One of the more interesting storylines of the 2017 college football season was the University of Washington vs. ESPN. More specifically, the dispute was centered around Huskies coach Chris Petersen’s criticisms of late starting times to accommodate television. To put it rather mildly, Petersen was perturbed at 7:30/7:45 p.m. PT kickoffs which meant 10:30/10:45 starts on the East Coast.

ESPN promptly hit back during the Cal-Washington game on October 7, complete with graphics and commentary stating that its ratings for late night games are higher than earlier kickoff times. It was strange for a network to fire back like this, showing its wrath during a game broadcast.

It caught the attention of Washington athletic director Jen Cohen, who received text messages from fans and later saw the telecast at home. She told the Seattle Times that she was “extremely disappointed” at the tone of the broadcast and also seeing ESPN’s use of cupcakes to demonstrate the weakness of its non-conference schedule. Cohen said she had to muster all of her strength to prevent herself from attacking back.

“I felt more like that was such a disrespectful move for the people we play,” she said. “For those that do this, we do this because we love the kids. These are somebody’s sons, somebody’s brothers. They’re 18- to 22-year-old kids, and so I was more offended, not for us, as I was for our opponents.”

However, cooler heads have prevailed and Cohen said she received a phone call from an ESPN executive who apologized and assured her that it would never happen again.

“It was a class act, and he made the right call,” she said. “I think Chris and I feel like it’s time to move on.”

And making Petersen and Cohen feel even better was news that the Pac-12 had scheduled its October 28 game against UCLA at 12:30 p.m. PT, making it easier on fans who want to attend during the day.

ESPN and the University of Washington are have now made amends, and the Huskies get a coveted afternoon home game after all. Who said that peace couldn’t be achieved in our time?

[Seattle Times]

About Ken Fang

Ken has been covering the sports media in earnest at his own site, Fang's Bites since May 2007 and at Awful Announcing since March 2013.

He provides a unique perspective having been an award-winning radio news reporter in Providence and having worked in local television.

Fang celebrates the three Boston Red Sox World Championships in the 21st Century, but continues to be a long-suffering Cleveland Browns fan.

  • Walt_Gekko

    Washington/Chris Petersen needs to be careful because the Huskies could be playing in some 8:30 or even 9:00 PM local time starts next season. I would not be surprised to next season with the success of the late-night starts on ESPN and FS1 in particular, ABC and FOX get into the act with ABC moving up the prime time game to 7:15 PM ET/7:20 PM ET kickoff and adding a new late-night east/prime time west window with such starting at 11:30 PM ET/8:30 PM PT that would be mostly Pac-12 with Mountain West games occasionally in the mix while FOX goes at either 11:00, 11:30 PM or Midnight Eastern Time (8:00, 8:30 or 9:00 PM Pacific).

    The key to the late-night games are how they are doing after 10:00 PM Pacific Time/1:00 AM Eastern Time after Saturday Night Live (that now airs live everywhere on NBC) ends (in fact, I would not be surprised if at some point if Notre Dame is playing at San Diego State for instance NBC working out to where they get that game on a week where SNL would be a repeat and slot it for an 11:30 PM ET kickoff). You are likely seeing a lot of Millennials (those 18-34) watching the late-night games after SNL ends and that to me is the key to making it work.

    • That Man

      ESPN is going to schedule the way they think best serves their ratings. They have shown they can be vindictive with the tone of their broadcast, but they’re not going to put a top 10 program in the basement of their programming unless it makes sense to their bottom line. It won’t matter what Chris Peterson says, and there certainly should be no reason for him to be afraid to complain.

      • Walt_Gekko

        Right, but the fact is, Pac-12 games are doing very well on both ESPN and FS1 in the late spots to where I can see where ABC and FOX getting into the act and going with games that start at 11:00 (FOX), 11:30 PM (FOX or ABC) or Midnight (FOX) ET to get Millennials who are much more likely to join such games after Saturday Night Live ends at 1:00 AM ET. That’s why I can see that.

        I could even eventually see the Big 12 get into the act and start scheduling some games to start at say 9:15 PM CT/10:15 PM ET with the hope such are close games that are still going when Saturday Night Live ends and that audience comes over.

        • Mike

          I’m thankful Del Mar didn’t install lights “at the insistence of NBC or Breeders’ Cup Ltd.”

          • Walt_Gekko

            Haha, I get it.

  • Karl Kolchak

    ESPN blows. I never watch that awful network if I can avoid it.

  • Jeff Johnson

    espn continues to be the 500-pound gorilla, and it’s why I NEVER watch anything but the live sports that can’t be found anywhere else. Their pettiness would be humorous if it weren’t so harmful.

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