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Carnage at ESPN

The Worldwide Bleeder

NCAA Basketball: Stanford at Colorado Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

If you haven't seen the explosion on the Tweaterplexer this morning, ESPN is laying off 100 staffers today, including what's being reported as 50 people that we're likely to know. Deadspin is keeping a running list as news comes out. <> Here's a link to SI sports media reporter Richard Deitsch's twitter page <> , where another (and perhaps better) running account and links to news items is being kept.

In most cases, news of individuals getting the ax is coming out as the casualties themselves tweet about it. The first reveal came a couple of hours ago when the great Ed Werder revealed that he had been canned on the spot the night before the NFL Draft, which he had been assigned to cover. He'll land on his feet somewhere — great reporter.

Others revealed so far include ESPN talent on ESPNU, the main network, and on-line writers and reporters. Check Richard's page above.

Soccer and hockey coverage are getting hammered, but believe it or not, so is college football (according to Deitsch). Two Big 10 beat guys have announced their respective shit cannings already. In the last few minutes, Brett McMurphy announced news of his departure. Pray for Max Olson, boys.

Along with a couple other baseball writers, MLB analyst Jim Bowden (former GM of the Reds and Nationals) also got the axe, as did two or three basketball reporters so far, including Dana O’Neill.

This is just so far.

The Hollywood Reporter has a story out to the effect that Ryen Russillo, Karl Ravech and Hannah Storm will have significantly reduced roles, but a report that John Buccigross will not have his contract removed is being walked back.

The two larger issues here are: (1) what does this mean in terms of the kind of content we can expect from ESPN; and (2) what does this mean for the Longhorn Network.

Here's my quick take on the first, which I hope will lead to your feedback since we're all consumers of ESPN one way or another. This comes from a series of tweets I fired off about an hour ago. (Paging Steve Ross, report STAT.)

  1. For decades, ESPN set the standard for comprehensive, blanket coverage as newspapers declined and large sports staffs were cut (remember how great the Dallas News and Dallas Times Herald used to be?)
  2. When FOX -- or anyone else -- endeavored to compete, ESPN shrugged it off with the kind of utter disdain and arrogance on par with that which oozes out of The New York Times.
  3. What's happening now with these layoffs and reprogramming is both sad and interesting.
  4. One gets the feeling (inevitably) that there will be far less quality sports journalism emanating from Bristol. The focus will be on "versatile personalities." (Vomit.)
  5. In the process, ESPN will become what it has mocked for all these years. The Stephen A. Smiths of the world are winning. And as a result, we are losing.

About the LHN -- I suspect we'll find out more later today. Its staff had already been cut, as was a chunk of its original content. (Think Lowell Galindo jumps when the phone rings today? Although if the network remains on the air, they'll need someone there.)

I used to be very well-versed on the ins and outs of the ESPN/UT agreement, but many of those details have escaped me. Steve is surely the most knowledgeable about this (and a host of other things), so I'm calling on him for some help here, and I’ll pull up the agreement later today. The seminal issue right now would seem to be whether ESPN has an escape clause that allows them to buy out the contract and shut down the LHN. When the contract was released in response to TPIA requests, I recall that some key provisions were redacted, and I think this was one of them. I can't imagine that ESPN obligated itself to keep the network on the air no matter what.

More as this interesting story develops.