SBJ/March 25-31, 2013/Opinion

March Madness fans give ESPN, Shaheen thumbs up

Our newsroom is filled with March Madness junkies, so I asked them to rate former NCAA executive Greg Shaheen’s guest turn during ESPN’s coverage of tournament selection weekend. The appearance came about after Shaheen was contacted by Burke Magnus, ESPN’s senior vice president of college sports programming, who thought the longtime NCAA executive could provide insight into the selection committee process. Magnus’ instincts proved correct among our followers.

Assistant Managing Editor (and Kansas Jayhawk) Tom Stinson said: “He was insightful, and it was a good call by the network to use him quite a bit over the weekend. It was nice to have someone making intelligent points on ESPN without yelling at somebody else.” SBJ Assistant Managing Editor and fellow Jayhawk Rob Knapp added: “He might not have the smoothest TV delivery I’ve ever seen, but I thought it was a coup for ESPN. Few guys can give that level of inside-the-selection-room insight.”

Media writer/Maryland Terp John Ourand said, “I liked that he was able to add a different perspective from the coterie of talking-head ex-coaches and ex-players. I liked that he did not seem overly comfortable on set. His posture, in particular, was poor. To me, that gave him more of a sense of a real person rather than someone who has been over-coached.” But Ourand added, “One negative: The NCAA has allowed so many reporters behind the curtain over the past five years — which was largely Shaheen’s idea — that his thoughts weren’t particularly revolutionary. But maybe that view is colored by the fact that the committee hosed the Terps this year.”

At SBD, Managing Editor (and UNC Tar Heel) Rick Ellington said, “I thought he was a good fit and a nice deviation from the usual bubble talk. He was relaxed and was able to get his points across without being too technical. He also was willing to disagree with some of the other on-air talent when it came to what was important in the selection process.”

Magnus said he saw a “unique opportunity” with Shaheen. “There is quite literally no one who has the reservoir of knowledge that he has on the selection, seeding and bracketing process,” he said. “So in an attempt to have fresh, new voices, he was a natural fit.”

And he felt Shaheen hit the right notes. “His perspective was so perfect and so new,” Magnus added. “The general public has never before heard such direct insight into what was going on in the committee room in real time and that is what we hoped he would provide. … He was great.”

Asked to “seed” his own performance, Shaheen had some fun in telling ESPN, “I’d like to think I would be considered for a First Four appearance. At the same time, I had a young team but thought we improved through the weekend.”

Abraham D. Madkour can reached at amadkour@sportsbusinessjournal.com.

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