As is often pointed out, the “E” is ESPN stands for Entertainment but the “N” doesn’t stand for News. At it’s core, ESPN is an entertainment entity. It’s job is to provide 24 hours of interesting, engaging and useful entertainment and information to audiences across it’s many verticals.
ESPN can also get itself into trouble when it tries to convince audiences that it is the be-all-end-all for sports news. To be fair, it actually was for a long time. For decades, no one challenges the notion that if you wanted to know what was going in the world of sports you turned to ESPN and if they weren’t talking about it then it must not matter. It’s a belief many people still hold true today (Remember when Arena Football suddenly mattered…and then it didn’t).
In other words, ESPN is here to tell you what you need to know and what you need to know if what they tell you.
Often times, it takes the afflicted to be the ones to call out ESPN’s biases and financially-minded decisions. In this instance, it’s SB Nation’s Marquette blog Anonymous Eagle playing the part of gumshoe detective. Marquette of course is a member of the new Big East Conference, which is now a collection of ten Catholic universities focused mainly around basketball. This new conference rose out of the ashes of the old Big East and one of the first decisions they made was to sign a television deal with Fox Sports instead of re-upping with ESPN, the long-time home of Big East basketball.
Conspiracy theories about whether ESPN is biased in one direction or the other about a school or conference are par for the course. However, Anonymous Eagle appeared to have noticed a rather petty example in this case.
In looking at daily college basketball game schedules, normal listings included information for both teams, both logos, start time and the TV network in the upper right corner:
However, whenever a Big East team was involved, it seemed as though the TV network information was being purposefully withheld:
Suspicions about whether or not ESPN was deliberately making it harder for fans to find Big East games grew stronger when they also found that listings for non-Big East games on Fox Sports included TV network information:
So it’s understandable to see why Big East fans might feel as though ESPN was purposefully getting back at the schools in this small way. It’s not as though the school hasn’t bent the rules to their benefit on college game listings before. The network infamously included Texas a Top 25 preview in 2011 even though the Longhorns weren’t in the AP Poll Top 25 as a way to help promote their newly-formed Longhorn Network. It’s subtle and doesn’t hurt anyone, but it’s still disingenuous.
Anonymous Eagle’s post caught the attention of sports media hawks like Richard Deitsch, and Andy Glockner as well as ESPN’s Advanced Web and Mobile Technology Director David Pean. The end result? It was apparently a third-party vendor oversight and the issue had since been fixed.
Case closed, for now at least. As Anonymous Eagle points out, “missing information ultimately reflected the perception held by many Big East fans that ESPN holds a bias against the Big East.” Even if ESPN was truly 100 percent free of blame, the fact that many sports fans assumed the corporation would have done something so petty says a lot about that perception.