For cable-ready viewers, ESPN2 will tune in soon

ON THE AIR

October 20, 1994|By MILTON KENT

Attention, city cable viewers: Your patience may soon be rewarded.

United Artists cable subscribers have been without ESPN2 since the channel opened for business last Oct. 1, and sports fans have clamored (OK, asked nicely) for the new outlet.

"We've received lots of calls. Lots of calls," said Kathy Roberts, marketing manager for United Artists.

Roberts said the company is looking into expanding its channel offering, and ESPN2 is "seriously" being considered.

"I can tell you that it is on my wish list," Roberts said.

The process of adding channels is expected to take six weeks, Roberts said, meaning that by the end of November or early in December, city residents could have ESPN2 as a part of basic service, just in time for college basketball.

Wow! A cable company that's actually responsive to its customers. What a concept.

Baskets a plenty

So, what does a network that is barren of football offer a sports-starved public?

The answer is college basketball, and plenty of it, and CBS, your home for the Final Four for the past 14 years, will start serving it up with gusto, beginning Thanksgiving weekend, according to its just-off-the-presses schedule.

CBS' 31-game plan commences Nov. 26 with North Carolina playing host to Texas and Georgetown meeting defending national champion Arkansas at the Pyramid in Memphis, Tenn., the next day.

Before the season concludes with the national semifinals and championship in Seattle on April 1 and 3, CBS will air 13 weeks of coverage with doubleheaders on nine of those weeks, the first on Dec. 3, with Duke traveling to Illinois and Missouri playing host to Arkansas, the second of three scheduled appearances by the Razorbacks.

One of the most intriguing doubleheaders comes Jan. 28, when the Connecticut men's and women's teams each play Kansas. CBS will carry the now-customary three women's games, including a Tennessee-Vanderbilt meeting on New Year's Eve and Purdue and Penn State on Jan. 21.

Pigskins on campus

Channel 13's college football lineup this Saturday (Clemson-Florida State at noon, North Carolina at Virginia 3:30 .. p.m.) is nowhere as attractive as last weekend's doubleheader (Auburn-Florida, Penn State-Michigan), but what could be?

Saturday is likely Alcorn State quarterback Steve "Air" McNair's last chance at national exposure, unless, of course, he wins the Heisman Trophy, which is less likely. Look for McNair and Alcorn State on ESPN2 at 1 p.m. as they play host to Southern.

Quick kick

ABC has done some deft maneuvering -- across two networks, no less -- to get next Saturday's Colorado-Nebraska ,, game as wide an audience as possible.

The showdown, which probably will decide the Big Eight championship, originally was scheduled as one of several regional contests in the 3:30 window to follow the Michigan-Wisconsin game, which had been slated as a noon national telecast.

However, with the Buffaloes riding at No. 2 in the polls and the Cornhuskers at No. 3, Nebraska athletic director Bill Byrne pitched to ABC the idea of a little time-shifting to an 11 a.m. kickoff in Lincoln, provided the game would be offered for national exposure.

"I'm a big college football fan, and I think people across the country want to see this game," Byrne said.

Agreed, but, in the process, ABC, which had booked the Wolverines-Badgers gig months in advance, was left with the task of finding a place for that game.

Enter ABC's corporate little brother, ESPN, which originally had no early game, but gladly snapped up the leftover, with the Big Ten's blessing, of course.

ABC then moved a number of games, including Penn State-Ohio State, which will be seen in Baltimore, Virginia Tech-Miami and North Carolina State-North Carolina, to the 3:30 slot.

"All the schools are quite pleased to get national exposure," said Mark Mandel, an ABC spokesman.

"I hope this puts to rest the notion that we're trying to drive people to pay-per-view. The national game we were going to have at noon [Michigan-Wisconsin] is now going up against us."

So noted.

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