville Speedway. The match, which will be held at the Old Lowes Building across from the track, will include Fox’ Jeff Hammond, NASCAR Nextel Cup drivers Hermie Sadler, Kyle Petty, Elliott Sadler, Scott Riggs and Michael Waltrip. Wrestlers will include Jeff Jarrett and Eric Young. Fox' Darrell Waltrip will be honorary ring announcer (NASCAR).


BUZZER BEATERS….

CFL Grey Cup games, which are worth at least C$2M to host clubs, “are being discussed as bargaining chips” in an effort to keep the Ottawa Renegades operating in ’06. The league is reportedly “willing to promise” a new Renegades owner a Grey Cup game sometime in the next five years to close a deal (OTTAWA CITIZEN, 3/31).

Southeast Toyota Distributors has renewed its marketing partnership for the NHL Panthers’ ’06-07 season. The deal includes arena signage, title sponsorship of weekend games, a branded wall and a new “Toyota Truckland” area that will have a showroom and interactive elements for fans (Sunrise Sports & Entertainment).

DirecTV will name a NASCAR DirecTV Crew Chief of the Race after each Nextel Cup race and crown a NASCAR DirecTV Crew Chief of the Year, who will be honored following the season during NASCAR Champions Week (DirecTV).


QUICK HITS....

"This is one of the biggest missed opportunities in baseball history from a marketing and promotional standpoint" - Univ. of Oregon Warsaw Sports Marketing Center Managing Dir Paul Swangard, on Giants LF Barry Bonds approaching MLB home run records under the cloud of the league’s steroids investigation (REUTERS, 3/31).

“I must tell you, this is uncharted waters” - CBS Sports Senior VP/Programming Mike Aresco, on potential ratings with George Mason Univ.’s men’s basketball team playing in the Final Four (WASHINGTON TIMES, 3/31).

“Show a little heart” – ESPN2’s Cliff Drysdale, on Maria Sharapova not checking to see how serious opponent Tatiana Golovin’s ankle injury was during their NASDAQ-100 Open match last night (ESPN2, 3/30).


ARTICLES OF INTEREST….

The ATLANTA CONSTITUTION’s Jeff Schultz writes of whether Giants LF Barry Bonds’ and other MLBers’ records should be allowed to stand if the league’s steroids investigation finds incriminating evidence, “It’s a little late to get serious about the past now” (ATLANTA CONSTITUTION). But the paper’s Terence Moore writes MLB Commissioner Bud Selig “should strip those statistics from the record book forever” (ATLANTA CONSTITUTION).

An editorial in the K.C. STAR on Tuesday’s Jackson County (MO) stadium renovation ballot reads in part, “The Star recommends yes votes.”

Amid speculation the Tribune Co. might sell the Cubs, the CHICAGO TRIBUNE’s Rick Morrissey writes, “A newspaper has no business owning a baseball team … or any other [entity] it might have to cover as a news story” (CHICAGO TRIBUNE).

Also:

  • Who should NFL Network hire to announce its primetime games next season?
  • Sports analysts weigh in on whether Oklahoma City should keep the Hornets.
  • George Mason Univ.’s basketball success piques interest in school’s namesake.
  • The thoroughbred racing industry gives cool reception to horse-cloning idea.

See the Articles of Interest section for more sports business-related links.


WEEKEND EVENTS….

FRIDAY

The Warriors will host an NBA Entertainment Celebrity Game, featuring Ice Cube, boxer Shane Mosley and actor Dean Cain, following their game against the Kings. The exhibition is free to fans with tickets to the Warriors’ game (S.F. CHRONICLE, 3/30).

SATURDAY

Sirius Satellite Radio will begin its live coverage of weekend NCAA baseball games.

The NHL Panthers will give away 5,000 hockey-themed Mr. Potato Heads to kids under 12 at their home game against the Lightning. Panthers Senior VP/Corporate Partnerships & Building Operations Chris Hibbs: “Every team is looking for the next Beanie Baby or whatever the next big promotional item is, the next bobblehead.” The Mr. Potato Head Sport Spud debuted last year with the Pistons, dressed in a retro jersey (SOUTH FLORIDA SUN-SENTINEL, 3/31).

Showtime will air the Lamon Brewster-Sergei Liakhovich WBO heavyweight championship fight live at 11:00pm ET/PT instead of the usual 9:00pm start for “Showtime Championship Boxing,” because of CBS’ coverage of the NCAA men’s basketball Final Four.

SUNDAY

The Association of National Olympic Committees will begin its biennial General Assembly in Seoul, with 201 of the world’s 203 NOCs expected to attend. The IOC Exec Board will also meet (AROUNDTHERINGS.com, 3/31).

The Brewers will host “Brewers on Deck,” the team’s annual meet-and-greet with fans, at Miller Park.

Former WWZN-AM talk show host Eddie Andelman will debut “The New Sports Huddle” on Boston's WTKK-FM at 7:00pm ET.


$TREET WRAP….

The following companies reported earnings this week:

COMPANY HIGHLIGHTS
Canterbury Park Q4 ’05 profit falls 13% to $0.20 compared to a year ago; for all of ’05, card club revenue rose 4.2%, but pari-mutuel revenue fell 7.3% (BIZJOURNALS.com, 3/28).
Stride Rite Q1 ’06 sales rise 22% but net income stays even with year-ago period; Chair & CEO David Chamberlain cites “positive impact” from Saucony acquisition (RTTNews, 3/30).

CHANNEL SURF….

FRIDAY

ESPN Classic will air the final episode of “Classic Now” at 7:00pm ET. The net is cancelling the show.

AFL Soul co-Owner Jon Bon Jovi will be profiled on ABC’s “20/20” at 10:00pm ET.

SUNDAY

Magic F Dwight Howard and Stuff, the Magic mascot, will appear on ABC’s “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition,” at 7:00pm ET. BASS angler Stephen Browning will also appear on the show.

NASCAR Nextel Cup driver Jeff Gordon will appear on FSN’s “CMI: The Chris Myers Interview,” at 10:30pm local time.

ESPN2 will air “Spring Fling: Rob Schneider at Giants Camp” at 11:00pm ET.


CLOSING STAT: HARRIS POLL ON MOST-FOLLOWED COLLEGE SPORTS

The following presents a recently released Harris Poll detailing the most-followed college sports.  From March 8-14, Harris Interactive conducted an online poll of 2,435 adults, of whom 690 follow college basketball (Harris Poll).

HARRIS POLL: DO YOU FOLLOW THESE SPORTS?
SPORT
%
College Football
30%
Men's College Basketball
24%
Women's College Basketball
8%
College Baseball
7%
College Hockey
3%
I follow none of these sports
7%

NOTES & QUOTES FROM THIS DAY IN SBD HISTORY….

2004
The Yankees and D’Rays open their season with two sellout games at the Tokyo Dome. Yankees P Mike Mussina: "It didn't feel like opening day to me."

2003
The WTA Tour names ATP COO and ATP Properties President Larry Scott its Chair & CEO in a five-year deal.

2000
“The Hornets have no intention of leaving here” – Hornets co-Owner Ray Woolridge, on speculation that his proposal for a completely publicly-funded $220M arena in Charlotte, almost certain to fail, is being made to free the team to relocate.


If you have any questions, comments or suggestions, please let us know at:
editorial@sportsbusinessdaily.com

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