Dick Vitale to receive 2020 Ford Award recipient – Longtime broadcaster to be recognized at NCAA Convention
January 14, 2020
By Meghan Durham
Dick Vitale has been named the 2020 recipient of the NCAA President’s Gerald R. Ford Award, which recognizes an individual who has provided significant leadership as an advocate for college sports.
“In four decades broadcasting college basketball, Dick Vitale has delighted fans with his infectious enthusiasm for the sport,” NCAA President Mark Emmert said. “His passion for college sports never ceases, and we are thrilled to recognize him for his career advocating for college athletes so they can succeed on the court and in life.”
Vitale, who has worked for ESPN since shortly after its launch in 1979, has called more than 1,000 college basketball games for the network. Before joining ESPN, Vitale coached basketball at every level, from elementary school to the National Basketball Association. Starting in 1970, he coached for two years with Rutgers as an assistant coach, and he later coached Detroit Mercy until 1977, when he was named athletics director at the university. The following May, Vitale joined the Detroit Pistons as head coach, where he spent the 1978-79 season.
Vitale has been inducted into 13 halls of fame throughout his career, including the National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame (2008), the National Sports Media Association Hall of Fame (2013) and the Sports Broadcasting Hall of Fame (2013).
Beyond basketball, Vitale has dedicated his career to supporting philanthropic efforts. He currently serves on the board of directors for the V Foundation, which is dedicated to finding a cure for cancer and named for the late Jim Valvano. His efforts with the foundation include hosting an annual gala that has raised more than $29 million to date. He also awards five annual scholarships to the Boys & Girls Club of Sarasota County and has endowed a scholarship at Notre Dame that supports undergraduates involved in athletics who do not receive financial aid, including the band, cheerleaders and mascots.
“The Gerald R. Ford Award is as special as it gets. I must give a big thank you to my family and all of my colleagues at ESPN, who have become a second family to me over the past 40 years, as well as all of the college basketball fans who are so important to me,” Vitale said. “Wow … I begin to shake when I look at the list of previous winners. I am in total awe to receive an honor that went to people that I respect and have such admiration for — Rev. Theodore M. Hesburgh, Robin Roberts, John Wooden, Billie Jean King, James Andrews, Condoleezza Rice, Grant Hill. This honor is absolutely ‘Awesome, Baby!’ with a capital A.”
The award will be presented Jan. 24 at the 2020 NCAA Convention in Anaheim, California.
Named in recognition of Gerald Ford, the 38th U.S. president and a member of Michigan’s football team when it won two national championships, the award was established in 2004 by the late NCAA President Myles Brand. It was first awarded to the Rev. Theodore Hesburgh, former president of Notre Dame. Olympian and philanthropist Jackie Joyner-Kersee received the award in 2019.
Associate Director of Communications