ESPN grinds ax against NCAA

March 21, 2011
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Is ESPN grinding an ax against the NCAA? It sure looks that way.

After losing out to on their bid last spring to steal the men’s basketball tournament from CBS (and its new partner Turner Broadcasting), the folks in Bristol appear to have a bitter taste in their mouth and don’t mind spewing it out at any and every opportunity.

For more than a week, ESPN has been lampooning the NCAA over the selection process for its 68-team men’s basketball tournament. Honestly, I think it has been painful to watch.

College basketball analyst Jay Bilas called the inclusion of Virginia Commonwealth University and the University of Alabama-Birmingham “indefensible.” But he didn’t just let it go at that. His disparaging remarks involving teams composed of 18- to 22-year-olds were way over the top.

Several other ESPN analysts, including Dick Vitale, piled on.

Bilas questioned if the NCAA selection committee knew “the ball is round,” and Jay Williams wrote, “It's official! My 6-year-old niece knows more about college basketball than the NCAA tournament selection committee.”

Even after VCU knocked off higher-seeded USC, Georgetown and Purdue during a five-day span to advance to the Sweet 16, the ESPN brigade would not relent.

“Two straight TKOs for VCU,” Bilas wrote on his Twitter account Sunday night. “How good are Georgia State, Northeastern, Drexel and James Madison?”

The reference was to the teams that VCU lost to during the regular season. If we’re going to go down that road, how many bad teams did Indiana lose to in 1981 or Villanova in 1985?

Bilas' ranting also serves as an unintentional jab at USC, Georgetown and Purdue. After all, how good are those teams if they were defeated by a team not even worthy to be in the tournament?

Then this morning on the “Mike and Mike” radio show, ESPN’s Doug Gottleib pointed out that VCU’s recent hot streak in the tournament doesn’t erase the fact that the team lost five of its last eight regular-season games.

Gottleib also blasted studio analysts like Charles Barkley and Greg Anthony, who normally cover the National Basketball Association, saying they couldn’t be expected to know college basketball like those who cover it every day.

The inference was clear: The NCAA decision that mystifies ESPN the most is how officials could have chosen another broadcaster to air tournament games.

Then Gottlieb went on to complain about some of the camera angles used in the live game broadcasts. He even said ESPN has better production assistance and behind-the-scenes people than those covering the games for CBS, TBS, TNT and TruTV.

Really? I didn’t know Gottlieb had experience as a producer or director.

The NCAA last April signed 14-year, nearly $11 billion agreement with CBS and Turner Sports for the TV rights to the tournament, essentially shutting ESPN out of the jewel of college basketball and one of the biggest properties in all of sports—March Madness.

ESPN executives are no doubt still seething about it, and it boils over on the air in the form of harsh criticism toward the NCAA.

Bilas, Vitale and others at ESPN howled shortly after the tournament draw was unveiled that the NCAA needed more basketball minds involved.

Like their own, of course.

  • Nice Analysis
    I heard the Doug Gottlieb comments this morning, and was mystified--wasn't sure what his point was. Thanks for the clarification.

    I mean, Butler lost to Evansville and Wright State. How in the world did they get an eight seed?
  • ESPN Grinds Ax
    par for the course for ESPN - national. Local does a good job. It is agenda-driven sports radio at best. They seek to drive the national conversation and have helped to ruin basketball by hyping freak athletes instead of the beautiful game it used to be.
  • edit
    "ESPN executives are not doubt still seething about it, and it boils over on the air in the form of harsh criticism toward the NCAA."
  • Spot on
    Spot On Anthony; Its pathetic what ESPN is allowing (mostly Bilas) the on-air talent to do. Its bad enough that on Selection Sunday, Bilas and crew felt the need to hammer kids on their playing talent and worthiness for a tournament that at the end of the day is simply an amateur competition.

    What Bilas and company are doing here is Skip Bayless level stupidity. This kind of vitriol has no place in amateur athletics.
  • Sir Charles
    Have you heard Charles Barkely in studio during the tournament? I like Charles in studio for NBA games but he seems lost at times for the NCAA tourney.
  • ESPN
    Watched and also tried to listen to Barkey last night. He looses his thought...maybe pretty cameraperson. He seems to want to fight and Bilas....thought he was ok until he starts with the jabs. Just remember guys...if you want to coach, find a team. Karma has a way of coming around.
  • But who's watching ESPN these days anyway?
    Good blog post, Anthony. Before and during the NCAA tournament, ESPN has really been acting like a bunch of spoiled kids who didn't get to go to Chuck E. Cheese.

    No real surprise with Jay Bilas who's always exhibited an air of smug aloofness (must be his Duke & law degree)on all things NCAA hoops-related.

    On the other hand, CBS/TBS is guilty of having too many cooks in the kitchen during their shows. Charles Barkley especially appears lost on the NCAA pre & post game shows. Appears he didn't do any homework and feels his combative "Hey, I'm right." routine would get him throught the tournament. Shows would be much better off without the Round Mound of Rebound (whose Auburn Tigers were knocked out of the NCAA tournament by the Richmond Spiders when Sir Charles played).

  • Agree 100% Anthony
    You are dead on and it has been that way for the last two weeks.
  • espn/cbs march madness
    first of all, thanx to cbs and turner for sparing us the idiotic ramblings and ranting of dick vitale.

    cbs: what is with the lame soliloquy by louisville's rick pitino telling the referee official that officials deserve to be paid 10 times more because of the jog they do, and the fire they come under. really, dumb. just sucking up the the head ref for some preferential calls in the future? really dumb comment by pe\itino. perhaps he should like to contribute some of the largess that louisville pays him.
    final thought: they let the head ref get off with explaining that technology could not keep with the refs and that they got the time right when the ball went out of bounds by reacting to the ref's hands, rather than the bounce of the ball. how stupid does he think we are? answer is: mighty, because no one on the panel of four challanged that stupid comment. enuf.
  • Right On
    I think it has been nice to have games on 4 channels and the ability to watch them all. I also like the consistency of the graphics on all 4. But I agree that some of the camera angles have been awful. Also, the NBA broadcast crews have no business covering college bball since they aren't familiar with it. ESPN, ESPN2, and ESPNU would've done a better job overall since they do college games all year and have analysts and broadcasters familiar with the game. I think the NCAA would've benefitted more by awarding the contract to ESPN over CBS.
  • Thank you

    Great column. I couldn't agree more. ESPN is a shameless and crass self promoter that doesn't allow the facts to get in the way of a good story.
    • Poor job by CBS and Turner
      I agree that ESPN has a politcal motive for bashing the NCAA. That is very clear. Also, shame on ESPN for hyping the Big East this year. The journalism is getting less objective my the day from our friends in CT.

      On the other hand, CBS/Turner management needs to get some real college analysts. Kenny Smith, Barkley and the rest of the NBA boys have likely not watched a VCU game during the regular season, probably did not even know who coached Morehead State before they played Louisville and have no clue about the other mid major teams. When I watch the Richmond vs. Kansas game this week, I sure hope the pregame show involves someone who has watched multiple Richmond games this year opposed to a guy who has saw only the highlights of their last two games.
      CBS/Turner should not have relied on their NBA team to cover NCAA games. Very poor planning and the audience is left with a less than stellar product.
    • Gottlieb and ESPN
      When I hear Gottlieb, I essentially tune out. He attempts to be dramatic to the extent of being accurate, and I question his insights to the game; but more than that, he apparently doesn't care about personalizing his feelings, good example was his trashing of John Stockton's son, who plays at Gonzaga. All totally uncalled for.

      Not sure how he got his gig at ESPN in any event, as the record indicates he was expelled from Notre Dame while playing as their starting point guard for 4 games during the 1995-1996 college basketball season. Per Wikipedia, and during Gottlieb's freshman year at Notre Dame, he stole credit cards from a roommate and fraudulently charged over $900 to those cards; subsequently, he was expelled from the team and eventually convicted of misdemeanour fraud. I have no problem in giving a person a 2nd chance, but its not clear if he has perhaps he has just moved his inappropriate behavior in another direction with his less than professional comments.
      One thing I really enjoy is the game broadcasts on ESPN by local Dan Dakich. He has quickly become the BEST analyst on TV. Way better than Vitale and Knight. He is so good. And his radio show is the best thing since the old Kravitz n Eddie Show. Radio in this town at 3:00 pm is "boring city." Snoozefest. One voice, so boring. The Fan had Chris Hagan on. He was brutal. They have killed sports radio in this town except for Dan Dakich. Don't ever give up the radio show Dan, we won't have anyone to listen to if you do.
    • Great Article
      Anthony---Great article. I couldn't agree more. ESPN is no doubt upset that they can't give that wonderfully ACC and Big East Biased coverage. Thanks to CBS Dukie V's blatantly biased analysis is limited. Wonder how they would explain only 2 of 11 "vaunted' Big East teams left. Hmmmmmm..Crickets from Bristol.
    • ESPN bias
      This is not surprising. ESPN promotes and programs to increase ratings and viewership. Thereââ?¬â?¢s little to no coverage of sports that are not shown on ESPN networks, such as NHL and IndyCar. Also, ESPN over-promotes the major, east-coast conferences at the expense of conferences like the Horizon and MVC. Note that the #2 team in the MVC, Wichita St, just won at Virginia Tech over the weekend in the NIT. VA Tech was one of the teams ââ?¬Å?slightedââ?¬Â? by the Committee.

      Bilas should man-up and admit that VCU has played well. While his initial criticism may have been warranted, there�s no reason to continue to denigrate their success.

      Do viewers really require so-called studio ââ?¬Å?expertsââ?¬Â? to discuss the games? I learn very little from them so I find Barkleyââ?¬â?¢s perspective refreshing. Heââ?¬â?¢s certainly more entertaining.
    • Radio Ratings
      Anthony...Is there any way that you could update us on the local sports radio show ratings? You used to give us this insight.
    • Sir Charles
      I think Chuck has been great so far in his commentary... He has been right to... It hasn't been about good coaching this year, its about the more athletically gifted teams that can shoot who have been winning... The espn college crew should be fired because they obviously don't know what they're talking about. Bottom line... ESPN didn't want to spend 11 billion, CBS/Turner did. Now they have to promote the regular season like its more important than march madness... Good luck with that mothership.
      The NCAA is a joke. A farce. This NEW president is a figure head. A puppet. Auburn and UConn win titles surrounded all year by violations. And there is the NCAA President all smiling with Ohio State's AD as they give away the basketball trophy to Crook Calhoun. A JOKE.

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