When the Big East Conference turned down ESPN's TV contract offer in 2011, opting instead to take its chances on the open market, questions could immediately have been raised about whether or not the network would choose to retaliate in the way it covered the conference. Granted, the Big East has left itself open to plenty of criticism, but the so-called "Worldwide Leader in Sports" has kept its distance from journalistic integrity in its quest to lead the smear campaign.
First came Boston College's athletics director outright admitting that ESPN encouraged them to raid the Big East for Pittsburgh and Syracuse. (Then quickly pulling a "Wait, was that too honest? Just kidding, I didn't mean it!" backpedal move soon after.)
With Big East TV negotiations set to begin in the next two months, ESPN has dialed up the heat against its least-favorite conference.
Even ESPN's own response to the Boston College fiasco was less than reassuring. Burke Magnus, ESPN's vice president for college sports programming, was quoted as saying, "We haven't been advocates of [conference realignment] because our business interests are best served by stability." Not only is this laughable, given how many eyeballs ESPN attracts by running conference realignment stories, Magnus' own statement gives him away, as it admits that ESPN's decision on whether or not to interfere in the news its supposed to be covering with integrity will hinge solely on its own business interests.
Along those lines, earlier this month came the sarcastic, vitriolic attack on incoming Big East member Temple from ESPN's Big East beat writer. And while other sports news outlets have pointed out how the new NCAA football playoff gives teams like those in the Big East access to a potential national championship game for the first time ever, ESPN quickly shot down any such notions, calling playoff access for the Big East "potentially...a big issue" and using the belittling, exclusionary "Big 5 conference" moniker. Lest anybody recall how high teams like Boise State, Houston, Cincinnati and South Florida have climbed in the rankings in recent years.
Don't get me wrong, I understand that the ACC has a tie-in with the Orange Bowl, while the Big East does not have a tie-in with any of the future power six bowls. I also understand that with teams like Miami, Florida State and Virginia Tech, the ACC has more "name " programs than the Big East. But what (should) count just as much is the fact that the Big East (both its past and current membership) has outplayed the ACC over any reasonable recent timeframe, using basically any metric.
On Monday, ESPN's College Football Live hosted Big East Interim Commissioner Joe Bailey to talk about the future of the conference. Oh good, so maybe the Big East will get a fair shake, at least for a day? Not exactly.
ESPN intro-ed the segment with a title screen reading "Big Least?". (Journalism: you can say anything you want, as long as you end it with question mark.) ESPN host Joe Tessitore ended the segment with a rambling psuedo-question which accomplished little more than to use the term "Power Five Conferences" multiple times. During his spiel, Tessitore also audibly laughed while discussing the "luxury" of BCS automatic-qualification that the Big East used to have.
Once again, ESPN would like you to politely forget that the Big East has been the better conference, and currently features the better teams, when compared to the "Power" ACC. Because the ACC signed its ESPN contract like an obedient little conference should.
ESPN: Where journalistic integrity goes to die.
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