The Roots of Ohio State's Problems, Part Three: The ESPN Agenda

onezuke18Correspondent IOctober 17, 2008

In Part Two of my ongoing series on the problems revolving around the Ohio State football program, I touched on the Big Ten not helping Ohio State's cause when it comes to the national perspective on the program.

This morning, I want to touch on another aspect/entity that leads the way in criticism of the Ohio State Buckeye football program.

Finding that problem is quite easy and something any sports fan is quite familiar with...none other than the "worldwide leader in sports," ESPN.

ESPN has led the way in criticism of Ohio State football and has done so particularly harshly for about the last three to five years now. Some of the quotes from ESPN analysts have been borderline astonishing.

The "Luckeyes" slant is largely credited to ESPN's 1st and 10 personality Skip Bayless. Tom Luginbill, one of the talking heads of ESPN's college recruiting division, summed up Ohio State's 2009 recruiting class by saying, "while Ohio State's recruiting class this year was impressive on paper, unlike LSU and Georgia's classes, Ohio State's is going to have prove it on the field at the next level."

If you watch College Football Scoreboard, you won't have to listen too hard to hear the biting criticisms on the Buckeyes every Saturday by Mark May. Mark Schlabach, Pat Forde...the list of ESPN analysts ready to bury the Buckeyes seems infinite.

But why is this the case? BuckeyeNation is convinced there is a bias against Ohio State and thinks that ESPN takes its shot at the Buckeyes every chance it gets.

What does ESPN have against Ohio State? Why are we a kicking post for the worldwide leader in sports? Fans have been wondering aloud for some time if this is just paranoia inside our scarlet and gray minds. Today, I will contend to you that it ISN'T just in your head. There is a lot more at play in regard to this topic than you might think.

Granted, I will admit to you that I have no "black and white" evidence convicting ESPN of anything, and I will further tell you that ESPN has done nothing overtly illegal to harm THE Ohio State University. What I do have are a lot of coincidences that tie together that may have you thinking that this "Buckeye bias" isn't just a figment of our imaginations.

The Buckeyes aren't alone in this 24/7 soapbox beatdown. The rest of the Big Ten conference has gotten a share of the belittlement as well, but seemingly not to the degree that the Buckeyes have had to endure. Why is that? Why is the Big Ten also seemingly under fire as well?

Let's look at some facts...and some even better questions...

Does anybody recall the time ESPN's criticism of Ohio State began to increase? EWW! PICK ME, PICK ME!!!! I know this one! Well, let me tell you.

It began Jan. 7, 2007 in Glendale, Arizona following a 41-14 Buckeye defeat at the hands of the Florida Gators. The Buckeyes walked into the stadium that night undefeated, heralded, celebrated, and crowned by the college football world and ESPN as national champions before the ball was kicked that evening.

The Buckeyes left as the goats, and ESPN has been the biggest monkey that has ever latched onto a back in the history of college football. ESPN has since said it is because Ohio State has failed to show up on a national stage—which, considering that public embarrassment to Ohio State that night, seems like legitimate reasoning.

But is that really the truth? Or was it just the right excuse for ESPN to unleash its publicity blitz against the Buckeyes and the Big Ten?

Do you think I'm just crying conspiracy? Maybe, because I have nothing CONCRETE to prove my point. But I sure do have a whole lot of convenient coincidences...

Another question for you: Does anybody know their history, and what event was coming to fruition almost simultaneously to the national championship disaster? No? The development of the Big Ten Network, which was set to kick off broadcasting that summer and begin programming of regional Big Ten football broadcasts that next fall.

What does that have to do with ESPN, you ask? Well, let me tell you! The successful development of the Big Ten Network would eliminate Big Ten programming on the ESPN GAMEPLAN PPV packages and also the ESPN+ programs.

The loss of a BCS conference's programming on their packages means ESPN is losing most of the Midwestern audiences, who would most likely prefer a Big Ten contest as opposed to a national game without regional ties.

You see, for as much blame as the Big Ten gets for the problems the conference has right now, they were WAAAAAAAYYYYY ahead of the curve on this thought.

Why have to share conference broadcasting profits with ESPN, who will put the money in their pockets and give nothing back to the universities that provide their money and ratings, when we can make our own network, cut out the middle man (ESPN), get all of the money, and enrich the universities in the end?

The Big Ten saw this vision LIGHT YEARS ahead of the rest of the conferences, and since then all the other conferences were looking with a watchful eye to see if the network idea would work.

ESPN joined everyone in the watch, but for a completely different reason. ESPN knew that if the Big Ten Network got off the ground and was successful in the Midwest region, other conferences were going to follow suit.

Well, guess what sports fans?!?!?!? It's taken a while to fully get off the ground, but with Time Warner and BTN finally coming to terms this fall, BTN is up, operational, and here to stay. The ACC and Pac-10 conferences are also looking seriously at setting the groundwork for their own networks now.

Does anybody realize just how big a deal this is to ESPN? BTN's success has cost ESPN tens of millions of dollars in lost revenue, programming, and sponsorship dollars. Their GAMEPLAN package value has been cut about in half. ESPN+ now runs MAC conference games in the Midwest region that obviously don't carry the value of Big Ten programming.

If the ACC and the Pac-10 do in fact start their own networks as well, that is even more money lost in VALUABLE program dollars—and from the looks of it, the ACC and Pac-10 will eventually reach their independent goals.

What has ESPN done to answer this serious threat to their value as a company? Panicked, that's what—and recently with their programming agreement with the SEC, absolutely destroyed any objective news source programming in my book.

You see, the SEC was looking into its own network as well, and ESPN had to do something to try and stop the bleeding. With that, beginning in 2009-2010 the "SEC on ESPN" will be the mantra for the upcoming 15 years!

You may still be wondering, Zuke, what is your friggin' point?!?! My point is that ESPN is now, in my educated opinion, broadcasting with a biased agenda. The ESPN/SEC marriage now has placed the ABC/ESPN Co. in direct financial success with the Southeastern Conference.

What does that make the Big Ten Network? That's right kiddies—it makes them direct competition! ESPN will also be in competition with any conference that follows the Big Ten's path in gaining its own network.

I also find it oddly coincidental that the ACC seems to be the next closest conference to following the Big Ten's lead, and all of a sudden, ESPN has turned up the volume on the criticism of the conference's strength when just a few years prior, the ACC was to be the next "superpower conference in college football."

But I digress. Back to Ohio State...

The Big Ten has been ESPN's whipping boy for the last few years now, and who is the premier team in the Big Ten conference right now? Ohio State.

This leads me to questions of ESPN's validity as a network when the Reggie Bush money scandal, Alabama infractions, and the SEC's "oversigning" policy, amongst other whispers of SEC improprieties, are kept at whispers.

But the Troy Smith fiasco was 24/7 across the wire, Penn State's player conduct issues have gotten Outside the Lines special report coverage, and Rich Rodriguez's legal dispute between Michigan and West Virginia has been littered across ESPN's programming the past few months as well.

If you think all of this in the article is just a nice bedtime story, you might want to remember that there is something called the "ESPN/USA Today Coaches' Poll," and that ESPN for the last two years has been the loudest voice proclaiming that a two-loss SEC team should get a national championship opportunity over any one-loss team from another conference.

From this man's eyes, ESPN is not out to help the Buckeyes' cause. Think about it...

As always, leave me comments, arguments, and thoughts on my board! I welcome all praise and criticism. Also please add me to your favorites list. My words make no sound without your ears!

Also look for the next installment to the series "The Roots of Ohio State's Problems, Part Four: Stale Is the Beginning of Death."


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