Pitt coach Jeff Capel argues with an official during a Feb. 18 game against Virginia Tech. Feb 18, 2023; Blacksburg, Virginia, USA; Pittsburgh Panthers head coach Jeff Capel argues with an official during first half play against the Virginia Tech Hokies at Cassell Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Lee Luther Jr.-USA TODAY Sports

One of the long-running issues around college sports has been judging the strengths of different leagues ahead of postseason berths and seedings. And, unsurprisingly, there’s a media dimension there. This comes into play with outside networks like ESPN and Fox that sometimes face skepticism over their business relationships with leagues and schools. But it comes even more into play with the individual league networks. The latest thing of note there comes from comments from Pittsburgh Panthers men’s basketball coach Jeff Capel (seen above arguing with an official during Saturday’s loss to the Virginia Tech Hokies) about ACC Network and Big Ten Network:

A transcription for those who don’t want to click through to that tweet:

“When we were at Virginia Tech, the night before, I’m watching our own network and one of the first questions that comes up is ‘Is it perception or reality that the ACC is down?’ I never see that on the Big Ten Network. I watch the Big Ten Network a lot because one of my best friends coaches in that league, so I’m watching them. They’re always, always pumping the Big Ten. Always. I think it’s a really good league but I think ours is too. I wish that the people who represent us would have the respect, pump our league and be positive, instead of looking at negative things.”

Of course, there are many factors to consider here. One is that college coaches griping about media coverage is far from new. Another, and even more out-there, example this weekend came from UCLA Bruins men’s basketball coach Mick Cronin blaming his team’s upcoming conference realignment (they’re set to head to the Big Ten in 2024-25) for their place in a recent NCAA selection committee mock seeding:

But, beyond that, there’s way too much of an expectation from many college coaches in particular that coverage of their teams should be “positive.” That’s even led to some coaches trying to revoke or limit access for “negative” media people and outlets. And it’s quite problematic for Capel to say that he expects his conference network in particular to “pump our league and be positive”: that may be what is best for him as a coach in the ACC, but it’s far from what’s best for ACC Network or their viewers.

That’s not to say that conference networks always provide unbiased coverage: truly “objective” in sports doesn’t usually exist, with everything informed by experiences and context. It’s also not to say that viewers expect conference networks to be completely unbiased; there’s definitely an expectation of more talk about the conference’s teams than you’d find on a general sports network, and maybe an expectation of some level of favorability towards them. (This is similar to the “homerism” debate on regional sports networks’ home-team broadcasts, with different networks and different viewers having different answers for how much is appropriate.)

But this complaint from Capel feels above and beyond that. And that’s especially true with it coming about the network just daring to discuss if it was a “down” year for the conference or not. It’s not a great look for him to claim that ACC Network’s existence should be “to pump our league and be positive.” And the network should not listen; a shift to positivity no matter the circumstances would significantly damage their credibility, and would be a disservice to viewers.

[Noah Hiles on Twitter]

About Andrew Bucholtz

Andrew Bucholtz has been covering sports media for Awful Announcing since 2012. He is also a staff writer for The Comeback. His previous work includes time at Yahoo! Sports Canada and Black Press.