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Report: ESPN Used Fake Names to Get More Emmy Awards for ‘College GameDay’ Cast, Among Others

“Since at least 2010, ESPN inserted fake names in Emmy entries, then took the awards won by some of those imaginary individuals, had them re-engraved, and gave them to on-air personalities.”

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College GameDay
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The Athletic just released a bombshell report outing ESPN for using fake names to get the cast of College GameDay more Emmy Awards trophies.

According to The Athletic’s Katie Strang, ESPN used a fake name scheme to acquire more than 30 statues for on-air talent who otherwise couldn’t receive them. “Since at least 2010, ESPN inserted fake names in Emmy entries,” Strang wrote, “then took the awards won by some of those imaginary individuals, had them re-engraved, and gave them to on-air personalities.”

To do this, ESPN submitted College GameDay as a show with fake names attached to the project that closely matched those of its on-air personalities. When the show would win an award, ESPN would claim the statues, re-engrave them with the talent’s real names on them, and then present them to the individuals.

One of the names closely linked to this process is Lee Fitting, a former ESPN executive who was let go by the company in 2023. Sports media reporter Andrew Marchand reported after The Athletic news broke that this scandal was a factor in Fitting’s dismissal.

Among those given the nefariously-obtained awards include Kirk Herbstreit, Lee Corso, Chris Fowler, Desmond Howard, and Samantha Ponder, among others. However, Strang notes there is no evidence available that the talents were aware their Emmy awards were obtained improperly. Strang cites two situations where former network employees said they received statues without knowledge of their origins.

Former ESPN sideline reporter Wendi Nix confirmed she received a trophy in the mail and had no idea it was improperly obtained. Former studio host Jenn Brown also said she was given a trophy but had no idea it was ill-gotten. “This is all news to me and kind of unfortunate because you’ve got people who believe they rightfully had one,” Brown told The Athletic. “There are rules for a reason … it’s unfortunate (those were) abused and for so many years, too.”

GameDay may not be the only property where this system was used. Strang uses SportsCenter host Linda Cohn as an example. Cohn posted an image of four Emmy Awards to her personal Instagram account, calling them her “Fab Four,” though Cohn has officially won only one Emmy according to the National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences (NATAS). A CNN report says this practice may stretch back as far as 1997.

In this same follow-up report, a NATAS spokesperson said it identified several “fictitious credits” submitted by ESPN to various Sports Emmy categories.

“When brought to the attention of ESPN senior management, the network took steps to take responsibility for the actions of its personnel, to investigate thoroughly, and to course correct,” the NATAS spokesperson said to CNN. “These steps have included the return by ESPN of statuettes issued to fictitious individuals and commitments to implement further internal accountability and procedural changes at the network.”

Likewise, when contacted by CNN, an ESPN spokesperson said when its current leadership was made aware of the scheme, it hired a third-party law firm to “conduct a full and thorough investigation” and that “individuals found to be responsible were disciplined by ESPN.”

However, ESPN’s chicanery seems to have stopped in 2022, when NATAS strengthened its verification process and caught ESPN using fake names. ESPN fell on the sword and admitted the names were fake.

For those asking why, two unnamed sources told provided The Athletic with possible reasons. “You have to remember that those personalities are so important, and they have egos,” one person familiar with the ESPN Emmy submission process said. “It’s very important to the people who go (to the ceremony) and the old-school television guys,” said another.

Lastly, Strang herself posits that it may have been a form of ESPN protest, saying that, “many at ESPN thought the rule preventing on-air personalities from getting statuettes for a win by the show was stupid,” and “They may have just decided to do something about it, the rules be damned.”

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The Sports Media Industry Remembers ESPN NFL Insider Chris Mortensen

“Upon learning of Mortensen’s passing, members of the sports media industry flocked to social media to remember the ESPN legend.”

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ESPN has lost a legend. Longtime NFL insider Chris Mortensen passed away Sunday morning at the age of 72. Mortensen spent more than three decades working for the worldwide leader in sports. The news of his passing was first made public by ESPN PR.

Affectionally referred to by his colleagues as ‘Mort’, Chris Mortensen contributed to ESPN’s NFL programs, SportsCenter and was the network’s top news breaker for years. He earned the Pro Football Writers of America’s Dick McCann Award in 2016, receiving his honor at the Pro Football Hall of Fame’s enshrinement ceremony in August of that same year. It was also the same year when Mortensen broke the news of Peyton Manning retiring from the NFL.

Unfortunately, 2016 was also the year when it was revealed that Mortensen was diagnosed with Stage 4 throat cancer.

“Mort was widely respected as an industry pioneer and universally beloved as a supportive, hard-working teammate,” ESPN chairman Jimmy Pitaro said in a statement. “He covered the NFL with extraordinary skill and passion, and was at the top of his field for decades. He will truly be missed by colleagues and fans, and our hearts and thoughts are with his loved ones.”

In 2023, Mortensen stepped away from his role at ESPN to focus on his health, family and faith. Prior to joining ESPN he wrote for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution covering the Falcons, Braves and the NFL He was also a columnist for The Sporting News and a consultant with CBS Sports’ ‘NFL Today’.

Chris Mortensen is survived by his wife, Micki, and son, Alex. Upon learning of his passing, members of the sports media industry flocked to social media to remember the ESPN legend.

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Struggles Continue for ‘Undisputed’ On FS1

According to Sports Media Watch, the Feb. 27 edition of the program had 50,000 viewers, the lowest in the show’s history.

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Skip Bayless
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It’s been raining and pouring for Undisputed over the last few months — and February saw an all-time low for the long-running Skip Bayless vehicle. According to Sports Media Watch, the Feb. 27 edition of the program had 50,000 viewers, the lowest in the show’s history.

Among the shows that defeated Undisputed head-to-head were a re-air of Get Up on ESPN2 and first-round Dubai Open tennis on The Tennis Channel, according to Sports Media Watch.

Undisputed has been in dire straits for months. According to figures provided by USTVDB, the show passed 200,000 viewers just twice since August — the Monday, Sep. 4 edition that featured new co-hosts Michael Irvin, Keyshawn Johnson, and Richard Sherman and took place after the University of Colorado’s win over TCU, and the Monday, Jan. 15 edition following another Dallas Cowboys playoff loss, this time a blowout at the hands of the Green Bay Packers. Its viewers were likely there to revel in Bayless’ misery as a vocal Cowboys fan. For perspective, First Take enjoyed its most-watched episode ever on Jan. 15 with an average of 1.5 million viewers.

The show routinely averaged near or over 200,000 viewers but saw a sudden decline once co-host Shannon Sharpe left the show following last year’s NBA Finals. Sharpe then joined First Take, which saw its most-watched year ever in 2023, averaging almost 500,000 viewers per episode, and hasn’t slowed down at all.

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Minnesota Twins Add Former Outfielder Denard Span to Rotating Group of Analysts

Span played 11 years in the major leagues, started his career with the Twins, and will now join the Bally Sports North rotation of analysts for Twins games.

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Former Twins outfield Denard Span making a catch
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Minnesota Twins broadcaster Bally Sports North is adding another baseball alumnus to its airwaves. According to The Athletic’s Twins beat reporter Aaron Gleeman, Denard Span will join the Bally Sports North rotation of analysts for the 2024 MLB season.

Span played 11 years in the major leagues and started his career with the Twins. After five years in Minnesota, he left for the Nationals, where he had perhaps his best statistical season in 2014. He went on to play for the Giants, Rays, and Mariners before retiring after the 2018 season.

Bally Sports North’s analysis desk includes Hall of Famer Justin Morneau, former World Series champ Roy Smalley, along with former Twins LaTroy Hawkins, Glen Perkins, and Trevor Plouffe. The analysts will call games alongside play-by-play man Cory Provus, who will move from radio to television full-time this season. The guys will be joined by Audra Martin and Katie Storm, who will provide on-field reporting.

According to KTTC, Provus is a three-time winner of Minnesota Sportscaster of the Year by the National Sports Media Association and before joining the Twins, spent three seasons in Milwaukee where he did play-by-play with Hall of Famer Bob Uecker.

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