ESPNU leaked the women's NCAA tournament bracket ahead of the ESPN selection show.

Remember back in 2016 when someone posted the full men’s basketball NCAA tournament bracket online hours ahead of CBS’ expanded two-hour selection show? That leak led to a NCAA investigation, and to the NCAA and CBS taking anti-leak measures in subsequent years. Well, there’s another leak hours ahead of a selection show, this time on the women’s side. But this time, it appears to have been a network shooting themselves in the foot; the leak happened at ESPN, which was planning to broadcast the selection show on its main channel at 7 p.m. Eastern. Here’s ESPN’s on-air apology on ESPN2, and discussion of their plans to immediately show the bracket on that channel (at 5 p.m. Eastern, two hours early) while still sticking with the 7 p.m. Eastern selection show:

So, just what happened here? Well, four hours before that selection show, ESPNU put the full women’s bracket out there in piecemeal form. Their Bracketology show was breaking down the men’s bracket (revealed Sunday on CBS), but their sidebar and bottom graphics started including information on women’s matchups that weren’t supposed to be announced until Monday night. Here’s how this started; during the show’s intro, the sidebar first showed men’s first-round matchups but the bottom bar showed women’s matchups from the Portland region, and the sidebar then quickly changed to women’s matchups from the Greensboro region as well:

The sidebar then showed off women’s matchups from the Portland region, with the bottom bar showing matchups from the Chicago region:

The bottom bar then went back to men’s matchups, but the side bar showed off the remaining (Chicago and Albany) women’s regions:

Both bars went back to men’s matchups for a while, but women’s matchups again popped up on both bars about five minutes later:

And this happened again about five minutes into the show (after another sidebar ad for the women’s selection show, no less):

Minnesota reporter Blake DuDonis collected some screencaps of the “reveal”:

It’s unfortunate for the selection show that all the important information is already out there. And this is definitely further proof of the need to be extremely careful with embargoed graphics and announcements. But it does bring back memories of a great Twitter meme:

[Blake DuDonis 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.