CBS Sports Network to air special on UCLA and Houston's epic 'Game of the Century'
Incredibly, we are fast approaching the 50-year anniversary of one of the biggest sporting events in United States history. College basketball is a sport, now, that can be watched on myriad networks — and watched not even on television screens, but on phones and tablets. The inventory of games available to fans’ disposal has never been great nor easier to absorb.
For many, it’s hard to remember, let alone envision, a time when getting a college hoops game on television was not even a weekly event during the regular season.
But in 1968, college basketball barely qualified as a major American sport. There were two specific games that changed the paradigm and turned men’s college hoops. One of them was Michigan State playing Indiana State for the 1979 national championship. Magic Johnson vs. Larry Bird. You know the deal.
The other was the “Game of the Century,” which was played Jan. 20, 1968. Reigning champion UCLA, riding a 47-game winning streak, played No. 2 Houston in front of 52,693 people at the Astrodome. At the time it was the largest paid audience to ever watch a basketball game. No. 1 UCLA had Lew Alcindor. No. 2 Houston had Elvin Hayes. Both teams were undefeated. It was the first national primetime telecast of a college basketball game in history.
CBS Sports Network will air a TV special on that game, and its long-lasting significance. The special — titled “History in the Astrodome: UCLA vs Houston 1968” — will be hosted by CBS Sports’ Jim Nantz, but there is one particular legend involved in the show that makes this all the more special: Dick Enberg.
The Game of the Century was the first national primetime telecast of Enberg’s historic career. Enberg was on the call, and he is on the special. The taping was done before Enberg died on Dec. 21, 2017.
Why was the game so big? Who better than Enberg to put it in perspective.
“In many ways it set the standard and orchestrated what the future was going to be,” Enberg said. “Historically (it was) the most important game in college basketball history.”
Nantz hosts the special, speaking to a panel of four. In addition to Enberg, Houston stars Hayes and Don Chaney, both of whom played in that game, are featured, as is CBS Sports analyst Seth Davis. Every facet of the game and the climate of college basketball at that time is covered, in addition to a historic look at how big of a deal the Astrodome was in the 1960s. Plus, after the Cougars won the game 71-69, UCLA and Houston would wind up colliding again later in 1968 — at the Final Four. That postscript is also a part of the broadcast. The first airing will come Monday at 9 p.m. ET.