Tag Archives: John_Toner

November 17, 1978 – UConn Basketball First Event on the E. S. P. Network

Storrs, Connecticut – Here we go!!! Peter Fox put together a pregame package. Lou Palmer was ready to go with his play-by-play. Guest announcer to work with Palmer was long-time WTIC Sports Director and Connecticut radio legend, Arnold Dean. Lou and Arnold were both fixtures on the Hartford 50,000 watt powerhouse station.

Scott and Ed worked right up to game time calling cable systems and asking them to carry the exhibition basketball game between UConn and Athletes in Action so that they could see what was coming to cable TV.. We have no idea how many systems might have actually carried the event, but we did discover that many system managers watched the feed in their office. Enough managers did show the game to produce a gratifying – albeit meager – viewer response.

At halftime, Arnold interviewed both John Toner and me. While viewers might have wondered about the glowing future we predicted for the E. S. P. Network in particular, and cable TV in general, we now know that we probably understated the potential.

It was only an exhibition game for the UConn Huskies and, in truth, it wasn’t much of a game. However, unknown to them at the time, a few systems and some viewers scattered around the USA witnessed the first images of what has become the Worldwide Leader in Sports.

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October 16, 1978 – John Toner, UConn and “Demo events”

Storrs, Connecticut – The opening minute of my convesation with John Toner was illuminating. Following a question about my impression of the NCAA meeting, John said, “…I’ve talked to Tom (Hansen) and they like your idea. Walter (Byers) is interested, but he has his doubts about your ability to pull it off.” He went on to say we should follow Tom’s advice about mailing details to all of the TV Committee members  and then do the follow up calls. I said, “They’re already in the mail.”

Next we turned to the UConn program that we had been discussing before we ever thought of going to Shawnee Mission. I suggested that the proposed UConn schedule would be incorporated into whatever arrangement we ultimately made with the NCAA. Toner agreed and we moved on to a very pressing need for our fledgling network.

We desperately needed to show the world what we had in mind for our all sports network – in other words we needed to produce some live games from a college campus and send them to cable systems around the country. Ideally, our “demo events” would be back-to-back on the same day or on consecutive days to give both the NCAA and cable operators a brief look at the concept. We had to produce something before we could move forward.

“Will you allow us to originate a couple of games before the end of the year?” I asked.

“What did you have in mind?”

“We’d like to combine a basketball game with one other event, either on the same day or on consecutive days.”

“Would you consider soccer?”

“Certainly” I answered, “but the season is almost over.”

“You’re right, but we will be hosting an ECAC playoff game on Saturday morning, November 18, and we do have a basketball game the night before.”

“Sounds perfect,” I said, “can we count on doing those two games?”

“Yes, I think you can. I’ll let you know tomorrow, but I don’t anticipate any problems.”

We had our “demo events” and on Friday night, November 17, 1978, the E. S. P. Network sent the UConn vs. Athletes in Action basketball game to any cable system capable of receiving a signal from RCA Satcom 1. The next morning we did indeed do the ECAC soccer playoff game.