Category Archives: ESPN Is The Devil

This is easily my favorite recruiting story of the year.

Ohio State was forced to stop recruiting five-star defensive end Micah Parsons because he received the following improper benefit:

Parsons is unnamed in the self-reported violation records, due to FERPA protection, and is referred to as a “2018 prospective student-athlete.” But he is believed to be the recruit implicated in the report because he was photographed on the College GameDay set and retweeted pictures of him with former Ohio State quarterback and current College GameDay analyst Kirk Herbstreit, former Ohio State running back and College GameDay celebrity guest picker Eddie George, and College GameDay analyst Lee Corso and host Rece Davis.

While on a campus tour led by football recruiting assistant Ed Terwilliger, the recruit met Herbstreit on the show’s set, took a photo with two College GameDay analysts who are not former Ohio State players — believed to be Corso and Davis — while sitting on-stage, and met George off the set, according to the records. Though recruits on official visits are able to speak with former student-athletes of the school they are visiting, they are not allowed to “have contact with members of the media associated with former student-athletes.”

“As such, a violation of NCAA Bylaws 13.10.1 and occurred, as members of the media may not be present during an institution’s recruiting contact with a prospect and a prospect may not participate in team activities that would make the public or media aware of the prospect’s visit to the institution,” Ohio State’s self-violation report said.

According to the records, Terwilliger allowed the recruit and his parents to enter College GameDay’s production area in front of the set, which is inaccessible to the public. The group was then given credentials by a producer of the show.

Gawd, talk about getting hoisted on your own sanctimonious petard.  Or, to borrow a phrase, it appears Mark Richt has lost control of Kirk Herbstreit.

You’ve got to love the football gods’ sense of humor sometimes.



Filed under ESPN Is The Devil, Recruiting

Mickey’s big score

You may have heard that Disney is buying part of the Fox empire for a major chunk o’ change.  What’s the game plan with that?  Welp, sure sounds like sports to me.

But buried within the release is the announcement that Disney will be acquiring Fox Sports Regional Networks, a collection of cable channels that are broadcast to local subscribers across the country. (Fox Sports, the FS1 and FS2 networks and the Big Ten Network will remain with Fox.) Assuming the deal passes federal antitrust muster, this portion of the pact could have a seismic impact on Disney-owned ESPN, rearranging a business model that until recently was thought to be the cause of the network’s well-documented financial problems.

For starters, ESPN will be acquiring a massive amount of new content, as Fox Sports’ 22 regional sports networks (RSNs from here on out) control the local cable rights to the following professional teams:

NBA (17): Suns, Hornets, Pistons, Magic, Pacers, Pelicans, Timberwolves, Cavaliers, Thunder, Hawks, Grizzlies, Mavericks, Spurs, Heat, Clippers, Bucks, Nets.

MLB (15): Diamondbacks, Tigers, Rays, Royals, Cardinals, Twins, Reds, Padres, Braves, Rangers, Marlins, Angels, Brewers, Indians, Yankees.

NHL (12): Coyotes, Hurricanes, Red Wings, Panthers, Blues, Wild, Blue Jackets, Predators, Stars, Lightning, Kings, Ducks.

That doesn’t even include college football and basketball, plus Major League Soccer and the WNBA…

ESPN will certainly slap its name on all of those networks, but this goes far beyond mere branding. Cable companies can charge customers top dollar for the right to have RSNs in their cable lineup, with monthly costs that approach the more than $9 ESPN gets monthly from each customer who has ESPN, ESPN2, ESPNU and the SEC Network in their package. The price is so high because cable subscribers view RSNs as essential: According to a 2016 Neilsen survey of 1,500 pay-TV subscribers, the local RSN ranked as the fifth-most-important cable channel in their lineups, ahead of any other cable channel (including ESPN). In some markets such as St. Louis and Detroit — both of which are served by Fox Sports RSNs — the local RSN ranked higher in importance to cable customers than broadcast networks such as NBC, CBS, ABC and Fox.

ESPN’s financial woes have stemmed from cord-cutting cable customers who have balked at the high prices cable companies are charging, with the network losing more than 13 million subscribers from its peak of 100.13 million households in 2011. Those losses, combined with steadily escalating rising sports-rights fees, led the network to lay off around 550 employees over the past two years, with the most recent round of job cuts coming late last month.

But customers might think twice about dropping their cable packages if it meant losing access to games played by their local teams. Those games — and the money cable customers pay to watch them — will now be under the ESPN domain.  [Emphasis added.]

Complain about the political leanings of their faces, or cord-cutting, or whatever else suits you, but there is still one essential truth underlying everything:  content is king.  The manner in which we receive our sports will always be secondary to the subject of the broadcast itself.   All ESPN is really fighting about is the access fee.  That’s the bet the WWL is making.  The more it holds, the stronger its leverage.


Filed under ESPN Is The Devil

Lies, damned lies and ESPN’s statistics

This ESPN preview of the Rose Bowl is a total hoot.  According to ESPN’s own analytics:

  • FPI projects Georgia has a 53% chance to win the game and better odds to win the national title than Oklahoma.
  • Georgia is the more efficient team overall, and while Oklahoma’s offense is the most efficient unit in the CFP, there is better than a 30-point spread between its defensive efficiency and Georgia’s offensive efficiency.
  • Baker Mayfield is a bad mother — shut yo’ mouth! — but in four games against ranked teams, Georgia’s defense held opposing quarterbacks to a 14.1 QBR (I know), best in the SEC and fifth-best nationally.
  • Georgia has the most five-star recruits on its roster of any team in the CFP, and over the last four seasons has an average recruiting ranking of 6.75, compared to Oklahoma’s 14.75.

You know the punch line that’s coming, right?

So, what are they paying all those number crunchers for, anyway?


Filed under ESPN Is The Devil, Georgia Football, Stats Geek!

There’s gold in them thar bowl games.

You wonder how there can be so many bowl games, when so many have issues with attendance?  ESPN is here to help you with that knotty problem.

Such games arguably make more financial sense for ESPN than traditional non-profit bowl organizations because the currency of the realm for ESPN is eyeballs on screens and not so much butts in stadium seats.

“The ESPN bowl games, which account for the growth in bowl games, are essentially made-for-TV events,” Stanford economist Roger Noll told USA TODAY Sports.

Consider that Miami Beach Bowl in which Tulsa beat Central Michigan last year, 55-10.  A crowd of 15,262 was bad news for a small non-profit that relies on ticket sales and corporate sponsorships to make ends meet.

But attendance doesn’t matter as much to a deep-pocketed media network. ESPN wants live television programming during the holiday season to draw viewers, sell advertising and beat the competition, reinforcing the channel’s value with cable distributors and satellite providers.

The game drew an average of 795,000 TV viewers, trouncing other channels that day, on a Monday afternoon. Fox Sports 1 and NBC Sports Network both had less than 280,000 viewers on average during the same time period, according to Nielsen. For comparison, ESPN boasted earlier this year that its Wednesday Night Baseball viewership had increased to an average of 636,000 in April, up 11% from a year earlier.

“Think of how well it would rate in a different time slot,” Overby said of the Miami Beach Bowl

Even though it was the least watched bowl game of the season, it was still a ratings win for ESPN. Live sports games are especially coveted by advertisers because viewers are considered more likely to watch their commercials live, unlike non-sports content that often is recorded with a DVR to skip the ads.

Not to say that Mickey doesn’t have a potential knotty problem of its own with which to wrestle.  Playoff expansion is bound to hurt the bowls, so where does the WWL line up when the day comes that the CFP moves to eight… sixteen…?


Filed under College Football, ESPN Is The Devil, It's Just Bidness

What do fewer eyeballs on college football mean?

Richard Deitsch takes a look at broadcast numbers for the just concluded 2017 regular season and reports a decline.

Per Karp, here’s where the networks finished for average viewership for this year’s CFB regular season:

CBS: 4.951 million viewers, down 10% from 5.489 million in 2016.

ABC: 4.203 million, down 18% from 5.097 million.

Fox: 3.625 million, up 23% from 2.951 million.

NBC: 2.742, down 3% from 2.814 million.

ESPN: 2.155 million, down 6% from 2.300 million.

FS1: 819,000, up 4% from 743,000.

Some interesting thoughts from Karp in the piece: CBS’s SEC package was the most-viewed individual package for the ninth straight CFB season, but this year’s average was its lowest in well over a decade. ABC’s Saturday Night Football was down 4% from 2016, even though its window remained college football’s most-viewed window with 5.7 million viewers. ESPN was easily the most-viewed cable net for CFB—it has the most games so that lowers its average—but was down with fewer Big Ten matchups. FS1’s average was its best since the network launched but below what the cable net FX averaged for its games in ’11 (1.01 million viewers).

Let’s cut to the chase here:  is it panic time?  Well, far be it from me to speak for the geniuses who run the sport, but Karp seems to suggest that while the numbers are an indication of a problem, it’s not an existential one.

“I don’t think that meant less interest in college football,” Karp said. “If anything, I’d say the interest was higher this season compared to some prior years. If you look at total minutes viewed for college football, it had to be some sort of record this year. There were some really exciting matchups and Fox Sports really stepped up their game this year—the company’s first with the Big Ten regular season lineup. You could often find three college football windows on the Fox broadcast window this season, which never happened before. With a healthy dose on FS1, they are making themselves a destination for college football now. But this is a zero-sum game, particularly as it relates to the Power Five conferences. Fox Sports’ gain was ABC/ESPN’s loss, as the new Big Ten contracts meant Bristol had fewer options with regard to top teams. While Saturday Night Football on ABC still got some bigger matchups, there were just fewer options for Saturday afternoon windows. As good as a team like UCF was this season, matchups from the AAC just aren’t moving the needle.

“For CBS, the SEC was just too top heavy this season,” Karp continued. “They had some bad matchups on the network. Alabama is still a draw, but there is a limit on the number of Alabama games the network can air, and Georgia-Florida or any Tennessee game just aren’t what they used to be. For NBC, Notre Dame fans just didn’t watch early in the season, expecting some sort of repeat of 2016’s debacle. But NBC saw improvement over the last three game telecasts. I’d say college football fans were winners this season. There are options galore on TV, and that doesn’t even include improvement on the streaming front. Networks like CBS and ESPN need to see improvement from some big-time programs like Texas, Tennessee, Florida, Nebraska and maybe even an Oregon. That would increase the availability of bigger games for those networks.”

The SEC in particular hasn’t been doing CBS any favors of late.  When it’s mid-November and the schedule lines up to present Kentucky at Georgia as your game of the week, you haven’t been trying that hard to make sure your customers are getting prime matchups.  Sure, having more programs with a pulse certainly helps, but anybody looking at that week before the start of the season could have sensed that the conference wasn’t putting its best face forward then.

It’s not just CBS, of course.  Overall, this season has struck me on more than one occasion as one in which the networks loaded up primo games — as in plural — in the same time slot.  Some of that is no doubt due to schools and conferences trying to accommodate their fan bases who actually attend the games (quaint, I know), but you can’t help but question if there are other factors in play.

Aside from the top-heavy nature of this season’s landscape, as well as a certain amount of inept scheduling, I wonder if there are any other issues worth considering.  Those of you who swing right politically would no doubt cite ESPN’s social media missteps this season as a factor, although there’s a certain amount of cutting off one’s nose to spite one’s face involved with that.

I, though, think about whether we’re witnessing a certain canary in the coal mine doing a little chirping.  Deitsch prefaces his piece with the observation that “College football is a tougher game to analyze for ratings experts given a number of factors including the innate regionalism of the sport…” and it seems fair to ask if ESPN’s relentless promotion of the college football playoffs is already having an unintended, yet inevitable, impact on fans’ interest in the regular season.

Left to consider, then, are what the broadcast numbers for the playoffs look like and whether the conferences and the networks can get their collective acts together next season.  Maybe some better conclusions can be drawn then.


Filed under College Football, ESPN Is The Devil, Fox Sports Numbs My Brain

When the Herbstreit Doctrine gets personal…

We’re all aware that intellectual consistency isn’t one of Herbie’s strong suits, but in praising Baker Mayfield after Mayfield won the Heisman, he really stepped in it.

Why would I say that?  Because Herbstreit got owned by a Tennessee defensive back about whom Herbstreit once proclaimed,

“I just need to say this because I haven’t had a chance to say this all week, no chance of winning the game against Alabama and one of their players, No. 7, Rashaan Gaulden, ends up throwing up the fingers,” Herbstreit said. “You’re thinking, with everything that’s been going on with Tennessee, that guy will probably never play again. Next series, defense is on the field, No. 7 is back in the lineup playing on the field.

“And you wonder why Tennessee has issues. They don’t have any discipline. (Butch Jones) should’ve taken his uniform off, sent him upstairs to go get a popcorn and say you’re no longer on the team and sent a message to the whole team.”

Mayfield, you may remember, communicated with a similar gesture against Kansas.  One might think that would be something to arouse a similar reaction from the Kirkster, but, no, he’s got nothing but love in his heart for the Oklahoma quarterback.

Screenshot-2017-12-10 Tennessee DB Rashaan Gaulden blasts Kirk Herbstreit after Baker Mayfield tweet

As you might expect, this didn’t sit well with Gaulden, who fired back with this:

You know new depths have been plumbed when I have to take sides with a UT player on any subject, but that’s where we’re at here.  Not that I expect it, but Herbie owes somebody an apology.


UPDATE:  Give Herbstreit credit.


Filed under ESPN Is The Devil, General Idiocy

ESPN’s dilemma

Hell, who are we kidding?  There’s no dilemma.  The WWL is having multiple corporate orgasms over the Alabama-Ohio State debate.  There have been weeks of meaningless selection committee rankings shows and now the network has Saban and Meyer sniping at each other.

Mickey’s only regret is that the debate can’t be dragged out another week, although for the next few days at least there’s the consolation prize of being able to second-guess the selection committee’s choice for fourth.  Hey, it beats dealing with Clay Travis on social media.


Filed under BCS/Playoffs, ESPN Is The Devil