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ESPN this morning stated the critical comments Jason Whitlock recently made regarding SI's Thayer Evans were "not acceptable," according to Ed Sherman of SHERMANREPORT.com. The company in a statement said, "We have discussed Jason’s comments with him. They were personal in nature, they do not represent ESPN and they are not acceptable based on the standards we have set." Whitlock on Tuesday appeared on Oklahoma City-based WWLS-FM and "blasted Evans, who along with George Dohrmann is writing a series of stories about improprieties in the Oklahoma State football program." ESPN's media policy states in part, "Comments must not be personal, vicious, dismissive ... No cheap shots." It also states, "No personal attacks or innuendo toward people, media companies, networks or publications" (SHERMANREPORT.com, 9/12). THE BIG LEAD's Jason McIntyre notes Whitlock "technically hasn’t even started working" for ESPN, and his contract is not "fully signed" (THEBIGLEAD.com, 9/12).
IT'S NOT PERSONAL, I SWEAR: Whitlock in the interview said, "Having worked with Thayer Evans at Fox Sports, having followed his work for some time, I am completely and utterly flabbergasted that a legitimate news outlet would allow Thayer Evans to be involved in some type of investigative piece on college football that tears down a program, and particularly one that tears down Oklahoma State when it is no secret what a huge, enormous, gigantic Oklahoma homer Thayer Evans is. This is just incredible. Knowing the lack of competence that’s there with Thayer Evans, knowing the level of simplemindedness that’s there with Thayer Evans, to base any part of the story on his reporting is mind-boggling." He added, "It doesn’t surprise me there are sources in this story saying the reporting was heavy-handed and leading. I don’t want to make the whole thing about Thayer Evans, but there’s just no way to avoid it. I’ve worked with him. He’s simpleminded. He’s a hack that can’t write. This isn’t personal, I promise. I have no reason to dislike Thayer Evans personally, and I don’t. But I’ve read enough of his work this guy isn’t qualified for this job and by now Sports Illustrated and anybody else should be well aware of this" (WWLS-FM, 9/10).
The 2-0 win by the U.S. over Mexico on Tuesday night earned ESPN a 1.9 overnight rating the highest overnight for the U.S. men's national team in a FIFA World Cup qualifier. It also is the highest mark for any USMNT soccer match on the net outside of the FIFA World Cup or Confederations Cup. The previous high was a 1.6 overnight rating for a U.S.-Mexico match on March 26 at Mexico City’s Estadio Azteca. Columbus led all markets with a 5.1 local rating for Tuesday's match, which was played at Columbus' Crew Stadium (ESPN).
DEFINITE HOME-FIELD ADVANTAGE: Fox Sports' Cobi Jones said the atmosphere at Crew Stadium for the match was "absolutely brilliant." Jones noted he has "seen supporters before," but he has to "give a lot of credit" to fans at the game. Jones: "They made you feel like you can run down and be part of the team on the field. They were the 12th man in this game." Fox Sports' Warren Barton said the "passion and the energy in that stadium" caused the U.S. players to ride "the wave" of emotion from the crowd ("Fox Soccer Daily," FS1, 9/11). ESPN's Taylor Twellman said, "There's a reason why U.S. Soccer has chosen … (to) have the game in Columbus and not make more money and not have it in bigger stadiums and different places. It's 100% pro-American in that crowd" ("ESPN FC," ESPN2, 9/11). In San Diego, Mark Zeigler notes the crowd of 24,584 at Crew Stadium "was not the largest crowd to see the U.S. national team," but it was the "loudest ... and the most partisan and most patriotic." However, a lot of what happened Tuesday "was contrived, more scripted than spontaneous, more nurture than nature." The U.S. Soccer Federation "allocated more than one-third of the stadium to official supporters clubs, and it limited access to the general public through carefully orchestrated presales and offers" to MLS Crew season-ticket holders. Zeigler: "That said, the atmosphere was electric and relentless and impactful" (SAN DIEGO UNION-TRIBUNE, 9/12).
Texas A&M Univ. and SEC officials have "reached out to CBS with concerns about 'Johnny Cam,'" the camera that will be solely focused on A&M QB Johnny Manziel during Saturday's game against Alabama, according to Allen Reed of the Bryan-College Station EAGLE. Texas A&M Associate AD/Media Relations Alan Cannon said that he "spoke with representatives from the network" about the camera and added that the conversation "helped soothe some of the university's concerns." Cannon: "We visited with folks at CBS and expressed concern and got more clarification. It's not one camera that if you had DirecTV that you could somehow watch this one camera. It's also not streamed anywhere. That would be a competitive disadvantage. I was assured this is not the case. It is one camera in the mix of 12 or 16. ... There will be a camera trained on Johnny all the time. This one particular camera is looking more for the emotions" (Bryan-College Station EAGLE, 9/12). CBS College Football Coordinating Producer Craig Silver said, "No matter where he is and no matter what part of the game it is, we will have a shot of it. If he is anywhere in sight of that camera, we will catch it." Silver said that he "considered keeping an isolation camera on former Indiana basketball coach Bobby Knight when he produced CBS's coverage of Big Ten basketball, and credited CBS Sports executive producer Harold Bryant with the Johnny Cam idea." Meanwhile, Silver said that CBS viewers "should not expect a dissertation on the off-the-field issues surrounding Manziel during the CBS game broadcast." ESPN's "College GameDay" is airing live from College Station Saturday, and Senior Coordinating Producer Lee Fitting said, "I can promise you the show won't turn into 'Manziel Mania' for three hours. Will the viewer get their fill of Manziel? Sure. Will we cover every angle of the game? Yes. But will we go overboard? Absolutely not" (Richard Deitsch, SI.com, 9/8).
THE SINGLE GUY: Texas A&M coach Kevin Sumlin on Tuesday said, "I just don't understand why there's got to be one guy singled out and put a camera on all the time. That's not what we're about, that's not what we're trying to promote." TIME's Sean Gregory writes, "It's easy to chastise the network for sending the wrong message with the Johnny Cam: that one player is above it all and special and had good reason to have a swollen ego and sense of entitlement." However, it is "pure business." In its attempt to "recoup cost through high ratings and advertising dollars, CBS has every reason to put its cameras anywhere, and everywhere, it needs to." Gregory: "Manziel is a polarizing figure. He draws eyeballs, even those of casual fans" (TIME.com, 9/12).
ALL ATTENTION TO COLLEGE STATION: Cannon said that Texas A&M is "doing its best to accommodate the unprecedented amount of media requests" for Saturday's game. The EAGLE's Reed reports ESPN will broadcast live from A&M's campus Friday, while "College Football Live" will join "GameDay" in broadcasting live from campus Saturday. CBS' studio show "will relocate" from N.Y. to College Station on Saturday, while ESPN Radio and SiriusXM radio "will air live on Friday and Saturday near the Memorial Student Center." The game will "host its normal press corps" as well as national outlets including the N.Y. Times, USA Today, the Chicago Sun-Times and the AP. Alabama Associate AD/Media Relations Doug Walker said that there were "some parallels in regard to the media attention" from the LSU-Alabama regular-season game two years ago. Walker: "You end up with easily upward of double what your normal requests are. What really ends up taxing you is the amount of specialty programs doing live shots" (Bryan-College Station EAGLE, 9/12).
Pac-12 Networks and DirecTV still have not been able to "strike a deal and end the simmering frustration" of service subscribers, but the "sides do speak," according to Bud Withers of the SEATTLE TIMES. A Pac-12 source said that the two sides "last sat down face-to-face" in L.A. during the conference's football media day in July. There are "periodic phone conversations," but publicly, the "relationship is mostly one of chilly exchanges." Interviews with "key figures on each side and industry analysts paint a picture of a carrier taking a stand on rising consumer costs and a league that can’t understand why its proposal was acceptable to some 50 providers -- the latest agreement with AT&T and its U-Verse customers -- but not to DirecTV." Pac-12 Networks President Lydia Murphy-Stephans: "We're very comfortable with our pricing and how we've packaged everything." But DirecTV Exec VP/Programming & Chief Content Officer Dan York said, "It turns out the price-value proposition is even lower than we've offered. Most of the games fans really want to see will still be available on DirecTV." Withers notes "neither side knows how many DirecTV subscribers have switched carriers, but York calls the number 'de minimis.'” That is "defined as 'so minor as to merit disregard.'” Asked if Pac-12 Networks can be called a success in distribution without DirecTV, Murphy-Stephans said, “Unequivocally. Absolutely. We’re entering year two. If we’re entering year seven without DirecTV, I may have a different answer. Entering year two, we’re a smashing success" (SEATTLE TIMES, 9/12).
CUTTING THEIR LOSSES: Time Warner Cable President & COO Rob Marcus yesterday said that TWC "lost customers as a result of the recent monthlong blackout of CBS" in major markets. Marcus said that the blackout "suppressed sign-ups of new customers and 'increased disconnects of existing customers.'" The WALL STREET JOURNAL's Shalini Ramachandran notes Marcus "declined to provide a specific figure on the customer losses." However, CBS President & CEO Les Moonves said the blackout "didn't hurt us one iota financially" (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 9/12).
The WALL STREET JOURNAL's Daniel Barbarisi reported the Yankees "have made their rumored move to WFAN Radio official." The franchise yesterday "consummated a 10-year deal" with CBS Radio-owned WFAN, moving over from WCBS. Games will be simulcast on WFAN-AM and WFAN-FM. Play-by-play broadcaster John Sterling is "expected to return for his 25th season, but the fate of color commentator Suzyn Waldman isn't clear yet" (WSJ.com, 9/11).
PREDATORY PRACTICES: The Predators and FS Tennessee yesterday announced that the net "will broadcast at least 70 regular-season games" during the '13-14 season. The deal "surpasses the franchise record of 68 games" set in the '11-12 season. In addition, two away games and one home game will be broadcast on NBCSN (BIZJOURNALS.com, 9/11).
BRING THE THUNDER: The Thunder and Clear Channel on Tuesday announced a multiyear deal for KAKC-AM to be the team's Tulsa radio home. The team also added Oklahoma-based KKBI-FM and KMCO-FM as new affiliates in the 13-station Thunder Radio Network (Thunder).
'CROSSE FIT: U.S. Lacrosse announced that ESPN will broadcast the '14 Federation of Intl Lacrosse Men's World Championship. As many as 40 countries are expected to participate in the July 10-19 event at Dick's Sporting Goods Park in Commerce City, Colo. ESPN will show about 60 games across its nets and via ESPN3. The semifinals and championship game will be shown live on ESPNU, and all U.S. team games will be included in the package (U.S. Lacrosse).