The worldwide leader in…

I’ve been a college sports fan my whole life. It’s safe to say there has never been a time like this.

Never. Ever. Ever.

One by one the most trusted names in college sports are having the skeletons removed from their closet and broadcast on national news.

  • Jim Tressel, the squeaky clean football coach in the sweater vest at Ohio State, was revealed to be the type of guy who rigs kids raffle contest so the best players prep players get free Ohio State gear. [Source]
  • Joe Paterno was absolutely kicked to the curb by Penn State when it was revealed that he knew about allegations of sexual assault in his football building but did nothing about it.
  • It looks like Syracuse’s longtime basketball coach Jim Boeheim is next. Yesterday his assistant Bernie Fine was fired when ESPN revealed tapes of Fine’s wife corroborating an accusers story. Boeheim issued a statement yesterday that he knew nothing of the allegations. All it’ll take is one email or voice mail with him talking about it before last week and he’s out.

The Witch Hunt is On

Once the witch hunt begins, in this latest case trying to determine who knew what and when about Bernie Fine’s sexual abuse of ball boys– it’s nearly impossible to know who is the hunter and who is the hunted.

I’m not saying these guys are innocent. I’m just wondering if there is more to this witch hunt than what is being presented. Maybe the hunter isn’t as innocent as they appear to be?

ESPN is the Common Denominator

As I listened to the news about Bernie Fine yesterday I couldn’t help but pick up on this detail… they’ve had this tape since 2003. Eight years! When you are talking about a man who uses his position to molest children eight years is exactly eight years too long to hold a story. Eight years where someone, probably a lot of people, chose to protect Syracuse basketball instead of protecting young boys.

That’s not acceptable. We simply cannot let them hide behind this little statement of journalistic “integrity:”

Davis first gave the tape to ESPN in 2003. At the time, ESPN did not report Davis’ accusations, or report the contents of the tape, because no one else would corroborate his story. [source]

Wait… did you catch that? Someone at ESPN decided not to air the tapes because THEY couldn’t corroborate the story. They aren’t the police… they are a sports news agency!

A man comes to them with proof that he was molested by a coach at Syracuse University, seeking help since local police wouldn’t do anything about it, and they sat on the story for eight years.

Eight years.

What kind of person doesn’t call the police when he knows a child has been molested? Do we really value sports above children in this country?

So why now? 

In the three cases I mentioned  above ESPN had knowledge of these stories long before they broke. Lots of people around Penn State knew of a grand jury investigation of Jerry Sandusky. And no one said a thing while they knew Sandusky continued to have access to the football facilities.

Lots of people knew the Sports Illustrated article was going to expose Jim Tressel’s knowledge of player indiscretions. And they sat on hard evidence about Bernie Fine was molesting boys for eight years.

So why now? Why is ESPN holding stories and then subsequently releasing them? What makes 2011 special?

It’s always about the money…

I’m not presenting a conspiracy theory. I’m just starting to connect the dots. (And asking you, my fair reader, for your input.)

ESPN does what they do to make money, right? They tell the story that will make them the most money. And they cover the games and leagues that will make them the most money.

That’s fair. (While not always moral) It’s a free market system and we live in a country with freedom of the press.

But I wonder if this has anything to do with conference realignment and TV deals? On November 1st USA Today ran a story entitled, “Is ESPN the Force Behind Realignment?” It was almost a rhetorical question. Of course ESPN is the force behind realignment. As the article mentioned, every team or league will ask ESPN if added or removing a member school will increase or decrease their over all television worth. That automatically makes ESPN the linchpin in all of the realignment conversations as leagues will do whatever it takes to get a better TV deal from ESPN.

And ESPN would love to see teams play in conferences that worked better for their markets and allowed them to make more money. (Even decreasing travel or shipping by 10% would make them millions more!) Why else would the Big East want San Diego State if it weren’t for their location in the 9th largest TV viewing market in the country… and the only major market without a team covered by ESPN?

Conference realignment has everything to do with making more TV money for member institutions. Pure & simple.

Don’t even get me started about the college football bowls. Did you know ESPN owns more than half of the bowls? That’s why we can’t have a playoff, duh! It’s about them protecting their assets.

So here’s what I’m wondering. Could it be that they held and released these stories to devalue Big 10 football (Ohio State & Penn State) and Big East (Syracuse) basketball?

You could say… “These are ESPN products, why would they devalue them?” And I’d hypothesize… “Because they have a monopoly and if they can devalue the product they can negotiate cheaper deals with member institutions.

What do you think? Did ESPN have the responsibility to involve law enforcement when the Bernie Fine tapes were given to them in 2003? Do you think ESPN would have any reason to hold this (and other stories like it) until “the right time?

Or am I just a silly fan who had too much time in the car yesterday to think about all of this?

Sound off.







10 responses to “The worldwide leader in…”

  1. Patti Gibbons Avatar

    I don’t think you’re on the wrong trail here. I do think that the forces driving the profits also include execs further up the corporate food chain, i.e. Disney (ABC) and Hearst Corp who own ESPN (80/20 respectively). It’s the same kind of dynamic that earns American Idol and Dancing With The Stars performers airtime on the news and late night programming of their respective networks. The “entertainment” division supports the “news” division’s existence. Nowhere is that line more blurry than in sports reporting, but this is among the most profitable – therefore powerful – parts of the business. 

  2. Russ Avatar

    In every single one of these cases, there were a multitude of people who knew the grisly details before the media allowed them to surface. As the DA in the JoePa case has stated, ESPN may have done the legally appropriate thing, but they did not do the morally correct thing. 

    There is plenty of guilt to go around. 

  3. Jeff Lutz Avatar

    Following the money usually gives the correct answer. Patti is right, there is more to this by going up the food chain. I think ESPN has been gunning for Joe Paterno, because he has been the most vocal for a playoff. ESPN holds the cards on most of the bowls. They found a way to silence him. There are so many layers to this onion. I think as the details are laid out in any of these cases, there will be more to what is reported. 

    1. Adam McLane Avatar

      I wouldn’t argue that Paterno wasn’t worthy of being fired. But I do think that a lot of people knew about that skeleton in his closet and likely used it as leverage against him. 

  4. Eric Wendt Avatar
    Eric Wendt

    I really can’t believe there isn’t more outrage that espn was holding this for so long they fire JoePa for not telling the cops (although he did report it to the board) I think if the justice system doesn’t go after them the victims should go after ESPN saying that 8 years of child abuse is because of them

  5. Rusty Pettus Avatar

    You may have had too much time in the car but I love reading this. Every conspiracy theory has elements of truth and creative dreaming. I think you got them covered.

  6. Ben Patterson Avatar

    Naw, you’re not a silly fan but you have spent a lot of time to think about it 🙂

    I think you’re right on the money that the journalistic integrity of ESPN went out the window a long time ago.

  7. Ryan Smith Avatar
    Ryan Smith

    There is a rather large part of me (partly because I’m a bit over weight), that is glad I really can’t speak to your larger question at hand; as I’m just not that up to speed on all this (beyond Chicago Bears football, I don’t much care for sports). 

    But your questions, “Do we really value sports above children in this country?” I would say so with a resounding YES! This was made perfectly clear to me when my wife was asked once at our daughters dance class (she’s 4), if we’d be holding her back a year from starting school, so that she’d be “ahead” of her fellow dance mates once she did begin school. What, you’d do that to your child? For dance? Wow! And this sort of thing is done around our area (and every area I’m sure) for all sorts of sports, but for no good reason in my opinion. 

    It’s sad really that parents have bought into the lie that someone, somewhere has sold them that sports is the god of our age that will cure all their woes.

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