ESPN’s new practice of not sending announcers to cover a few of its games and instead broadcasting those games from a studio has already resulted in some embarrassing moments this season, and last night brought the worst one yet.
ESPNU was to televise the Southwestern Athletic Conference game between Prairie View A&M and Arkansas-Pine Bluff at 8 p.m. Central time last night. For those looking to tune in, though, they instead found a reality show about Snoop Doggy Dogg and his son Cordell Broadus, a highly rated high school football player. A message ran on the bottom of the screen simply saying that the Prairie View/UAPB game “will not be shown at this time.”
Conspicuous was the absence of a reason why the game wasn’t being shown. A little internet research revealed why. According to the SWAC website, the game was not shown because of “the impending snowstorm set to hit the Northeast on Monday night. The game was to be called by Mark Brown and Mo Cassara from ESPN’s Bristol, Conn. headquarters – one of 45 games this season supplementing its on-site event presence with production support originating at ESPN.”
This game wasn’t played in the Northeast, though. It was played in Arkansas. Presumably, the game was not shown because of the travel ban issued in Connecticut because of the winter storm, or because the network didn’t want the announcers or employees to risk going to the studio. If ESPN had just sent talent to the game site-like it did for the Syracuse/North Carolina, Texas/Iowa State and even Delaware State/North Carolina Central games it showed on its networks Monday night-it wouldn’t have had this problem.
This blunder comes after a BYU/Pepperdine game earlier this year when ESPN was unable to get the audio up for the first half of the game, resulting in the announcers in the studio calling the game with no noise from the site, a development that went over like a lead balloon.
Officially, the practice is known as “integrating production facilities, staff and resources from its Bristol, Conn. headquarters.” Unofficially, it should be known as cheap, unnecessary, and a blow to the quality of broadcasts most are familiar with from a network that helped raise this sport in the 1980s and, for the most part, has been so good to college hoops for so long.
It’s an approach that might make some sense when televising overseas events (see: international soccer, Olympic curling). It makes no sense for a college basketball game in the states. It reeks of cheapness, and considering this is the same network paying $470 million a year to televise the so-called college football “playoff,” showing its championship game on about 15 different networks, one would think it’s not too much to ask to send some talent to a college basketball game site or, worst case, contract knowledgeable area announcers to do the game. If not, then don’t televise it.
Even on games where obvious blunders haven’t occurred, the quality of broadcast is noticeably different, and not in a good way. The analysis is dull and robotic, accurate but with no real color or feel for the game or the arena where it’s being played in. When the network purposely avoids the announcer shots before a game or during halftime, it becomes readily obvious in a hurry that one is watching a second-rate production.
One can only hope that this year is the last year of this thoroughly unnecessary experiment. By the way, Arkansas-Pine Bluff won the game 105-68 with an outstanding all-around shooting performance, hitting 63.3% from the field, 12 of 20 from three-point range, and 31 of 33 free throws. In this season where lack of offense has been a huge issue in the sport, it might’ve done a few people some good to watch a game with a team hitting the century mark.
- We keep hearing about the supposed need for a 30-second shot clock. North Carolina and Syracuse did just fine with a 35-second clock, with the Tar Heels holding on for a 93-83 win. Marcus Paige’s 22 points plus three-of-a-kind 17-point games from Kennedy Meeks, Brice Johnson and Nate Britt trumped Trevor Cooney’s 28 and Rakeem Christmas’s 22 points and 12 boards. Good game.
- Iowa State and Texas did just fine with a 35-second clock, too, combining for 112 points in the second half of the Cyclones’ 89-84 victory. Nine players scored in double figures.
- Army edged American 68-66 in the Patriot League, as Dylan Cox hit a jumper with four seconds left to give the Cadets the win.
- Valparaiso is one win from the 20-win mark already after a 73-48 blowout of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.
- The Southland, SWAC and MEAC took center stage Monday night. Among the highlights: Stephen F. Austin’s win streak is 16 after an 82-65 victory at Lamar, Texas Southern outlasted Mississippi Valley State 85-84 in a triple-overtime classic, and N.C. Central edged Delaware State 55-54 after DSU’s Amere May was fouled attempting a three-pointer just before the buzzer but missed two of three free throws.
- Several games have already been affected by the snowstorm in the East. DePaul and Providence were to play in Providence Tuesday, but the game has been rescheduled for Thursday afternoon at 2 p.m. EST. Also, the Michigan State/Rutgers game scheduled for Tuesday night in New Jersey has been rescheduled for Thursday at 6 p.m. EST.
- Washington center Robert Upshaw has been dismissed from the program for a “violation of team rules,” according to a statement by coach Lorenzo Romar. ESPN’s Jeff Goodman reports that the dismissal is related to the failure of multiple drug tests. Unfortunate news all around here. Washington loses a difference-maker who was averaging 10.9 points, 8.2 rebounds and a nation-leading 4.4 blocks per game, and the Huskies’ NCAA Tournament hopes take a definite blow. Upshaw’s chances at a pro career also are taking a blow as well. For his sake, hopefully he can turn it around.
George Washington at VCU (7 p.m. EST, CBSSN) Arguably the two best teams in the Atlantic 10. GW is a quiet 16-4, nowhere near an NCAA tourney lock yet, so this would be a huge win.
Baylor at Oklahoma State (9 p.m. EST, ESPNews) Is OSU starting to crack? The Cowboys have lost four of six, but that 2-4 record also coincides with a stretch in which they’ve played four of six on the road.
Xavier at Georgetown (7 p.m. EST, FS1) Musketeers won the first meeting on New Year’s Eve, but at just 2-7 in road/neutral games, they could really use this one too.
West Virginia at Kansas State (7 p.m. EST, ESPN2) K-State has rallied up to second in the Big 12 standings. If it’s going to stay there, then this is a critical game.
Tennessee at Arkansas (9 p.m. EST, ESPNU) The SEC has a lot to sort out yet, and these are two of the many we’re still looking for clarity on.
Colorado State at Boise State (11 p.m. EST, ESPNU) Derrick Marks is carrying the Broncos right now, and he could carry them to a win here, too.
Central Michigan at Kent State This one matches division leaders in the MAC. The Golden Flashes are another MAC team quietly having a really solid year.
Tulsa at Tulane (7 p.m. EST, ESPNews) The Green Wave has cooled a bit of late but gets another chance at a top AAC team. Tulsa has won nine straight.
Have a good Tuesday. Stay safe and warm on the East Coast.