Boycott ESPN for its Smear Campaign vs. Big East
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Does Anyone Care About The ESPN Smear Campaign Against the Big East? "We always keep our television partners close to us. ... TV -- ESPN -- is the one who told us what to do." - Boston College athletic director Gene DeFilippo Those words rang in my head today as I watched College Football Live after work. During the program, Mark May gave his “expert” take on the State of the Big East. Spoiler alert: he didn’t think it was good. Last week on College Football Live, Andre Ware gave a similar, damning account of the Big East after it become official that Boise State had joined the conference. Ware said that the move would hurt Boise State’s ability to schedule big-time opponents. Yes, because the Alabama’s and Michigan’s of the world were lining up to play on the Blue Turf. Since the Big East turned down ESPN’s TV rights offer – a decision that was led in part by the University of Pittsburgh president – things have not gone well for the conference. The ACC took Syracuse and Pittsburgh. The Big 12 took West Virginia. The Big East responding by gobbling up big television markets in Houston, Dallas, Memphis, Orlando and San Diego while snapping up national football names, if not powers, in Navy and Boise State. But to hear the folks at ESPN tell it, the Big East is now a glorified version of the Sun Belt Conference. Even the ESPN Big East blogger, Andrea Adelson, has gotten into the act with a string of sarcastic, stinging jabs at the current state of the conference. On the day Temple officially joined the Big East, she delivered this delightful shot across the bow of the conference. Adelson seems to hate the Big East, unlike her predecessor on the beat, Brian Bennett. Read the comments on the blog post – it’s not pretty. We want journalistic integrity from writers. We don’t mind homerism in small doses. We can’t stand overt negativity on a constant basis. I’m a UConn fan, a season ticket holder living in Washington, D.C. I’ve grown up a Big East fan. I will defend the Big East until I’m blue in the face. I realize I may not always be right. But I’m not always wrong. The Big East, in its 2013 state, is a better football league than the ACC. The ACC is 2-13 in BCS bowls. None of its teams have been in the national championship race in November since Florida State in 2000. Even if you include Miami, they haven’t had a team in the national championship race since 2003, and they were playing in the Big East. The 2013 version of the Big East will have 4 teams since 2006 that entered November undefeated with national championship aspirations – Rutgers & Louisville in 2006, Cincinnati in 2009 and Boise State several times. Of course, the “new” version of the BCS, which is increasingly looking the like the BCS we all so dearly hated, was supposed to reward on-field merit instead of perceived market value. When the Big 12 & SEC struck a deal for the Champions Bowl on New Year’s Night, everyone nodded because those conferences had proved their worth on the field. When the Big Ten & Pac-12 did likewise with the Rose Bowl, there were no snorts of derision – the conferences have had multiple BCS title game appearances in the last decade. But when the Orange Bowl made a similar deal with the ACC, there was a lot of head-scratching and Twitter jokes. Who wouldn’t want to see an 18th ranked Georgia Tech play in a “major” bowl game. The Orange Bowl fades further into irrelevance. If you watched ESPN the night of the announcement, it was nothing but wine & roses for the deal, the strength of the ACC and their impending return to glory. College Football Live had the gall to ask which ACC would next contend a national title. In this decade, the next ACC team to contend for a national title would be the first. I don’t begrudge ESPN, because the ACC is their investment while the Big East is likely no longer. The Big East made a calculated decision to test the open market and the rumors are flying that the Comcast/NBC conglomerate will make a solid, enticing offer to get much-needed live, college sports for its NBC Sports Network. Rumors have started about a Big East game of the week to lead into NBC’s Notre Dame coverage. This, as one can easily surmise, is not good for ESPN. They don’t want competition. They famously hopped into bed with Fox to repel Comcast’s bid for the Pac-12 television rights. They control all of major college football right now. Is it any surprise ESPN is so gleefully pushing the “five major conferences” theme? The problem is not with ESPN as a television outfit – the problem is with ESPN as a journalistic outlet. They are in a position to drive the debate with regard to the Big East and they have clearly chosen to disparage and slander the conference at every possible moment. Boise State was the lovable underdog who drove ratings – see Virginia Tech, 2010 – but once they entered the Big East, they have been unceremoniously shoved right back to the kids’ table. If ESPN wanted to, they could pump up the Big East to where the ACC is right now. Boise State is a national team that gets more ink spilled (or blogs posted) than any other team in the nation save for Notre Dame, Alabama and USC. Their annual ascent on the college football mountaintop has become one of the most interesting, intriguing and divisive debates, non-BCS division, in the sport. ESPN themselves milked in for all its worth – see Nevada, 2010. They are now, in the words of Andre Ware, unable to schedule appropriately. In 2009, Cincinnati went undefeated. Their final game, against Pittsburgh in the snow, amounted to a Big East championship. The ratings were tremendous, doubling that night’s ACC championship game. ESPN’s second highest-rated Thursday night game in history was between Louisville & Rutgers – two teams the network has now relegated to also-ran status. Simply put, it’s not fair. ESPN has taken complete control over college football. Most troubling, though, is that no one outside of the Big East offices and the fans of current/future Big East teams seem to care. Syracuse and Pittsburgh leaving was supposedly the death knell to football – even though the pair has combined for a grand total of 1 Big East title in the past 13 years, the exact same total UConn has*. *Author's Note: To those that have pointed this out, yes, I was referring to representing the Big East in the BCS. As Homer Simpson once said, “You can use facts to prove anything.” There is no doubt the Big East is not the SEC, the Big 12 or the Big Ten. There is also little doubt that the Big East is at the very least – on the field – an equal of the ACC. But ACC football has a spot reserved for them at the Big Boy table, courtesy of ESPN, while the Big East fights for any ounce of respect it can garner. On College Football Live today, Mark May said that even an undefeated Big East team would be hard-pressed to make the new Final Four of college football. It was an insane statement – TCU, Boise State and Utah all finished in the Top 4 in the past five years playing in the Mountain West. Yet, if you looked very closely, you could see the marionette strings behind May. The Big East will be a better football conference in 2013 than it was in 2011. The average college football fan won’t believe that because ESPN won’t let them believe that. There is a reason why monopolies are outlawed in this country. This is not new to the Big East – the football version of the conference was declared dead before – but they were still being propped up by the ESPN juggernaut. This time, the Big East has to go it alone. As a fan of the conference, we can only hope NBC will be as kind as it has been to hockey. You remember hockey, don’t you? If you do – congratulations, you watch more than SportsCenter.