ESPN's 'Green Room' feature receives backlash from ACC coaches
February 4, 2016 12:00 AM
Notre Dame coach Mike Brey: "I don’t think that is the best for what we are trying do but we certainly understand our relationship with ESPN means and what it means to promote our league and our programs."
By Paul Zeise / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
The ACC has a multimillion dollar television deal with ESPN, and the network provides plenty of exposure and revenue for the league and its members. But the limits of that relationship might have been tested last week when the network did its “Green Room” feature, which basically talked about the NBA draft stock of certain players, including some underclassmen.
The feature is a reference to the players who are likely going to be lottery picks and invited to the NBA draft, where they sit in the Green Room until they hear their name called by the commissioner.
North Carolina coach Roy Williams was the first coach to voice his displeasure, saying Friday that it sends a horrible message to college kids who might be struggling with their decision and also undermines the college season.
“ESPN is a partner and I’ve got to watch somebody’s college basketball and they’re talking about the freaking Green Room,” Williams said. “That’s the most ridiculous thing. And that’s one of my partners? That’s half the damn broadcast, it is ‘Well, so-and-so is in the Green Room.’ This is a great time for me to be saying something about it because they ain’t mentioning any of my guys, OK.
“But God almighty, you’re trying to win championships and ESPN’s talking about some Green Room and some Chad Ford or who it is and his draft [projections] — that’s the most ridiculous thing we’re having to put up with in college basketball. I know TV drives everything, but I mean, seriously, we’re trying to win conference championships, we’re saying college basketball means something.”
Williams raised an important question about whether there is too much focus on NBA prospects in coverage and discussions about college basketball. The question was bounced around on this week’s ACC coaches teleconference, and the consensus seems to be that most are uncomfortable with the feature but understand it is just part of the way the sport is covered.
“I don’t think that is the best for what we are trying do but we certainly understand our relationship with ESPN means and what it means to promote our league and our programs,” Mike Brey said. “And that Demetrius Jackson was promoted as a Green Room guy on Thursday night, I hope it helps our recruiting so I reluctantly embrace it.
“A senior is a senior, but when it is underclassman, who really hasn’t made his mind up, that is a tricky one. But after my initial response was like Roy’s, I backed up and said, ‘This is what we signed up for.’ ”
The idea of promoting underclassmen as NBA prospects on national broadcasts isn’t ideal because it might influence players who haven’t made up their mind to leave school at the end of the season. But there are some benefits. It put the league and its programs and players in the spotlight, and it could help with end of the season awards and All-American teams.
Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski, who has joined Kentucky’s John Calipari in building a factory for one-and-done players, said the problem isn’t what ESPN is doing, it is that college basketball doesn’t have anyone coordinating the way the sport is covered by its partners. He said that until that kind of coordination happens, these issues will continue to arise because ESPN also is partners with the NBA and has an obligation to promote that league as well.
“For 25 years I’ve said we should have a body in place that runs college basketball so that things can be coordinated and marketing plans and promotion,” Krzyzewski said. “All these things could be coordinated and understanding the needs that they have with other partners. There can’t be really good coordination without someone running the business, a spokesperson on behalf of our needs.
“But it shouldn’t bother us that all these kids want to be pros. That’s what they do. They want to be pros, and we just passed legislation so they all can be evaluated in the spring, so naturally more is going to be said about the kids who may be in there. It is logical, it begs for that.”
Krzyzewski said that he would like to see coverage get back to being focused more on teams as opposed to individuals but he understands that isn’t always feasible in a sport where underclassmen have increasingly become the stars.
Paul Zeise: email@example.com, 412-263-1720 and Twitter @paulzeise.
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