Jenn Brown vs. Tim Brown, as refereed by ESPN

So I get home, and there is a piece of junk mail in my box.  I almost threw it away; then I decided to post about it.  First, a little background…

I didn’t really follow the controversy surrounding the Jenn Brown/Icehouse story from two weeks ago, mainly because the story ended almost before it started.

Jenn Brown is, from what I can tell, being positioned by ESPN to become “Erin Andrews Jr.”, including inheriting Andrews’ sideline reporter gig on ESPN Thursday night college football.  Like Andrews, she is blond, and a graduate of Florida.  (She is also three years younger than Andrews.)

All that is well and good, but when it was announced that she had agreed (with ESPN’s consent) to become the national spokesperson for Icehouse beer (a brand sold by MillerCoors), the endorsement deal drew some criticism in various corners of the media world.

ESPN subsequently changed its collective mind, and told MillerCoors that Brown would not be available to be its Icehouse spokesperson.

I thought that was the right call, but I wondered a little about where ESPN drew the line when it came to endorsement deals.  After all, Dan Patrick promoted Coors beer when he worked for the network (and later said it was a mistake).

More recently, Brown’s role model, Andrews, has appeared in an ad campaign for Sony, and Chris Berman has shilled as only he can for Applebee’s.  Of course, it is one thing to endorse television sets and restaurants, and another to endorse an alcoholic beverage, particularly when much of your work revolves around sporting events played and attended by people under the age of 21.

However, ESPN’s line of demarcation isn’t nearly as clear-cut as that, as pointed out by at least one observer, who notes the network has no problem with Lee Corso and Dick Vitale appearing in commercials for Hooters.

Tangent:  I own a book, College Sports Inc., written about 20 years ago by Murray Sperber, the former Indiana University professor and mondo critic of college sports.  It is as shrill (and comprehensive) an indictment of the amateur sports scene as you could imagine.  Sperber is at his most bilious near the end of a chapter titled “Greed City”:

“…a former Indiana University football coach, Lee Corso, set the standard for crassness when he shilled for the white minority South African government’s Krugerrands [on Corso’s weekly coach’s TV show] while at IU.”

I don’t have anything against Corso, who has been a mainstay at ESPN for many years, although I admit the ads for Hooters make me cringe.  However, over the years I’ve often thought about that line in Sperber’s book when Corso appeared on TV.

I think that points up the danger of endorsements, especially potentially controversial ones.  Corso could escape being remembered for that politically incorrect pitch because no one outside the state watched his show.  (Given his record at IU, it’s possible not many people in the state watched the show.)  However, Jenn Brown endorsing a beer company while working for the 5000-lb. gorilla of sports media in this country — well, that’s a different story.

You’re probably starting to wonder what I got in the mail.  Well, it was a promotional magazine for an online betting service.  I’m not sure how I got on the company’s mailing list, as I don’t gamble on sports, but no matter.  I was about to toss it out when I noticed that the cover featured former Heisman Trophy winner Tim Brown, wearing a hat with the logo of the company.

Inside the front cover is a blurb stating that the service “offers free games picks and previews from Tim Brown, Gary Payton and the rest…”.  It also suggests the reader needs to join Brown and Payton at the website on an “exclusive betting video page.”

In the middle of the booklet is another photo of Brown, holding a football, with another blurb referencing him.

As it happens, Brown is currently employed by ESPN.  As stated in a recent media release by the network:

ESPN’s 2010 college football coverage will feature a deep lineup of knowledgeable and experienced game and studio commentators in familiar and new roles, including the addition of Heisman Trophy winner Tim Brown as an analyst for ESPN 3D games…

…Brown – a former Notre Dame wide receiver and 16-year NFL veteran — will also provide studio analysis on College Football Live, ESPNEWS, SportsCenter, various ESPN Radio programs and additional ESPN platforms.

I perused the betting service’s website, mainly to see if Brown was involved in picking college games, as opposed to just the NFL.  I didn’t see any current reference to him analyzing college games, although he does seem to have analyzed college football games last year for the service.  I did see an older video showing Brown (wearing a burnt-orange Sean John sweater and employing the key phrase “butt-whoopin'” amid a host of cliches) discussing the upcoming (at that time) BCS title game between Alabama and Texas.

Of course, I didn’t have access to the “exclusive betting video page”, so he may be talking about Alabama-Penn State this week, or he may be sticking to the NFL.  I don’t know.

Again, I don’t have anything against Tim Brown, who for all I know is a nice guy making a living, as is his right.  It just strikes me as odd that ESPN doesn’t appear to have any problem with one of its college football analysts moonlighting as a spokesperson/employee for online gambling, while putting the kibosh on someone trying to hawk beer.

In one of the links above, it is pointed out that “colleges and universities have always been sensitive to criticism that it does not condone alcohol abuse but is more than happy to take the money from beer advertising.”  Isn’t gambling on sports at least as big a concern on college campuses these days?

I will say that you could distinguish between the ESPN roles for Tim Brown (a game/studio analyst) and Jenn Brown (a reporter) in trying to draw a line.  That’s a tough argument to make, though.

It could be that I’m totally wrong about this, but I don’t really see the difference, at least from ESPN’s point of view, between these two endorsement deals — one still in progress, and one cut off at the pass.  Then again, I’m still trying to figure out why ESPN would run infomercials featuring one of its former ad spokesmen, who has been dead for over a year.

At least no one is endorsing Berman’s moustache.

ESPN College Football Announcers for 2010

ESPN has released its assignments for its college football game coverage, as well as its studio coverage.  As always, there are some new crews.  Highlights:

— Among the tandems that work the high-profile ESPN/ABC games, the one significant change is in the “west coast” team, where there will now be a three-man booth — Carter Blackburn, Brock Huard, and Mike Bellotti.  The former Oregon coach is in his first season as an analyst; he works with Huard, who was the analyst for the SEC ESPNU primetime game last year.  Blackburn called mostly west coast games on the U last season after moving over from CBS College Sports.

That team essentially replaces the Terry Gannon/David Norrie duo from 2009. Gannon is not listed on this year’s release; he may just have too much already on his announcing plate (Dave Lamont filled in for him a few times last season as it was). Norrie is going to ESPN Radio, replacing Dennis Franchione as Bill Rosinski’s analyst.  Norrie will also work a few midweek TV games (along with Robert Smith), teaming with Beth Mowins.

— That’s right, there is now a second woman play-by-play voice calling college football for ESPN.  Mowins will apparently have a limited schedule.

Pam Ward is still around, and presumably as intolerant of injured players as ever. However, she’s been moved from the noon ET ESPN2 slot to 3:30 pm ET on ESPNU, much to the relief of Michigan State and Northwestern fans everywhere.  Her analyst will be Danny Kanell.

— Kanell, the former FSU quarterback, also will do some studio work.  He’s the breakout star, I guess, of the multitude of game callers/analysts who worked ESPN360 (now ESPN3.com) games last season.  What does that say about the talent featured on ESPN3.com in 2009?  Well…

The release doesn’t mention anything about who will work ESPN3.com games this year; it does note that “additional commentators will contribute throughout the season”.  There will be a lot of “additional contributors” both on ESPN3.com and on the regular TV platforms.  Week 1, for example, will include 11 games that will be shown live exclusively on ESPN3.com.

— Erin Andrews will be hosting the first hour of an expanded College Gameday (that was announced last month).  She will also be the sideline reporter for the game site from which the program originates, assuming it’s on ABC/ESPN/ESPN2.

That means the other high-profile game tandems will probably flip-flop sideline reporters a bit more often than normal, although most of the time Andrews will likely work with Brent Musberger and Kirk Herbstreit.  Last year, the sideline reporter with that duo was Lisa Salters, who will not be back this year.

Quint Kessenich moves from the Big East regional game of the week to a national gig; his replacement on the sidelines for the Big East games is Eamon McAnaney.  I think there is a lacrosse announcer quota involved in that switch, but I’m not sure.

Andrews won’t be roaming the sidelines on Thursday night any more.  “The new EA” is Jenn Brown, who like Andrews is a Florida grad, blond, and destined to become a sports blog/message board favorite.

— The other change on Thursday nights is Rece Davis taking over play-by-play duties from Chris Fowler.  I like Davis, although he isn’t really a natural at play-by-play, but I’m not a fan of the Craig James/Jesse Palmer dual threat.  I find their combined analysis rather banal; at least James wears a properly sized tie.

— Fowler remains the ringleader for College Gameday, with Lee Corso (who I hope has now fully recovered from his stroke), Herbstreit, and Desmond Howard.  There was little change in personnel for the major studio shows. That’s right, another year of Dr. Lou (with Davis and Mark May) and The Bachelor (with John Saunders).  Robert Flores takes over as the new update guy on ABC.

There were some moves on the SEC-on-ESPN desk.  Dari Nowkhah will now be the syndication studio host, as Rob Stone will call games on ESPNU (he’s working the noon U game with David Pollack).  Another change of interest for SEC fans is the new primetime team for that league on ESPNU.  Clay Matvick and Herm Edwards will replace Eric Collins and Brock Huard.  Edwards may be a San Diego State alum, but he strikes me as a natural pick to analyze SEC action, as teams in that conference definitely play to win the game.

As mentioned earlier, Huard is working west coast games this season, while Collins has apparently moved to the Big 10 Network.  If I see a release listing announcers for the BTN/CBS College Sports/etc., I’ll post it here; the other BTN announcing news of note I’ve seen suggests that Tom Hart will be joining that network.

Edit (8/25/10) — Here is the BTN release, with Hart and Collins listed as announcers:  Link

Another non-ESPN announcing note:  The ACC game of the week, produced by Raycom, will have a new analyst this year, with David Archer replacing Rick “Doc” Walker.  This, if not a national tragedy, is at least a regional outrage.  I need to know which ACC players are actually cyborgs.

— Anish Shroff will take over from Charlie Neal as the play-by-play man for ESPNU’s Thursday night games.  Luckily, CitiField will not host a football game this season.

— Joe Tessitore will call the Friday night ESPN2 games with Rod Gilmore again, but Tessitore (who I find enjoyably bombastic) will also be the play-by-play voice for the ESPN-3D games, which will feature separate production teams for “regular” and 3D broadcasts.  He’ll work with new analyst Tim Brown and sideline reporter Ray Bentley (who had worked with Pam Ward for the last three seasons).

— The noon ESPN/ESPN2 games will each have Grieses in the booth.  Bob Griese returns with Chris Spielman and Dave Pasch on ESPN, while the ESPN2 game will feature Brian Griese (who had a promising debut last year) with play-by-play man Bob Wischusen.

Pasch and Wischusen are both guys who could/should work higher-profile games, but each is a radio announcer for an NFL team (the Cardinals for Pasch, the Jets for Wischusen) and are basically limited to early-afternoon Saturday games on ESPN.

— Ron Franklin, who was planning on retiring, is back and working again with Ed Cunningham.  I hope that team gets some heavy-duty games this year.

Getting closer to kickoff…

ESPN’s college football announcers for 2009

On Thursday, ESPN released its assignments for its college football studio and game coverage.  There was a fair amount of movement among its announcing teams this season.  Some comments:

  • The Brad Nessler-Todd Blackledge tandem should be excellent.  Blackledge no longer has to worry about trying to decipher various off-the-wall comments by Mike Patrick.  Nessler doesn’t have to prop up Bob Griese (who to me has faded badly as an analyst in recent years) or make room for Paul Maguire’s observations.  Erin Andrews will roam the sidelines for this team; let’s hope she doesn’t get hit by a ball.
  • Speaking of Maguire, according to a column in USA Today he was supposed to have a “reduced role” this season, with “the occasional game” and some studio and radio shows.  However, the man who still holds the record for the longest punt in The Citadel’s football history is not listed anywhere on the release (and the release is fairly extensive, listing some “additional” commentators like JC Pearson, Jon Berger, and Shaun King).
  • Griese is going to be part of a three-man booth working the noon ESPN game.  Dave Pasch gets to referee Griese and Chris Spielman.  That strikes me as possibly being a mismatched combo.  Griese and Spielman are both Big 10 guys, though.  I think Pasch is one of the better play-by-play guys ESPN has on its roster, but he’s probably precluded from drawing primetime assignments due to being the radio voice of the Arizona Cardinals.
  • One of my favorite announcers, Sean McDonough, will work ABC games with Matt Millen.  Millen was a solid analyst on NFL telecasts before his extremely ill-advised stint as GM of the Lions.  I think moving back to broadcasting on the college side is probably a good move for him.  Oh, and this team also draws a sideline reporter, Holly Rowe.  It’s a shame she isn’t working with Ron Franklin.
  • Mike Patrick moves from ESPN Saturday night to one of the regional ABC slots, teamed with Craig James (who will also continue as an analyst on the Thursday night package) and sideline reporter Heather Cox.  Britney Spears will not be impressed.
  • Carter Blackburn, formerly of CBS College Sports TV, will be calling games on ESPNU.  It appears he’ll primarily be working west coast games.  His announcing sidekick is listed as “TBD”.
  • Pam Ward is back for the noon game on ESPN2, with Ray Bentley back for at least the third year in a row as her analyst.  I’m just glad I’m not a fan of, say, a mediocre Big 10 school…
  • Todd Harris got a regular play-by-play gig, working Saturday afternoon ESPNU telecasts with Charles Arbuckle (really, it should have been Bentley).  I sincerely hope those will be “interactive” broadcasts.

Then there is ESPN’s SEC announcing roster.  I wanted to delve into this a little deeper, because I’m curious to see how ESPN approaches its contractual relationship with the conference.

Aside from the SEC primetime games that will air on ESPN (which will mostly be called by Nessler and Blackledge), there will be a regular ESPN game on Saturday night, an occasional afternoon game on ESPNU, and the syndicated regional package put together by ESPN Regional Television.  The full list of affiliates for the regional package won’t be announced until the SEC Media Days in a couple of weeks, but it’s anticipated the “footprint” for the broadcast will be significantly larger than what it was under Raycom/JP/Lincoln Financial.

The ESPNU night game will be called by Eric Collins and Brock Huard.  Neither of those guys has an SEC background, or even a background in the southeast, which is at least semi-interesting.  Huard is a former Washington quarterback who worked games last season with Bob Wischusen.  Collins has called college football for ESPN before (working with Shaun King on a semi-regular basis, if I remember correctly), and currently works the TV side of L.A. Dodgers broadcasts for the 38 road games for which Vin Scully doesn’t travel.

The SEC regional broadcast was traditionally the Dave-Dave-Dave show, or Dave Times Three.  However, all traditions must end sometime, and thus only one of the Daves was brought into the new ERT package.  That would be play-by-play man Dave Neal, the de facto TV face of the SEC.  Neal will be working with Andre Ware, not one of my favorite analysts but probably still better than his Dave predecessors (Rowe and Archer).  The sideline reporter will be Cara Capuano, who SEC fans will undoubtably identify with completely, since she’s from California and has a degree in cell biology and biochemistry from UC-San Diego.  Capuano will double as the host of the new weekly SEC show on ESPNU.

The regional broadcast will also have a studio show hosted by Rob Stone and Matt Stinchcomb, which is convenient, since the ESPNU studio for Saturday afternoons will also be Stone and Stinchcomb.  UGA fans will be in Dawg Heaven on the U, since Stinchcomb will be working afternoons in the studio, and appearing in the studio in primetime will be another former UGA man, David Pollack.

I’m just ready for the games to start…