Bob Bowlsby defends ESPN+ production amid botched rollout


Big 12 fans were understandably skeptical when the conference announced its partnership with ESPN this spring that would see conference games move to the Worldwide Leader’s streaming platform, ESPN+. In an age where the other four Power 5 conferences now have their own cable networks, the Big 12 moved games to a platform that is literally not available on any cable service.

The second conference game arrived on Saturday with No. 21 Oklahoma State’s win over Kansas State (West Virginia at Kansas aired on ESPN+ the previous week), and those fears were not allayed by the actual product. Viewers missed the final minutes of the second quarter as the ESPN+ production was slow to return from a lightning delay, and “technical difficulties” prevented viewers from seeing a Kansas State touchdown.

Add in that viewers paid an extra $5 to see the game on top of their traditional television package, and people were understandably upset.

“Those things just wouldn’t happen if the game was on ESPN or ESPN2,” K-State athletic director Gene Taylor told the Wichita Eagle. “We were told any conference game on ESPN+ would be produced at that level and it clearly wasn’t at that level. We do a better production job when we do games in house than they did at Oklahoma State.”

ESPN apologized for the technical difficulties, while Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby did his best Baghdad Bob impression.

“I don’t have an answer for you as to why that would be,” Bowlsby said, “probably something was malfunctioning, because the production is exactly the same as they are doing on every other game. At least it’s supposed to be.”

Bowlsby told the Eagle that ESPN has free rein to put any conference game it so chooses on ESPN+ (outside of Oklahoma and Texas games) but the network assured K-State fans their remaining eight Big 12 games will remain on regular television.

Note: It should be mentioned Big 12 teams have appeared on ESPN+ a total of six times this season and ESPN has reported no issues in their five other streaming broadcasts. As always, individual viewer experiences may vary.

Vick, Fitzgerald and Suggs among stars on College Football Hall of Fame ballot for 1st time

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Michael Vick, Larry Fitzgerald and Terrell Suggs are among the college football stars who will be considered for induction to the Hall of Fame for the first time this year.

The National Football Foundation released Monday a list of 78 players and nine coaches from major college football who are on the Hall of Fame ballot. There also are 101 players and 32 coaches from lower divisions of college football up for consideration.

Vick, who led Virginia Tech to the BCS championship game against Florida State as a redshirt freshman in 1999, is among the most notable players appearing on the ballot in his first year of eligibility.

Vick finished third in the Heisman Trophy voting in 1999. He played one season of college football before being drafted No. 1 overall by the Atlanta Falcons in 2001. Vick’s professional career was interrupted when he served 21 months in prison for his involvement in dog fighting.

Fitzgerald was the Heisman runner-up in 2003 to Oklahoma quarterback Jason White. He scored 34 touchdowns in just two seasons at Pitt.

Suggs led the nation in sacks with 24 in 2002 for Arizona State.

The 2024 Hall of Fame class will be chosen by the National Football Foundation’s Honors Court and announced in January. Induction into the Atlanta-based hall is the following December.

Alabama freshman DB Mitchell says he wasn’t sure he’d get to play again after arrest

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TUSCALOOSA, Ala. – Alabama defensive back Tony Mitchell said he feared his football career was over after his arrest on a drug charge.

The Crimson Tide freshman said in a video posted Sunday on social media that he knew “something much bigger could have happened.”

A judge in Holmes County, Florida, sentenced Mitchell to three years of probation with a fine and community service on May 24 after Mitchell pleaded guilty to a charge of possession of more than 20 grams of cannabis.

“I didn’t know if I’d be able to play football again, but I continued to work out and stay close with the Lord and those who love me unconditionally,” Mitchell said. “During those times, it helped me to keep my mind off it. But when I was by myself looking at social media, what everybody had to say about it, it just felt like it happened again.

“I didn’t sleep at night.”

He was suspended from the Alabama team following the arrest, but Mitchell’s father, Tony Sr., posted on Facebook last week that the defensive back had been reinstated. An Alabama spokesman declined to comment on Mitchell’s status.

Tony Mitchell Sr. shared his son’s video on Facebook, saying it was filmed during a talk to youth.

“I was doing things I knew I shouldn’t to try to fit in,” the younger Mitchell said, “but not everybody’s your friend.”

Mitchell, who is from Alabaster, Alabama, was a four-star prospect and the 15th-rated safety in the 247Composite rankings.

He had been charged in March with possession of a controlled substance with intent to sell after a traffic stop when authorities said he drove over 141 mph (227 kph) while trying to evade deputies in the Florida Panhandle. A deputy had spotted Mitchell’s black Dodge Challenger traveling 78 mph (125 kph) in a 55 mph (88 kph) zone on a rural highway north of Bonifay.

He also received 100 hours of community service and paid a fine of $1,560.

Mitchell and a passenger were both charged with possession of marijuana with the intent to sell or deliver, according to a Holmes County Sheriff’s Office arrest report. The other man also was charged with carrying a concealed gun without a permit.