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Volume 24 No. 160


CBS earned a 4.0 overnight Nielsen rating for the NCAA men’s basketball selection show yesterday from 6:00-7:00pm ET, down 9% from a 4.4 rating last year. That figure is also down from a 4.8 overnight in both ’10 and ’09. ESPN also earned a 1.4 overnight for its "Bracketology" show from 7:00-9:00pm, down 22% from a 1.8 rating last year (Austin Karp, THE DAILY). In Tampa, Tom Jones writes CBS' selection show is "good for one thing: revealing the bracket." Expecting "anything more has become unrealistic." CBS "drags out the announcements so long that there is very little time left in the hour show to really dive into the brackets." The "Infiniti NCAA Hardcourt Brackets" show on truTV after the CBS show was "much better at delving into questions." Jones writes give credit to Division I Men’s Basketball Committee Chair Jeff Hathaway and Vice Chair and Xavier AD Mike Bobinski for "not ducking any of those questions" (TAMPA BAY TIMES, 3/12). ESPN’s John Gasaway wrote on his Twitter account, ‏"Jeff Hathaway's body language screams: I'm so glad none of you is Billy Packer." The Newport News Daily Press’ Dave Fairbank‏ wrote, "Greg Gumbel to the Hardcore Brackets panel, once Hathaway stopped explaining: "That help?" Greg Anthony: "No." About sums it up. ESPN’s Mike Greenberg‏ wrote, "I like Seth Davis, he's good. Said committee sent a message about non conference scheduling with Iona in and Michigan State over Missouri." Univ. of Kentucky Athletics New Media Assistant Ryan Suckow wrote, "Seth Davis just sounded really excited when he said, 'Since we're on Tru TV, I'm allowed to say Sex Appeal.' What?"

HALFTIME ENTERTAINMENT: CBS Sports and Turner Sports will combine for a live interview with President Obama and U.K. PM David Cameron on truTV tomorrow during halftime of the first game of this year's First Four. CBS Sports' Clark Kellogg will conduct the interview, which will be the only joint interview the two will give during Cameron's visit to the U.S. (Turner). CBS Sports Coordinating Producer Steve Karasik said, "We were talking with the White House about potentially doing something with the president sometime during March Madness. It came up they were planning on going to Dayton. And the president has a relationship with Clark Kellogg" (USA TODAY, 3/12).

: In N.Y., Phil Mushnick notes with 37 seconds left in Saturday's Kentucky-Florida SEC tournament semifinal game on ABC, Kentucky, "up one, was inbounding from under the basket at which it was shooting ... and ABC/ESPN missed the inbounds pass because it was stuck in some meaningless, full-screen stats billboard." Mushnick also asks, "If the shot from the Goodyear Blimp of the New Orleans Arena shown during ABC/ESPN's Saturday coverage of the SEC semifinals was supposed to be live, why were the parking lots empty?" (N.Y. POST, 3/12). Meanwhile, Mushnick wrote you would think that ESPN's Bobby Knight, given that the net "has purged his preeminent presence from its Coaches Gone Berserk reel since Knight joined ESPN, would show a little network loyalty." But during Friday’s Baylor-Kansas State telecast on ESPN2, he "ridiculed ESPN 'bracketologist' Joe Lunardi as a know-nothing." Mushnick: "Judging from Knight’s ESPN work this season, Lunardi paid far more attention to college hoops than did Knight" (N.Y. POST, 3/11).

THREE'S A CROWD: The TAMPA BAY TIMES' Jones writes he likes ESPN's Jay Bilas and Bill Raftery as college basketball analysts, but he "didn't like them working together with top-flight announcer Sean McDonough during last week's Big East Tournament." Jones: "The Bilas-Raftery pairing just didn't work. ... Three-man booths generally don't work in college basketball no matter how good the announcers are" (TAMPA BAY TIMES, 3/12).

SCHEDULING ERRORS: In Charlotte, Giglio & Green Jr. note none of the scheduled 2:00pm ET or 9:00pm games during the ACC tournament "started when the ACC, ESPN and Raycom have claimed they would start." The N.C. State-Virginia game on Friday "didn't tip until 2:31 p.m." The ACC and its TV partners "need to start being honest about the start times" (CHARLOTTE OBSERVER, 3/12).

The Maple Leafs were "only one of several Canadian franchises to criticize the overall performance" of the CBC's "Hockey Night In Canada" -- including co-hosts Don Cherry and Ron MacLean -- during an NHL BOG meeting in Ottawa at the All-Star Game, according to reports cited by Bruce Dowbiggin of the GLOBE & MAIL. Following the CBC's annual presentation to the NHL board in Ottawa, Maple Leafs President & GM Brian Burke "delivered a blistering critique of the program's treatment of him and then-coach Ron Wilson." Other Canadian teams, including the Canucks and Senators, "blasted the network for the Toronto-centric nature of the program and complained about deteriorating journalistic standards." However, participants of the meeting reported that "no one asked for Cherry to be fired, and that Cherry is only one bone of contention with CBC." Senators Owner Eugene Melnyk said, "I didn't comment at all on MacLean or Cherry. My issue dealt with the number of games shown on 'HNIC' that are not Sens games and my concern about how skewed they are to another team that you can easily deduce. ... I wasn't given any concrete response." Oilers President & CEO Patrick LaForge said of the meeting, “It got a little warm in there. If NHL realignment was a 3 on the Richter emotional scale, this was a 5. Having said that, it's not abnormal for our meetings to get that way. I just didn't think it was the right format for that discussion." Sources said that CBC Exec VP/English Services Kirstine Stewart and Exec Dir of Sports Properties Jeffrey Orridge were "blindsided by the vitriol they encountered after making a pitch to keep the public broadcaster as the NHL's partner in Canada." CBC execs "pledged to get back to the clubs on the substance of the issues raised at the meeting." LaForge said the teams want a "higher level of partnership" with the CBC (GLOBE & MAIL, 3/10). In Boston, Kevin Paul Dupont wrote, "Whatever personal beef Cherry has with Burke about job security, here's an idea: take it up with the CBC human resources department, not a viewing audience that by now should be gaining a clearer picture that it's time for crazy ol' uncle Don to move permanently to the La-Z-Boy side of the whole TV experience" (BOSTON GLOBE, 3/11).

TALKING HOCKEY: The GLOBE & MAIL's Dowbiggin today writes there was "peace in the valley" on "Coach's Corner" this week, as Cherry and MacLean "largely stuck to hockey, and the civil war with Toronto GM Brian Burke was shelved for this week at least." Ratings from earlier this season showed a drop in "HNIC" of 500,000-1 million viewers "on some nights Coach's Corner comes on after the first period." The CBC noted 2.217 million viewers saw the March 3 "Coach's Corner" when Cherry went after Burke; the high for the season was 2.51 million viewers (GLOBE & MAIL, 3/12).

USA TODAY's Michael Hiestand writes after Tiger Woods withdrew yesterday from the WGC-Cadillac Championship "without explanation, viewers saw an anomaly: a blimp proving to be a handy reporting tool in TV golf." The MetLife blimp "focused on Woods driving away from the course," and NBC's Jimmy Roberts spoke to a PGA Tour official who said that he had "spoken with Woods, who had explained he was having problems with his left leg" (USA TODAY, 3/12).

LEAGUE MATTERS: In Tampa, Tom Jones writes he "loved NBC Sports Network's coverage Sunday of the MLS game" between the Red Bulls and FC Dallas. It looked "great and sounded even better with Kyle Martino between the benches, just like you might see on NBC's hockey coverage" (TAMPA BAY TIMES, 3/12). Meanwhile, Commissioner Don Garber said before the start of the season that the league "needs to boost its television audience to move further into the North American sports mainstream." Garber: "By 2022 if we are going to achieve our vision and be one of the top leagues in the world we are going to have to have higher television ratings. But the growth of our TV audience, we believe, is a function of the growth of the overall popularity of the league, our players and our clubs. And that is a process that is going to take some time" (REUTERS, 3/10).

EARLY RETURN: In St. Louis, Dan Caesar noted Dan McLaughlin, who "recently was reinstated by [FS Midwest] after being suspended in late September after his second drunken-driving arrest in 13 months." McLaughlin hosted FS Midwest's coverage of the Blues' game yesterday. McLaughlin, is also the net's lead Cardinals play-by-play announcer and "went on one of the 'Cardinals Caravan' promotional tours this winter and has appeared in some commercials for the team and originally was scheduled to make his return" next Saturday for a Spring Training game against the Tigers (ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH, 3/11).