The first live sports events on network TV in more than two months delivered strong ratings Sunday, with Fox’s telecast of NASCAR’s race from Darlington, S.C, drawing 6.32 million viewers and NBC’s PGA Tour charity Skins game, The TaylorMade Driving Relief, attracting 2.35 million viewers. In both instances, the live events were staged with no fans in attendance, limited television crew, and strict social distancing guidelines and protocols in place. Announcers called the action from remote locations. Fox’s telecast of NASCAR’s first live race in 10 weeks, won by Kevin Harvick, represented a 38 percent jump over the previous race March 8 before the series, much like other pro sports leagues, was brought to a halt in mid-March due to the coronavirus pandemic. NBC’s live golf match, during which the professionals caddied for themselves, featured a four-man skins match, featuring Rory McIlroy, Dustin Johnson, Rickie Fowler and Matthew Wolff from Seminole Golf Club in Juno Beach, Fla. McIlroy won a closest-to-the-pin playoff worth six skins valued at $1.1 million as he and Johnson defeated Fowler and Wolff. More than $5.5 million was raised for COVID-19 relief funds. The two events were the first live sports telecasts on a broadcast network since March. ESPN has aired UFC events in recent weeks, and Professional Bull Riders returned in late April with an event on CBS Sports Network.
‘Last Dance’ finale a ratings hit
ESPN’s 10-part docuseries on Michael Jordan’s last run with the Chicago Bulls for a sixth NBA championship, “The Last Dance,” finished strong for its finale, with episodes 9 and 10 averaging 5.6 million viewers across ESPN and ESPN2. Episode 9 averaged 5.9 million viewers, up 10 percent from last Sunday, becoming the third most watched episode of the series, trailing the record-breaking audiences of episodes 1 and 3. Episode 10 averaged 5.4 million viewers, up 9.8 percent from last week’s episode 8.
NCAA: NC State to face independent probe
The NCAA said a case involving alleged recruiting infractions at North Carolina State will go through an independent investigation process created for complex cases. The case involves the recruitment of former Wolfpack one-and-done basketball star Dennis Smith Jr. The NCAA has charged NC State with four violations, including former head coach Mark Gottfried being charged individually under the provision of head coach responsibility for violations within his program. Specifically, the NCAA has alleged ex-assistant Orlando Early provided Smith and his associates approximately $46,700 in impermissible benefits — including $40,000 that a government witness testified he delivered to Early intended for Smith’s family in 2015.
Kentucky fires cheer coaches
The University of Kentucky fired head cheerleading coach Jomo Thompson, at the school since 2003, and assistants Ben Head, Spencer Clan and Kelsey LaCroix after a three-month investigation found instances of “hazing activities, alcohol use and public nudity” by the school’s cheerleading team at off-campus events. T. Lynn Williamson, the school’s principal deputy general counsel who served as the team’s adviser for four decades, retired days after learning about the investigation . . . Vanderbilt men’s basketball coach Jerry Stackhouse announced the Commodores signed guard Isaac McBride as a transfer from Kansas. McBride will join the roster for the 2020-21 season. The 6-foot-1 guard from Little Rock was the 2019 Arkansas Gatorade Player of the Year out of Baptist Preparatory School and rated a four-star player by Rivals.com for the 2019 class. McBride signed with Kansas but left school last September. He reportedly committed to Vanderbilt last December . . . Linc Darner, 49, was fired as the men’s basketball coach at Green Bay after posting winning records in four of his five seasons on the job, going 92-80 overall. The Phoenix went 17-16 this past season and lost to Northern Kentucky in the Horizon League Tournament semifinals . . . Steven Ensminger Jr., the son of LSU’s offensive coordinator, whose wife, a broadcast journalist, was killed in a Louisiana plane crash, filed a lawsuit against the aircract’s owners and insurers as well as the pilot’s estate. Carley McCord died in the crash with four others while en route to Atlanta for LSU’s College Football Playoff game against Oklahoma . . . Robert Jerry “Ben” Williams Jr., former Buffalo Bills defensive end and the first African- American player to appear in a game at Mississippi, died of natural causes. He was 65.