ESPN Radio, BTN come up short in Penn State coverage

I was in the car yesterday, driving to the John Deere Classic in the Western Illinois. It is a three-hour drive both ways, which meant I consumed the Penn State coverage on radio during the morning and evening hours.

A few observations:

With the Louis Freeh press conference coming up at 10 a.m. ET, I tuned into ESPN Radio on my Sirius/XM dial. The Colin Cowherd show airs at that time. Cowherd wasn’t there; Doug Gottlieb filled in.

Didn’t matter because I wanted to hear from Freeh. And I did until about 10:16 when ESPN Radio incredibly went to a commercial. This might be the most important press conference in the last decade, and ESPN, the self-proclaimed WWL, is running ads?

Then it got worse. When ESPN returned from the break, do they go back to the press conference? No. Do they talk about Freeh’s damning conclusion? No. The topic now is Brook Lopez resigning with Brooklyn.

Are you kidding me? Penn State is the biggest story of the year–the program could be shut down–and they talk about basketball in July. Talk about dropping the ball.

I frantically tried to find the press conference. ESPNExtra also didn’t have it. Finally, I found it on College Sports Nation.

I contacted the ESPN folks this morning, and they said they couldn’t run the entire press conference live because of logistics involving affiliates and the running of ads. I’d suggest ESPN fix that situation pronto. When you have a press conference of that magnitude, sports listeners expect ESPN to provide complete, uninterrupted coverage on all of its platforms, including radio.

And by all means, if you can’t cover the press conference, don’t switch the subject to Brook Lopez and the Brooklyn Nets.


I heard more coverage during my drive home in the evening. There was a highly absurd segment on Dino Costa’s show on Mad Dog Radio in which a guest named John Ziegler literally was screaming while trying to point out how the Freeh report was flawed.

The guy actually had some points, but they were totally obscured by his top-of-the-lungs shouting. I actually was fascinated to see how long both Ziegler and Costa could keep it up. Finally, I gave up. I can’t tolerate people shouting at me.

Eventually, I turned to my local sports station in Chicago, WSCR-AM 670. Thankfully, evening hosts Matt Abbatacola and Adam Hoge gave a calm, measured analysis of the entire situation. It was some of the best radio I heard all day.

Hoge discussed the Big Ten Network and its decision not to air the press conference live. He also wrote a post on the station’s site. Hoge writes:

Flash forward to Thursday, when once again, the Big Ten Network received criticism for not airing a press conference.

“While some may be unaware, BTN is not and was never intended to be a news organization,” the network said in a statement given to Sports Business Daily. “Our focus is to air, discuss and analyze what happens relative to the field of play, which is what our viewers are most interested in. BTN analysts have repeatedly expressed their disappointment with the way in which Penn State football officials handled the Sandusky situation. When our football coverage resumes later this month, it will be a topic of conversation as to how it may affect the Penn State football program and the rest of the Big Ten.”

When I read this statement, I literally screamed. Not a news organization? I worked at BTN for three years and that’s news to me. As I detailed before, it’s certainly not CNN, but if BTN is not a news organization then why did I sit through all those meetings where we discussed the news of the day and then created a show around it?

And in this case, how does the Freeh Report not have an impact on “what happens relative to the field of play”? At the very least, it will affect recruiting. At the very worst, it will shut down the program.

I agree. One of the reasons why the MLB Network has been so successful is that it hasn’t acted as a PR machine for Major League Baseball. An impression was made early on when the network aggressively covered the Alex Rodriguez steroids story.

The BTN should want its viewers to turn to its network for all things Big Ten. Yesterday’s press conference has far reaching implications for what occurs on and off the field.

The situation was addressed on the BTN’s site. There’s a column from senior writer Tom Dienhart with the headline: “I thought I knew ya, Joe Pa.”

He writes:

Those cold and hard revelations in the Freeh report were horrific. They also sadly are the punctuation point on Paterno’s legacy that is now tarnished beyond reproach. All of those good things he did over four-plus decades as head coach of the Nittany Lions?


The generous donations to the school.

The wins.

The charitable work.

Gone, gone, gone.

It all has been swallowed up by Paterno’s confounding inaction in what only can be classified as a selfish act of self-preservation. How did Paterno sleep at night over the past 10-plus years knowing what he knew?


I thought I knew ya, JoePa. I guess not.

Yet while reading Dienhart’s words, I couldn’t help notice a prominent box on the right rail. It said: “Remembering Joe Paterno, 1926-2012.”






One thought on “ESPN Radio, BTN come up short in Penn State coverage

  1. Ed: Scott Van Pelt and Ryen Russillo, to their credit, spent a large part of their Thursday show talking about the report and Penn State. Their segment with Dan Wetzel was as gripping, emotional, horrifying and brutally honest, a 180 from Matt Millen’s frighteningly misinformed views of the same situation.

    Hearing ex-players defending the reputation of a man who looked the other way when young boys were being molested by calling such things mistakes…

    Unfortunately, Penn State will be protected as a Big 10 member for their deserved fate: The Death Penalty.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *