It began in 1990 and it’s been one of ESPN cornerstones. Whether as a primetime monthly special, daily afternoon program or a Sunday morning show, Outside the Lines’ mission statement has always been the same, providing enterprise and investigative sports journalism stories that normally wouldn’t be told to a mass audience.

Despite the fact that OTL has been on ESPN or ESPN2 and in various timeslots, the show has continued to plug along. Bob Ley has been the constant over the past twenty-five years, hosting the program from Day One.

Tonight, Outside the Lines celebrates its 25th anniversary with a primetime special updating some of its past stories, interviews with guests, a look at some of the memorable moments over the past quarter century and a commentary from Ley on the show’s impact.

ESPN has provided some of the features that will be seen on tonight’s 25th anniversary special airing at 7 p.m. ET:

  • John Barr’s recent interview with former Rutgers men’s basketball coach Mike Rice, and an in-studio discussion with Barr who originally reported on then-coach Rice physically and verbally demeaning his players. (Note: Barr’s full story premiered on Sunday’s Outside the Lines. It will re-air today at 2:30 p.m.)
  • An update on Tom Farrey’s September 2012 piece on former Pop Warner standout Donovan Hill, who suffered a spinal fracture while making the type of head-first tackle he says was encouraged by his youth coaches. Farrey, whoseGame On: The All-American Race to Make Champions of Our Children is recognized as a leading journalistic work on modern youth sports, joins Ley for an in-studio discussion.
  • A look back at OTL’s historical coverage of football concussions with Mark Fainaru-Wada (he and his brother Steve Fainaru co-authored League of Denial: The NFL, Concussions and the Battle for Truth complementing ESPN’s coverage of the subject). He joins Ley for a discussion as well.
  • A piece about race in sports and an in-studio interview with ESPN commentator and PTI co-host Michael Wilbon.
  • A look at OTL’s coverage of sexual assaults through the years.
  • Memorable moments from the past 25 years.

Originally scheduled as a monthly or quarterly primetime special starting in 1990, Outside the Lines then evolved into a Sunday morning show similar to Nightline’s format with a single stories and interviews in 2000. Then in 2003, OTL became a nightly 20-minute program airing at midnight. Finally in 2006, the show moved to the afternoon, expanded to a full half-hour and was named “Outside the Lines: First Report” to react to breaking news and provide discussion on the day’s issues.

Over the last two years, OTL has been moved on Sunday mornings from its normal 9 a.m. ET slot on ESPN to 8 a.m. on ESPN2 during football season and from mid-afternoons on ESPN to late afternoons on ESPN2.

With Bob Ley recently signing a contract extension, it ensures that he’ll be with OTL for at least a few more years.


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

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