Two weeks ago with the release of the Freeh Report, Matt looked at ESPN throwing Penn State alum Matt Millen in front of the camera (again) for coverage. As opposed to ESPN, which at least trotted someone out to discuss the findings, Big Ten Network essentially ignored the Freeh Report and went on with their normal programming. Today, BTN stepped up in a big way, and provided some of their best coverage ever.
With the NCAA handing down penalties against Penn State this morning, BTN covered the press conference like no other. The network jumped on the air live from the studio at 8:30, a half hour before the press conference was about to begin. The usual studio crew of Dave Revsine, Gerry Dinardo, and Howard Griffith were on set, and before the press conference, they discussed the case and what the possible punishments would be. Also, the network featured anchor Mike Hall on hand at the press conference giving live reports. The network aired NCAA president Mark Emmert's press conference in its entirety, and jumped back to the studio for analysis from the crew.
Then, the coverage really took off. In the hour to hour and a half between Emmert's press conference and that of Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany, Hall went to work in Indianapolis. He interviewed a plethora of journalists about the situation, including Dennis Dodd (CBS), Pat Forde (Yahoo), and Pete Thamel (NYT). Also, Rick Pizzo of the BTN was in State College reporting live from campus, including interviewing students and other people on campus about the sanctions, giving the Big Ten Network an added element. The network also featured cameras in places where students were gathering to watch the press conferences, and gained a look at genuine reactions from university students.
The team in studio continued to excel, nabbing phone interviews with many former Nittany Lions, including Michael Robinson, AQ Shipley, and Kyle Brady, among others. The tone of the interviews, and all the coverage, for that matter, wasn't in a pro-Penn State mode. Instead, the coverage focused on the ramifications for the program and the future of Penn State, while similarly striking down the Penn State administration for their handling of the scandal. Furthermore, the network also covered the teleconference from Jim Delany live, and didn't gloss over any of the punishments handed down from the conference.
Big Ten Network pretty much covered every possible angle in covering the scandal today, and they should be commended for their work. Mike Hall and Dave Revsine get even better marks across their board for their work, which conveyed the seriousness of the sanctions and the scandal itself, while also getting tremendous information and insight from their interviews.
For a network that came under so much fire by neglecting the announcement of the Freeh Report, BTN changed course and did an amazing job today. They also have a page on their website containing videos of the numerous interviews by Hall and Revsine, as well as large portions of Emmert's press conference and on-campus reactions from University Park.
What changed in that time? We asked BTN about their live coverage today and if there was a noted change from what happened with the Louis Freeh press conference. A BTN spokesperson told Awful Announcing, "We didn’t air the Freeh Report due to an internal communications snafu… our (initial) statement was not as clear as it could have been. We are not a 24/7 news operation, but we do cover news. We did have columns and links to the Freeh Report at BTN.com, and we aired an hour-long special report that Friday evening. We had covered the issue late last fall and in early January with Paterno’s passing."
A network spokesperson continued adding, "Yesterday, we had several hours of live coverage yesterday of the Paterno statue coming down. When we heard about NCAA sanctions coming, we planned for our live coverage for today – sending Mike Hall and Tom Dienhart to Indy, and keeping Rick Pizzo in State College and lining up interviews, today wasn’t as much of a departure as it was really effective planning."
If a conference-specific network wants to know how to present coverage of a massive scandal like what has happened at Penn State, they need to look no further than today at Big Ten Network.