ESPN’s Greg McElroy and Chris Spielman Discuss College Football Playoff Semifinals, Michigan Coaching Hire and New Year’s Games

2010 -- ESPN College Football LogoToday, ESPN analysts Greg McElroy and Chris Spielman discussed the College Football Playoff Semifinals, Michigan’s head coaching hire of Jim Harbaugh and the resurgence of New Year’s as a college football holiday.  

The two discussed the Allstate Sugar Bowl (ESPN, Jan. 1, 8:30 p.m. ET) matchup of No. 1 Alabama vs. No. 4 Ohio State at length. McElroy won a BCS National Championship as quarterback at Alabama, while Spielman was an All-American at Ohio State. Highlights from their discussion can be found below:

On the Michigan hire of Jim Harbaugh…

Spielman: A hire that you absolutely needed and had to make. Jim or John (Harbaugh) would have been the perfect hire. When you look at Jim, though, everyone knows he’s an excellent football coach. But, he can also go toe-to-toe with Urban Meyer in recruiting. And I think when you look at Michigan, maybe one area that they have fallen off is talent. When you look at head coaches, every coach that I know is pretty good at Xs & Os. The next thing you look at is recruiting, and recruiting at a high level. I think it was the hire that needed to be made.

McElroy: I think he’s worth every penny. I really genuinely believe this is a great, great job by Michigan. It’s a huge move for Jim Harbaugh. One thing I know that he is going to be able to do, when you are talking about the recruiting aspect, he’s going to be able to get guys in the door, reopen that pipeline to California. If he brings guys from all over the country, if Michigan has that national appeal, that national brand, he’s going to be able to get guys in the door. And once they get in the door, he’s a master of creating competition – within the practice, within the team. Making guys compete against each other.

On Nick Saban and Urban Meyer teams playing in the Allstate Sugar Bowl…

Spielman: Both are the ultimate competitors. It’s the classic defensive guy vs. the offensive guy. I think when I look at those guys, they are going down in history as two of the best college football coaches in our game. Certainly Hall of Famers. I think what separates them from a lot of other coaches is that they get their players to play their best on big games. That’s proven in their track record. That’s a sign of a great coach, when you get your team preforming at the highest level.

I do think Ohio State has to play like they did against Wisconsin to have a chance against Alabama. It’s been fun to see, for me, as a fan of college football and celebrating players, the growth of Blake Sims (Alabama, QB). When you have a guy like Blake Sims come in and play like he’s played, that’s a credit to the coaching and a credit to the kid.

McElroy: It’s a matchup of two of the greatest coaches in the history of the game. Guy’s that have had incredible amount of success. Guys that have been elsewhere and won. Right now, Urban is still a lot earlier in his tenure at Ohio State (than Saban at Alabama), but his fingerprints are all over the program. It was most evident when Cardale Jones (Ohio State, QB) took over after J.T. Barrett (Ohio State, QB) went down. That offense is so engrained, they are so dialed in and used to the system that they didn’t skip a beat when the next player went in. That’s when you can really tell coaches did a phenomenal job. This might be, in my opinion, Urban Meyer’s best coaching job. When one guy goes down, and another guy goes in, and the offense doesn’t fall off whatsoever, that means that those guys are so well taught, so well versed in what they are doing offensively that it really proves Urban Meyer has done an incredible job.

Nick Saban and his accolades and what he’s been able to accomplish this season. We thought at times this could be Alabama’s fifth or sixth most talented football teams in Nick Saban’s tenure. They’ve gotten better, they’ve improved, Lane Kiffin’s been an X-factor…It should be an outstanding matchup.

On playing in big games, like the first College Football Playoff Semifinal…

Spielman: The games the same once the game starts. I was one of those guys. It doesn’t matter what the game was or who we were playing, I wanted to give my best every time.

McElroy: I treated (playing) North Texas the same way I treated Texas in the national championship game. It didn’t change my preparation or my approach. Michael Jordan said “I’ve always believed that if you put in the work, the results will come.”

Resurgence of New Year’s in the college football schedule…

Spielman: New Year’s Day, for me, was a family gathering for Ohio State. The Rose Bowl with Ohio State playing and USC, then the Fiesta and Orange would follow. I think it’s a great idea to embrace the history of college football in how the college football playoff is setup – to make New Year’s an important part of our college football landscape. You reinvent interest again. Create interest once again. I think it’s wonderful.

McElroy: I can remember vividly every, single, New Year’s Day. I moved to Texas in 1998. I didn’t have a ton of friends. My dad had just moved us there from California in Nov. I hadn’t been to many college football games, only one. (My dad) took me to the Cotton Bowl on New Year’s Day and Ricky Williams had just won the Heisman, so it was 1999 and I got to see Ricky Williams in person. And I’ll never forget that as long as I live. That’s my greatest New Year’s memory.

I love that New Year’s identifies with college football. New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day, we have back-to-back holidays. That’s college football.

Potential challenges for No.1 Alabama and No. 4 Ohio State in the Allstate Sugar Bowl matchup…

Spielman: When you have an offense like Alabama, they are good at all three levels: outside, the offensive line is good, two big running backs and of course the quarterback. When you have a threat like Amari Cooper (Alabama, WR) and other capable receivers, T.J. Yeldon (Alabama, RB) and Derrick Henry (Alabama, RB) running down hill and Blake Sims playing at that level makes it difficult to defend. Ohio State’s defense has been vulnerable this year, playing better as of late, but any time you have to defend against Amari Cooper, Ohio State likes to get up and challenge every throw. That can create a big play opportunity for Alabama. Ohio State has to limit what they do… It’s a tough matchup. Alabama’s difficult to matchup with offensively. From my perspective, with Alabama’s defense, Ohio State does a great job of making you defend the whole field. They are inside running, they have the quick screen game, they have the down-field passing game with Devin Smith (Ohio State, WR), they also utilize two tight ends both very capable receivers that can stretch the field.

McElroy: When you look at Ohio State’s offense against Alabama’s defense, so many people are talking about the quarterback situation, the quarterback loss. To me the most important player on the field is Ezekiel Elliot (Ohio State, RB), he’s a fast guy, he’s shifty, he can get to the edge and if he gets on the perimeter, Alabama has some big guys up front they don’t necessarily have really really fast guys like they’ve had in years past.

Nick Saban is going to do everything he can offensively to make Cardale uncomfortable throwing the football. He wants the ball to be in his hands… Ezekiel Elliot, if he can get some production out of the running game, which not a lot of people have been able to do against Alabama this year, that would certainly alleviate some of the pressure on Cardale.

On Ohio State, I agree with Chris. They are going to have to commit a safety and a corner to Amari Cooper. They’ve had so much time to look at the teams that have done it well. You look at Arkansas who really had a great game plan to take him out of the game. You look at Ole Miss who did a great job up until the last drive. Both of those team, two of the most contested games, they didn’t get the best player on the field in space. They’ll have to find a way to commit one or two, maybe three guys if (Cooper’s) in the slot, and still be able to stop the run without having to fully emphasize by adding an additional player to the box. The front four have to play extremely well. They have to be disrupted. If they cannot stop the run and force their corners to play on islands, it could be really difficult to stop Alabama.

What are some storylines you are anticipating from the No. 2 Oregon vs. No. 3 Florida State matchup in the Rose Bowl Game Presented by Northwestern Mutual? (Spielman is calling the game for ESPN Radio) 

Spielman: I think the storyline to me is the quarterbacks. I mean obviously, to have two Heisman trophy winners.

Oregon can score 30 points in five minutes before you blink an eye. And Florida State has had issues on defense, but they are coming around (on those). To me if I’m Florida State, they have no problems slowing a game down. And they have a tight end. I can’t emphasize the importance enough, just my belief in football, of having a tight end that you have to account for that helps receivers out on the edges work one-on-one matchups. (Florida State) one of the underrated guys in receivers in college football with Rashad Greene (FSU, WR). He can go up and get the ball and he doesn’t miss and the timing and placement is outstanding.

I look for a very, very close game.

Reflections on the first year of the College Football Playoff system…

McElroy: I love the fact that more teams have the opportunity. I love the fact that the Big 12 fans were paying attention to what Minnesota and Ohio State were doing. I love the way Michigan State fans were really paying attention to what was going on between TCU and Baylor. I love that you are now forced to look outside your conference and focus on team’s outside your conference that you wouldn’t necessarily focus on as a college football fan. I love that aspect of it.

I enjoyed the BCS while it was going on, but now that we’ve had a taste of the playoff – we’ve seen the process, and of course not the matchups yet, but I couldn’t be happier with the direction. I don’t want to see any changes to it too soon. I love the way it is right now.

- 30 -

ESPN’s Biggest On-Site Presence Ever Set for College Football’s Finale

2010 -- ESPN College Football LogoESPN’s Biggest On-Site Presence Ever Set for College Football’s Finale
Split-Site Coverage of National Semifinals from Pasadena, Calif., and New Orleans; Four Set Locations, More Than 50 Announcers at College Football Playoff National Championship in North Texas
 
ESPN will provide its most comprehensive coverage ever for post-season college football when it erects full sets in Pasadena, Calif., and New Orleans, and airs from four set locations in North Texas, sites of the first-ever College Football Playoff National Semifinals and the College Football Playoff National Championship, respectively. Twenty-seven ESPN announcers will be on hand between the two semifinals – The Rose Bowl Game Presented by Northwestern Mutual and the Allstate Sugar Bowl – and more than 50 in Ft. Worth and Dallas for the College Football Playoff National Championship Presented by AT&T when the ESPN networks’ college football studio shows, sports talk shows, national ESPN Radio programs and SportsCenter converge on Texas for a full week of programming January 5-12.
The Rose Bowl Game Presented by Northwestern Mutual from Pasadena, Calif.
Host Rece Davis will anchor ESPN’s studio coverage from inside The Rose Bowl beginning December 29 through New Year’s Day and will be joined by analysts Mack Brown, Lee Corso, Kirk Herbstreit, Desmond Howard, Danny Kanell and David Pollack, and reporters Samantha Ponder, Tom Rinaldi and Gene Wojciechowski. In addition, SportsCenter will be live on site with anchors John Anderson, Neil Everett, Jay Harris, Stan Verrett and Sara Walsh. On New Year’s Eve, Pasadena will serve as the host for Championship Drive (11 a.m.-12:20 p.m. ET) leading into the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl (12:30 p.m. on ESPN). The next day, College GameDay Built by The Home Depot will hit air on ESPN 10 a.m.–12:30 p.m. with contributions from both semifinal sites.
 
Allstate Sugar Bowl from New Orleans
In New Orleans, starting December 29 through New Year’s Day, host John Saunders will anchor ESPN’s set presence with analysts Butch Davis, Joey Galloway, Lou Holtz, Mark May, Robert Smith and Tim Tebow, and reporters Kaylee Hartung and Marty Smith from outside Manning’s Restaurant (519 Fulton Street, New Orleans) before moving to the Mercedes-Benz Superdome for pre-game, halftime and post-game hits.
On December 30 and 31, the entire 11 p.m. SportsCenter will be live from outside Manning’s Restaurant, while the post-Sugar Bowl SportsCenter will be live from the floor of the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, with all three shows anchored by Matt Barrie, John Buccigross and Steve Levy.
SEC Network’s SEC Nation will also be live in New Orleans, airing twice on New Years’ Day from the Mercedes-Benz Superdome (10 a.m.–noon and 7:30-8:30p.m.), host Joe Tessitore and analysts Paul Finebaum, Marcus Spears and Tim Tebow.  For the second show, Finebaum will be in Charlotte preparing for SEC Network’s Finebaum Film Room: Allstate Sugar Bowl Live, an alternate production during ESPN’s presentation of the Sugar Bowl at 8:30 p.m.  Finebaum will be joined by Greg McElroy and Booger McFarlane to discuss the game live and take viewer calls. Following the game, SEC Now will be live from outside the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.
 
ESPN National Semifinals Studio Programming Schedule:
Date Time (ET) Program Location/Site Network
Mon, Dec. 29 Noon-2 p.m. SportsCenter segments New Orleans ESPN
6 p.m. SportsCenter segments New Orleans ESPN2
Tue, Dec. 30 9 a.m.–3 p.m. SportsCenter segments New Orleans ESPN
11 p.m. SportsCenter New Orleans ESPN2
Wed, Dec. 31 8-11 a.m. SportsCenter segments New Orleans ESPN
11 a.m.-12:20 p.m. Championship Drive Pasadena, Calif. ESPN
3-7 p.m. Paul Finebaum Show New Orleans SEC Network
Following game SportsCenter New Orleans ESPN
Thu, Jan. 1 6-10 a.m. College GameDay Radio Special Edition New Orleans ESPN Radio & ESPN2
8-10 a.m. SportsCenter segments Pasadena, Calif. & New Orleans ESPN
10 a.m.–12:30 p.m. College GameDay Built by The Home Depot Pasadena, Calif. & New Orleans ESPN
10 a.m.-noon SEC Nation New Orleans SEC Network
4:15-5 p.m. Rose Bowl pre-game show Pasadena, Calif. ESPN
7:30-8:30 p.m. SEC Nation New Orleans SEC Network
8:30-9:30 p.m. SportsCenter Pasadena, Calif. ESPN2
8:30 p.m. Finebaum Film Room; Allstate Sugar Bowl Live Charlotte SEC Network
Following game (Approx. Midnight) SportsCenter New Orleans ESPN
Following game (Approx. Midnight) SEC Now New Orleans SEC Network
 
College Football Playoff National Championship Presented by AT&T from North Texas
Beginning January 5, 2015, ESPN will provide a full week of coverage across programs culminating with wall-to-wall programming across ABC, ESPN, ESPN2, ESPNU and ESPN3 on Monday, Jan. 12, day of the national championship.
 
Rece Davis will serve as the lead studio host for all of ESPN’s College Football Playoff coverage from Ft. Worth’s Sundance Square and be joined by hosts Chris Cotter, John Saunders and Joe Tessitore. Analysts on hand include Todd Blackledge, Mack Brown, Lee Corso, Butch Davis, Joey Galloway, Brian Griese, Kirk Herbstreit, Lou Holtz, Desmond Howard, Danny Kanell, Mark May, Todd McShay, Jesse Palmer, David Pollack, Tim Tebow and George Whitfield with reporters Brett McMurphy, Sam Ponder, Tom Rinaldi and Gene Wojciechowski. Several current head football coaches will also join ESPN’s coverage throughout the week.
In addition to College Football Live, Championship Drive: Countdown to Kickoff and College GameDay, SportsCenter will be live from Sundance Square January 5-9 and 11. The show will move to the Dallas Convention Center January 10 and inside AT&T Stadium on January 12. SportsCenter anchors on-site will include John Anderson, Linda Cohn, Jay Crawford, Lindsay Czarniak, Steve Levy, David Lloyd, Kevin Negandi, Hannah Storm, Sara Walsh and Bram Weinstein. ESPN2 programs First Take, His & Hers and SportsNation will be live from Gilley’s in Downtown Dallas (1135 South Lamar Street, Dallas) January 5-9 and again on January 12 with Cari Champion, Skip Bayless, Stephen A. Smith, Jemele Hill, Michael Smith, Michelle Beadle and Marcellus Wiley. A special edition of First Take will air following the championship from a set outside of AT&T Stadium.
 
ESPNU
ESPN’s 24-hour college sports network will begin its College Football Playoff National Championship coverage on Tuesday, Jan. 6, with CFB Daily: The Experts at 1 p.m. The three-hour show will take an in-depth look at the two teams and dissect how they match up. Coverage continues with Road to the College Football Playoff at 6 and 6:30 that night with a special 30-minute look at each participating team’s season. The following day, ESPNU Film Room: CFB National Championship airs at 6 p.m.
ESPNU’s coverage from Dallas commences Saturday, Jan. 10, with both teams’ press conferences live beginning at 9:30 a.m.  A special CFB Daily: Championship Experts will air Sunday, Jan. 11, at 7 p.m. and Kenny Mayne will host ESPNU Championship Drive Tailgate at 1 p.m. on Monday, Jan. 12, counting down the top moments of the year and previewing the title game.
 
ESPN Radio
ESPN Radio will have comprehensive coverage of the College Football Playoff National Championship Presented by AT&T, including 48 hours of onsite programming from Sundance Square in Ft Worth, beginning Wednesday, Jan. 7, through Friday, Jan. 9, with daily live editions of Mike & Mike (6-10 a.m.), The Herd with Colin Cowherd (10 a.m.-1 p.m.) and SVP & Russillo (1-4 p.m.).  The shows will also be live onsite Monday, Jan. 12. Additional details here.
 
 
Sports Talk Programs
The Sports Reporters (8:30-9 a.m. on ESPN2) and Colin’s Football Show (9-10 a.m. on ESPN2) will originate from Sundance Square on Sunday, Jan. 11. Later that night, a special four-hour Championship Drive: Countdown to Kickoff, show will air from the set 8 p.m.-midnight and be hosted by Joe Tessitore with analysts Kanell, Galloway, Palmer, and others.
 
Full National Championship Studio Programming Schedule:
Date Time (ET) Program Site Network
Mon, Jan. 5 9 a.m.-2:30 p.m. SportsCenter Sundance Square ESPN
10 a.m.-noon First Take Gilley’s ESPN2
Noon-1 p.m. His & Hers Gilley’s ESPN2
2:30-3 p.m. College Football Live Sundance Square ESPN
3-4p.m. Sports Nation Gilley’s ESPN2
Tue, Jan. 6 9 a.m.-2:30 p.m. SportsCenter Sundance Square ESPN
10 a.m.-noon First Take Gilley’s ESPN2
Noon-1 p.m. His & Hers Gilley’s ESPN2
1-4 p.m. CFB Daily: The Experts ESPNU Studios ESPNU
2:30-3 p.m. College Football Live Sundance Square ESPN
3-4 p.m. Sports Nation Gilley’s ESPN2
6 p.m. Road to College Football Playoff ESPNU Studios ESPNU
Wed, Jan. 7 6-10 a.m. Mike & Mike Sundance Square ESPN2
9 a.m.-2:30 p.m. SportsCenter Sundance Square ESPN
10 a.m.-noon First Take Gilley’s ESPN2
Noon-1 p.m. His & Hers Gilley’s ESPN2
1-2:30 p.m. SVP & Russillo Sundance Square ESPNEWS
2:30-3 p.m. College Football Live Sundance Square ESPN
3-4 p.m. SportsNation Gilley’s ESPN2
6-7 p.m. ESPNU Film Room: CFP National Championship ESPNU Studios ESPNU
Thu, Jan. 8 6-10 a.m. Mike & Mike Sundance Square ESPN2
9 a.m.–2:30 p.m. SportsCenter Sundance Square ESPN
10 a.m.–noon First Take Gilley’s ESPN2
Noon-1 p.m. His & Hers Gilley’s ESPN2
1-2:30 pm. SVP & Russillo Sundance Square ESPNEWS
2:30-3 p.m. College Football Live Sundance Square ESPN
3 p.m. SportsNation Gilley’s ESPN2
Fri, Jan. 9 6-10 a.m. Mike & Mike Sundance Square ESPN2
9 a.m.–2:30 p.m. SportsCenter Sundance Square ESPN
10 a.m.–noon First Take Gilley’s ESPN2
Noon-1 p.m. His & Hers Gilley’s ESPN2
1-2:30 p.m. SVP & Russillo Sundance Square ESPNEWS
2:30-3 p.m. College Football Live Sundance Square ESPN
3 p.m. SportsNation Gilley’s ESPN2
Sat, Jan. 10 9-10 a.m. SportsCenter Dallas Convention Center ESPN
9:30 a.m. College Football Playoff: National Championship Press Conferences Dallas ESPNU
4 p.m. Championship Drive: College Football Playoff National Championship Preview Dallas ABC
Sun, Jan. 11 8:30-9 a.m. The Sports Reporters Sundance Square ESPN2
9-10 a.m. SportsCenter Sundance Square ESPN
9-10 a.m. Colin’s Football Show Sundance Square ESPN2
6 p.m. Championship Drive: College Football Playoff National Championship Preview AT&T Stadium ESPN
7 -8p.m. CFB Daily: Championship Experts Dallas ESPNU
8 p.m.–midnight Championship Drive: Countdown to Kickoff Sundance Square ESPN
Mon, Jan. 12 Midnight-1:30 a.m. Championship Drive: College Football Playoff National Championship Preview Sundance Square ESPN2
6-10 a.m. Mike & Mike Sundance Square ESPN2
7 a.m.-3 p.m. SportsCenter AT&T Stadium ESPN
10 a.m.–noon First Take Gilley’s ESPN2
10 a.m.–1 p.m. The Herd with Colin Cowherd Sundance Square ESPNU
Noon-1 p.m. His & Hers Gilley’s ESPN2
1-3 p.m. ESPNU Championship Drive Tailgate National Championship Tailgate ESPNU
1-3 p.m. SVP & Russillo Sundance Square ESPNEWS
1:30-2:30 p.m. SportsNation Gilley’s ESPN2
3-4 p.m. College Football Live AT&T Stadium ESPN
3-4 p.m. SVP & Russillo Sundance Square ESPN3
4-6 p.m. College GameDay AT&T Stadium ESPN
6-8 pm. Championship Drive: Countdown to Kickoff AT&T Stadium ESPN
8-8:30 p.m. Pre-game show AT&T Stadium ESPN
Post-game SportsCenter AT&T Stadium ESPN
Post-game First Take AT&T Stadium ESPN2
Post-game-10 a.m. Re-air: College Football Playoff National Championship Presented by AT&T AT&T Stadium ESPNU
 
-30-

Two Sunday NFL Countdown Editions Highlight NFL Week 16 Content on ESPN

Sunday NFL Countdown logoTwo Sunday NFL Countdown Editions Highlight NFL Week 16 Content on ESPN
Sunday NFL Countdown: Leah Still’s Christmas Wish, Dez Bryant, The Fake Andy Reid, Coaching Fashion and More

ESPN will present two editions of Sunday NFL Countdown this weekend – a one-hour special on Saturday, Dec. 20 (10 a.m. ET) and  the regular three-hour show on Sunday, Dec. 21 (10 a.m.). Chris Berman will host both shows with analysts Cris Carter, Mike Ditka, Tom Jackson and Keyshawn Johnson previewing the weekend’s NFL games. Anchor/host Wendi Nix will handle select segments, while NFL insiders Chris Mortensen and Adam Schefter will report the headlines and news each day.

Reporters at game sites:

Saturday

Eagles at Redskins (Britt McHenry)

Chargers at 49ers (Michele Steele)

Sunday

Falcons at Saints (Josina Anderson)

Chiefs at Steelers (Sal Paolantonio)

Browns at Panthers (ESPN NFL reporter Jeremy Fowler)

Colts at Cowboys (Ed Werder)

Seahawks at Cardinals (Bob Holtzman)

Sunday Features:

  • Leah Still’s Christmas Wish: As four-year-old Leah Still, the daughter of Cincinnati Bengals defensive tackle Devon Still, continues her battle with cancer, Countdown’s Michelle Beisner and crew follow Leah as she writes a letter to Santa and sees her Christmas wish of meeting a Disney Princess come true. In September, Beisner told the story of a father’s bond and love for his ailing daughter. Sunday’s piece will feature Devon and young Leah reflecting on the difficulties of the last four months.
  • Dez Bryant Goes and Gets It: Dallas Cowboys star wide receiver Dez Bryant has a penchant for making catches with defenders hanging on to and trying to separate him from the ball. How does Bryant make nearly impossible catches look easy? Countdown’s Keyshawn Johnson, a former Cowboys receiver, visits the team’s training facilities for an interview and demo on how Bryant just “goes and gets the football” thrown his way.
  • The Fake Andy Reid: At many Kansas City games, the TV cameras seem to find the Chiefs head coach’s doppelgänger Chris Wilhelm, of Leola, Pa., in the crowd. Wilhelm, a die-hard Chiefs fan, began showing up at games dressed as Andy Reid when Reid was the Eagles head coach. This week, as he prepares to show up in Pittsburgh, Countdown documents the transformation of the Chiefs “Fake Coach.”
  • Coaching Fashion: Whenever Bill Belichick and Rex Ryan face off in the Patriots-Jets AFC East rivalry, both coaches are often wearing their signature sideline apparel. Belichick in his sweatshirt vs. Ryan in his sweater vest. Reporter Greg Garber examines the evolution of NFL coaches and their not-so chic sideline attire.
  • Josh Vietti Live: Critically-acclaimed hip-hop violinist Josh Vietti, whose riff of the classic “In Da Club” is featured on Countdown’s weekly “The Journey” tease, will join the crew live in studio.
  • EA Virtual Tabletop: Hall of Famer Cris Carter will debut Countdown’s new EA Virtual Tabletop technology in an Xs and Os segment previewing Seattle running back Marshawn Lynch vs. the Arizona Cardinals defense.

Monday Night Football Regular-Season Finale: Battle of AFC Division Leaders – Peyton Manning and Broncos vs. Andy Dalton and Bengals

Andy Dalton and the Cincinnati Bengals, atop the AFC North, play host to Peyton Manning and the AFC West division champion Denver Broncos on ESPN’s Monday Night Football, December 22 at 8:15 p.m. The MNF booth team of Mike Tirico and Jon Gruden (who recently agreed to an extension with ESPN through 2021) will call the game from Paul Brown Stadium with sideline reporter Lisa SaltersMNF is available in Spanish on ESPN Deportes and via WatchESPN (for fans with video subscriptions from affiliated providers).

For Denver, this week’s MNF game extends the NFL’s longest current streak of consecutive seasons playing at least one game on MNF. The Broncos have played 23 straight seasons (1992-present) on Monday night.

Suzy Kolber will anchor MNF’s pregame show Monday Night Countdown at 6 p.m. on ESPN. She will be joined by on-site NFL analysts Trent Dilfer, Ray Lewis and Steve Young and the Bristol, Conn.,-based studio crew of host Chris Berman, NFL analysts Cris Carter, Mike Ditka, Tom Jackson and Keyshawn Johnson and Insiders Chris Mortensen and Adam Schefter.

Monday Night Countdown features:

  • Peyton Manning Conversation with Mike Tirico: Quarterback Peyton Manning sits for a one-on-one conversation with Mike Tirico as he leads the 11-3 Broncos, who have already qualified for the playoffs – Manning’s 14th playoff appearance.
  • Andy Dalton Conversation with Lisa Salters: A win Monday night would clinch the Bengals’ fourth straight playoff appearance since quarterback Andy Dalton arrived in Cincinnati four years ago. MNF sideline reporter Lisa Salters sits with Dalton to discuss his years with the team.
  • Gruden’s Grill Session with Aqib Talib: Super Bowl-winning coach Jon Gruden sits with Broncos cornerback Aqib Talib.
  • Rick Reilly’s Feature – Rich Goins: During a Broncos losing streak in 1990, the team’s radio broadcaster Rich Goins pledged to live atop a billboard until Denver won another game.  Goins worked, ate and slept on the billboard for 33 days until the Broncos won a game.  Rick Reilly tells the story of Goins’ stunt.

NFL Matchup: Calvin Johnson’s Touchdown, Johnny Manziel, Ravens Blitz Concepts and More

NFL Matchup host Sal Paolantonio and analysts Ron Jaworski and Merril Hoge preview the weekend’s key matchups via a film-room Xs and Os analysis on Saturday, Dec. 20, at 8:30 a.m. on ESPN2 (re-airs on ESPN, Sunday at 5:30 a.m.).  Highlights:

  • Hoge Breakdown – Calvin Johnson’s Touchdown: In a rematch against the Bears, Hoge shows how the Lions will design route combinations that will beat the coverage in the Chicago secondary.
  • QB Corner – Johnny Manziel: Jaworski describes the two interceptions thrown by Johnny Manziel in his first NFL start last Sunday and explains how the Browns quarterback must improve his decision making.
  • Blitz Breakdown – Ravens Blitz Concepts: Against inexperienced quarterbacks, Jaworski predicts the Ravens will bring blitzes to confuse the Texans’ offense and force poor decisions from either Case Keenum or Thad Lewis.
  • Coach’s Clicker- Le’Veon Bell Touchdowns: Hoge shows a staple play in the Steelers run game, which has produced two touchdowns by running back Le’Veon Bell in the past two weeks.
  • Factor Back – Joseph Randle Runs against the Seahawks: With DeMarco Murray’s status uncertain, Hoge points out that backup Cowboys running back Joseph Randle is a capable replacement, evidenced by his performance against the Seahawks in week 6.
  • Inside the Matchup – Seahawks Pass Rush: In their previous meeting against the Cardinals, the Seahawks utilized Michael Bennett and Cliff Avril on the same side as speed rushers, a matchup Hoge cautions could spell trouble for the Cardinals.
  • Between the Lines – Peyton Manning Connects with Emmanuel Sanders: Jaworski explains that the Bengals must have an answer for Broncos receiver Emmanuel Sanders when they blitz and play man coverage, a situation Manning exploited against the Chargers.
  • Jaws Playbook – Saints Passing Game Adjustments: Jaworski examines the brilliance of the Saints no-huddle passing attack on display in a game against the Lions in week 7, when a subtle route adjustment led to a touchdown by receiver Kenny Stills.

NFL on ESPN Radio: Crucial AFC Battle on Sunday

ESPN Radio will broadcast a crucial AFC matchup as Alex Smith and the Kansas City Chiefs (8-6) visit Ben Roethlisberger and the Pittsburgh Steelers (9-5) on Sunday, Dec. 21. Coverage starts at noon with Marc Kestecher, analyst Bill Polian and reporter Ian Fitzsimmons from Heinz Field.  Both Kansas City and Pittsburgh are in playoff contention, with Pittsburgh contending for the top spot in the AFC North.

ESPN.com “Hot Read” on Quarterbacking in a Pass-Happy Era

In this week’s “Hot Read,” NFL Nation’s Kevin Seifert features a statistical analysis of how quarterbacks like Saints Drew Brees and his contemporaries are obliterating the numerical feats of past signal-callers such as Johnny Unitas and his peers. Other highlight:

  • Who Deserves the MVP Award?: A roundtable of ESPN.com NFL Nation experts debate.
  • New England’s Unique Offense: ESPN Patriots reporter Mike Reiss gets experts and former Patriots players to discuss what makes head coach Bill Belichick’s offense effective at changing his game plan weekly to take advantage of its opponent’s defensive flaws.

-30-

New 30 for 30 Will Explore 1980 US Olympic Hockey Game Through the Soviet Lens

espn-logoESPN Films today announced a new 30 for 30 documentary, “Of Miracles and Men,” that will premiere on Sunday, Feb. 8 at 9 p.m. ET on ESPN. The film, directed by Jonathan Hock (“The Best That Never Was” and “Survive and Advance”), will take a different look at the “Miracle on Ice.”

The story of one of the greatest upsets in sports history has been told. Or has it? On a Friday evening in Lake Placid, a plucky band of American collegians stunned the vaunted Soviet national team, 4-3 in the medal round of the 1980 Winter Olympic hockey competition. Americans couldn’t help but believe in miracles that night, and when the members of Team USA won the gold medal two days later, they became one for the ages.

But there was another, unchronicled side to the “Miracle On Ice.” The so-called bad guys from America’s ideological adversary were in reality good men and outstanding players, forged into the Big Red Machine by the genius and passion of Anatoli Tarasov. There was a reason they seemed unbeatable, especially after routing the Americans in an exhibition the week before the Winter Games began. And there was a certain shame in them having to live the rest of their lives with the results of February 22, 1980.

“Of Miracles and Men” will explore the scope of the “Miracle on Ice” through the Soviet lens with an intense focus on the game itself, giving it renewed suspense and a fresh perspective. But the journey of the stunned Soviet team didn’t begin – or end – in Lake Placid. In the wake of that famous loss, head coach Viktor Tikhonov and captain Slava Fetisov waged a personal battle that determined the future of Russian hockey.

“Somewhat similar to how our 30 for 30 film ‘The Two Escobars’ gave viewers a chance to look at the stunning defeat of Colombia in the 1994 World Cup from a different point of view, ‘Of Miracles and Men’ provides an opportunity to experience America’s shocking victory 35 years ago from the other side,” says ESPN Films Executive Producer John Dahl. “For example, we all know the famous Al Michaels call of the ‘Miracle on Ice’ but this time people will also hear how legendary Soviet broadcaster Nikolai Ozerov described the action. ‘Of Miracles and Men’ will give the audience a deeper understanding of what the Soviet hockey experience was like before, during and after that monumental event.”

Says director Jonathan Hock: “Of all the 30 For 30 films I’ve directed, ‘Of Miracles and Men’ is the most ambitious. I was raised in the 1970’s on the notion that Soviet hockey players were robots, part of a machine that played a heartless style of hockey. But given the beauty and creativity of their game, that never made sense to me. So I wanted to discover the truth about the men on the other side of the ‘Miracle on Ice’ game. It took us two years to dig up all the archival footage and find all the players, filming across seven time zones in Russia from Moscow to Siberia to Vladivostok. What we discovered was that, both before and after Lake Placid, something miraculous happened on their side as well. This is their story, about their ‘Miracle.’”

“Of Miracles and Men” is produced by Hock Films, with executive producer Maura Mandt and producer Don Kempf. Additional information including film clips and director statements and bios will be available on the 30 for 30 website espn.com/30for30; Follow 30 for 30 on Facebook (facebook.com/espn30for30) and Twitter (@30for30).

About ESPN Films

Created in March 2008, ESPN Films produces high-quality films showcasing some of the most compelling stories in sports.  In October 2009, ESPN Films launched the Peabody Award-winning, Producer’s Guild Award-winning and Emmy-nominated 30 for 30 film series. Inspired by ESPN’s 30th Anniversary, the films that made up the series were a thoughtful and innovative reflection on the past three decades told through the lens of diverse and interesting sports fans and social commentators. The strong reaction from both critics and fans led to the launch of 30 for 30 Volume II, which is currently underway. Additional projects from ESPN Films include the critically acclaimed Nine for IX series, SEC Storied and the Webby Award-winning 30 for 30 Shorts.

-30-

ESPN’s Sunday NFL Countdown Notes and Quotes: Week 15

Sunday NFL Countdown logoESPN’s Sunday NFL Countdown Notes and Quotes: Week 15
 
ESPN’s Sunday NFL Countdown host Chris Berman and analysts Cris Carter, Mike Ditka, Tom Jackson and Keyshawn Johnson previewed the NFL’s week 15 games with insiders Chris Mortensen and Adam Schefter. Comments from today’s show:
 
On what to expect from first-time Cleveland Browns starting quarterback Johnny Manziel …
Carter: “I expect him to be a football player in the NFL. I really believe that he has the capability of being a quarterback, and there’s only a few of them under six feet, that can have some success. … I look for him to make plays. I look for him to throw the ball between 20-25 times. I believe there’s other quarterbacks like Russell Wilson, if put in the right system with other people around him.”
Jackson: “This move was inevitable. He was going to start. We just didn’t know when he was going to start. … Everything that I did during the draft, studying Johnny Manziel, tells me he’s gonna make plays. Yes, he’s going to have some rookie mistakes. … But he’s also electric.”
Johnson: “I am a wait-and-see guy in this situation. … I need more than eight minutes of a football game a couple of weeks ago from behind when the defense is playing soft and I can run around and score a touchdown and then all of a sudden it becomes a hype movement.”
Ditka: “You drafted him to play and he can play. The other kid has played bad.”
Berman: “Personally, I would’ve let (Brian) Hoyer finish this up, but I get it.”
 
On the struggles of San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, following reporter Jim Trotter’s Countdown conversation with Kaepernick
Jackson: “There’s something so appealing about Colin Kaepernick, the person. I think the dynamic of how he played football I think got everyone excited. … He preaches about the coaching staff but I think that they haven’t done a great job of taking advantage of the things that we saw him do well. … His ability to get out and use his legs was part of what made him as a quarterback. And, I just looked at him in the pocket – equally uncomfortable in the pocket as any quarterback I’ve seen when it comes to that pressure coming to you and understanding where the exit doors are, keeping your head up, delivering the ball down the field.”
Johnson: “I think he will get better. It’s too early to write the book on who he is. As a football player, he had instant success immediately, and we’ve seen players in all leagues come out on fire and then all of a sudden they have to make those adjustments.”
Ditka: “He has unique skill. Let him use it. I don’t see him as a drop-back in the pocket quarterback. I would use every bit of skill he has. I would put him on the move, on the run, the read-option, everything to let him use his talent.”
Carter: “Ultimately, I think we are making too many excuses for him. I think the ceiling for Colin Kaepernick is not as high as you guys anticipate. I think you’re going to have to be real creative because he won’t be a conventional quarterback. I think you set yourself up to be let down because his inability to throw the ball at different speeds. … He does have arm talent but I’m wondering does his brain connect to his arm to make him more diversified as far as what he can do. So, for me, I don’t have as high of expectations for Colin Kaepernick.”
 
On Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers and how he’s the best player in the NFL …
Jackson: “He doesn’t make mistakes with the football. He’s able to hurt you with his legs, but I think at the heart of what he does is a skill that every quarterback wishes that he has. He throws the ball better than anybody in the National Football League. …Reminds me of Derek Jeter because he can throw with his feet off the ground and be amazingly accurate. … Two of the keys to what he does – No. 1 is attitude. He’s always going to remember where he came out in the draft.  When I saw him, and this is a point I made about John Elway – first time I saw him, I thought, “We’re going to go to some Super Bowls’. When I saw Aaron Rodgers throw, even when Brett Favre was still their quarterback, I thought ‘That team is going to multiple Super Bowls with that guy’.”
Carter: “What I like about Aaron Rodgers is his ability to submit his talent and totally surrender to Mike McCarthy. Mike McCarthy comes up with all these ball drills, throwing different objects, so Aaron keeps working on his craft. Aaron realizes he is the best player in the NFL but he believes that he can get better and Mike McCarthy and Ted Thompson and that atmosphere that they create in Green Bay, I believe will lead him to being one of the greatest ever.”
 
On the surging New England Patriots and what has made them so successful …
Jackson: “The Patriots have balanced their offense. They’re much better at running the football.”
Johnson: “Right now, New England is probably playing the best defense of any team in the AFC. They’ve taken a NFC mentality and brought it to New England. They’ve taken that Seattle, that Arizona, rough and tough, aggressive with those two corners out there with Revis and Browner.”
Ditka: “I’ve watched the Patriots a long time. I don’t know if I’ve ever seen them this balanced where they can do everything as well as they are doing right now. This is a really good football team.”
Berman: “They are arriving like they do, in December, with most of their parts clicking.”
 
On the Denver Broncos offense and Peyton Manning …
Jackson: “The record book is going to be splattered with Peyton Manning’s name whenever he decides to leave the game, so all he’s looking for is championships. Running the football and getting some balance to this offense is the only way they’re going to get to Arizona and the Super Bowl, and the only way they’re going to get through Foxborough, which I believe is where they’re going to have to go to play in the playoffs. Peyton Manning calls the plays. … When you see the Broncos run the ball in and his touchdown streak broken for consecutive games, it’s because Peyton chose to do that. So, Peyton believes this is the best thing for the Denver Broncos in the long run.”
Jackson: “You take them out of that one-dimensional thing – throwing the ball 60 times a game; they don’t want to do that. This will really help them a lot.”
Carter: “Peyton, besides winning the Super Bowl, he can’t win. He’s been so good and the bar is so high for expectation, so now they win, he throws for less than 200 yards, we actually make it a subject like they really have a problem. This is foolishness. … I look for these rush attempts to increase. This is how they go to the next level and this is exactly the way New England has had their team change.”
 
On standout Oakland Raiders rookie linebacker Khalil Mack …
Analyst Merril Hoge: Every week, one of the teams I watch early on is the Raider defense. And the reason I want to watch is Khalil Mack. He’s not just one of the best rookies to come out, he’s the best linebacker in the National Football League, and he is the best against the run.”
 
Countdown also included the following features during the three-hour program:
 
- 30 -

 

ESPN NFL Content for Week 15

Sunday NFL Countdown logoSunday NFL Countdown: Gruden’s Five-Point Plan for Johnny Manziel’s Success, Chip Kelly’s Lab and More

ESPN’s Sunday NFL Countdown with host Chris Berman and analysts Cris Carter, Mike Ditka, Tom Jackson, Ron Jaworski and Keyshawn Johnson will preview NFL week 15 games on Sunday, Dec. 14, at 10 a.m. on ESPN and WatchESPN. Anchor/host Wendi Nix will handle select segments, while NFL insiders Chris Mortensen and Adam Schefter will report the day’s headlines and news.

Reporters at game sites:

  • Steelers at Falcons (Ed Werder)
  • Packers at Bills (Josina Anderson)
  • Bengals vs. Browns (Bob Holtzman)
  • 49ers at Seahawks (Jim Trotter)
  • Cowboys at Eagles (Sal Paolantonio, Ron Jaworski)

Features:

  • Gruden’s Five-Point Plan for Johnny Manziel: Jon Gruden, a Super Bowl-winning coach and guru of the quarterbacking position, offers his advice to rookie Browns quarterback Johnny Manziel on how to have success in his first start.
  • Chip Kelly’s Lab: Not long before leading the Eagles with their high-tempo offense, head coach Chip Kelly was tinkering with his innovative style in the small town of Durham, N.H., where he was the offensive coordinator at the University of New Hampshire, reports SportsCenter anchor Jade McCarthy.
  • “You Don’t Live in Cleveland, You Live in Cincinnati”: Twenty-five years ago this week, then-Bengals head coach Sam Wyche grabbed the mic and delivered the “you live in Cincinnati” message to unruly fans at the city’s Riverfront Stadium. Ahead of the matchup between the Ohio rivals, reporter Greg Garber sat down with Wyche and widely-known Browns fan John “Big Dawg” Thompson to relive one of the great moments in the rivalry.
  • Philip Rivers’ Game of Catch: Philip Rivers of San Diego has completed nearly 3000 passes in his illustrious NFL career. However, the quarterback says, it is passes he completes when the crowds aren’t around that he appreciates the most, reports Trotter.

Jay Cutler and the Bears Host Drew Brees and the Saints on ESPN’s Monday Night Football
Jay Cutler and the Chicago Bears host Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints on ESPN’s Monday Night Football on December 15 at 8:15 p.m. Mike Tirico will call the game from Chicago’s Soldier Field with analyst Jon Gruden and sideline reporter Lisa Salters.  The game will also be available via WatchESPN (for fans with video subscriptions from affiliated providers) and on Spanish-language ESPN Deportes.

ESPN’s coverage from Chicago kicks off with Monday Night Countdown (6-8:15 p.m., ESPN). Suzy Kolber anchors from Soldier Field with NFL analysts Trent Dilfer, Mike Ditka, Ray Lewis and Steve Young, while Chris Berman hosts from ESPN’s headquarters in Bristol, Conn., with analysts Cris Carter, Tom Jackson and Keyshawn Johnson and Insiders Chris Mortensen and Adam Schefter.

Monday Night Countdown features:

  • Soundtracks – Drew Brees and Sean Payton: Drew Brees and Sean Payton have been one of the most successful quarterback-head coach combinations in the league and were wired for in-game audio during the Saints’ week 5 win over the Buccaneers, in Soundtracks.
  • Gruden’s Grill Session with Frank Caliendo: MNF’s Jon Gruden has spent most weekends of the season sitting down with the best players in the NFL for his Grill Sessions. This week, the Super Bowl-winning head coach visits with Countdown’s comedian and impressionist Frank Caliendo for a special edition of the series.
  • Rick Reilly’s Feature – Steve McMichael: Rick Reilly examines the life of former Bears defensive tackle Steve McMichael, who won a Super Bowl with Chicago in 1985, became a pro wrestler and launched a failed mayoral campaign in Romeoville, Illinois.

 

NFL Matchup: Russell Wilson, LeSean McCoy vs. Cowboys Defense, T.J. Ward Sack, Patriots Pressure and More

NFL Matchup host Sal Paolantonio and analysts Ron Jaworski and Merril Hoge preview the weekend’s key matchups via a film-room Xs and Os analysis on Saturday, Dec. 13, at 8:30 a.m. on ESPN2 (re-airs on ESPN, Sunday at 3 a.m. and 5:30 a.m.).  Highlights:

  • Shot Play – Russell Wilson: Hoge analyzes a play by the Seahawks’ offense where quarterback Russell Wilson missed a read and an opportunity for a touchdown as he scrambled away from the pocket.
  • Inside the Matchup – McCoy’s Run vs. Dallas Defense: Hoge looks at the Eagles’ designed runs to get running back LeSean McCoy on the perimeter of the Dallas defense, a play Philadelphia will replicate in their matchup on Sunday.
  • Jaws Playbook – Cary Williams/Dez Bryant Matchup: Jaworski examines the key matchup in the Eagles’ week 13 win against the Cowboys – a strong man to man coverage on receiver Dez Bryant (Cowboys) by cornerback Cary Williams (Eagles).
  • Blitz Breakdown – T.J. Ward Sack: Hoge dissects an emerging aspect of the Broncos’ defense – a significant increase in blitzes that is leading to more sacks on opposing quarterbacks.
  • Eye in the sky – Patriots Pressure Philip Rivers: Jaworski explains why the Chargers had a tough time with the Patriots’ blitz, especially athletic linebacker Jamie Collins.
  • Between the Lines – Julio Jones 79-yard Reception: Jaworski describes a well-designed play by the Atlanta Falcons and shows receiver Julio Jones’ unique athleticism.
  • Hoge Breakdown- J.J. Watt Sack: Hoge explains why Texans defensive end J.J. Watt can still get to the quarterback even when the offense is accounting for his presence by using an additional player on the block.
  • X and O Files – Justin Gilbert: Jaworski cautions that Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton will have to be aware of the disguises by cornerback Justin Gilbert and Cleveland’s pass defense.

Sunday NFL Doubleheader on ESPN Radio: Three AFC East Teams in Play
ESPN Radio will broadcast two NFL games Sunday, Dec. 14, beginning at noon when Ryan Tannehill and the Miami Dolphins visit Tom Brady the New England Patriots. Marc Kestecher and Bill Polian will call the game with reporter Ian Fitzsimmons.

At 4 p.m., Jack Locker and the Tennessee Titans host Geno Smith and the New York Jets. Boll Rosinski, Louis Riddick and reporter Michelle Steele will handle game commentary.

ESPN.com: NFL “Hot Read” – Football is in Matthews Family DNA

Coming off last Monday Night Football which, a matchup of the Matthews cousins – Clay (Packers) and Jake Matthews (Atlanta), writer/reporter Greg Garber highlights the family whose seven NFL players span three generations and more than 60 years in the league in this week’s “Hot Read.”

-30-

2015 Jimmy V Men’s Basketball Classic Matchups Announced

espn-logo21st annual men’s doubleheader culminating event for Jimmy V Week for Cancer Research
 
Four storied college basketball programs – UConn, Maryland, Virginia and West Virginia – headline the 2015 Jimmy V Men’s Basketball Classic doubleheader on Tuesday, Dec. 8, 2015, with proceeds benefiting The V Foundation for Cancer Research. The 21st annual event will be on ESPN from New York City’s famed Madison Square Garden.
All four teams have been ranked in the early part of the 2014 season. The current AP poll includes No. 6 Virginia, No. 22 West Virginia, No. 19 Maryland and defending national champion UConn who was as high as No. 17 in the first two weeks of the season.
The early-season event will conclude the ninth annual Jimmy V Week for Cancer Research that begins on December 2 in 2015. The weeklong initiative across multiple ESPN platforms and programs features special content to help raise funds for cancer research. In 2013, Jimmy V Week raised a record $1.8 million, bringing the seven-year total of contributions to more than $8.2 million.
The 2014 Jimmy V Week will culminate with the Jimmy V Men’s Basketball Classic Presented by Corona – from Madison Square Garden on Tuesday, Dec. 9, on ESPN: No. 7 Villanova vs. Illinois at 7 p.m., followed by Indiana vs. No. 4 Louisville at 9 p.m.
West Virginia vs. Virginia: The all-time series stands at 8-8 with the last meeting dating back to the 1985 National Invitation Tournament, a 56-55 UVA victory. Virginia played in the 2000 Jimmy V Classic, a 107-89 win over Tennessee. West Virginia participated in 2008, a 68-65 loss to Davidson.
Maryland vs. UConn: UConn holds a 4-2 advantage in the series with the last four meetings on a neutral court. The Huskies only appearance in the Jimmy V Classic came against then-No. 25 NC State, a 69-65 defeat, in the 2012 event. Maryland will be playing in its first Jimmy V Classic.
Coaches Quotes
“We are delighted to be an invited once again to participate in the Jimmy V Classic. The Jimmy V Classic is one of the premier events during the college basketball season. We are honored to play in such a special event for a great cause, and I know our fans will be excited to see us play on ESPN and in Madison Square Garden, a place where we have had great memories over the years. Most importantly, the Jimmy V Classic and Jimmy V Week brings awareness to such a terrible disease because every one of us has been affected by cancer in one way or another. When we lost our mother in 2003, my family and I started the Norma Mae Huggins Cancer Research Endowment Fund, and we have raised almost a million dollars in cancer research. We all need to join the fight to end this deadly disease.” – Bob Huggins, West Virginia head coach
“We are certainly honored to play West Virginia in the 2015 Jimmy V Men’s Basketball Classic.” Virginia head coach Tony Bennett said. “To have an opportunity to be part of this classic and what it stands for, and to play a quality opponent at The Garden is great for our program.” – Tony Bennett, Virginia head coach
“We are excited that our program will have the opportunity to play on the national stage in one of the premier early-season tournaments in the country. It’s a tremendous field comprised of some of the nation’s top programs.  It is also an honor to compete in this event, which for more than two decades has raised money and awareness in the fight against cancer.” – Mark Turgeon, Maryland head coach
“We at UConn are honored and proud to again be asked to participate in the Jimmy V Classic at Madison Square Garden. First and foremost, we are pleased to be able to help the V Foundation, which does such an outstanding job funding research to move us closer to someday wiping out this terrible disease.
Secondly, we are looking forward to playing against another great program in Maryland, and in such an exciting basketball atmosphere as Madison Square Garden, where our fans always give us such tremendous support.” – Kevin Ollie, UConn head coach
Tickets for the Jimmy V Classic will go on sale in the fall of 2015. Ticket prices range from $15-$275 and will be available for purchase at the Madison Square Garden Box Office, Ticketmaster charge by phone at (866) 858-0008 and online at www.ticketmaster.com and www.thegarden.com.
About The V Foundation
The V Foundation for Cancer Research was founded in 1993 by ESPN and the late Jim Valvano, legendary North Carolina State basketball coach and ESPN commentator. Since 1993, The Foundation has raised more than $130 million to fund cancer research grants nationwide. It awards 100 percent of all direct cash donations and net proceeds of events directly to cancer research and related programs. Administrative and fundraising expenses are paid by the Foundation’s endowment. The Foundation awards grants through a competitive awards process strictly supervised by a Scientific Advisory Committee. For more information on The V Foundation or to make a donation, please visit www.jimmyv.org.
 
ESPN Events
ESPN Events, a subsidiary of ESPN, owns and operates a large portfolio of collegiate sporting events worldwide. The roster includes two Labor Day weekend college football games; 11 college bowl games and eight college basketball events, which accounts for approximately 200 hours of programming, reaches almost 64 million viewers and attracts over a half a million attendees each year. With satellite offices in Boca Raton, Boise, Birmingham, Dallas-Fort Worth, Albuquerque, St. Petersburg and Las Vegas, ESPN Events builds relationships with conferences, schools and local communities, as well as providing unique experiences for teams and fans.
ESPN Events also manages the Big 12 Corporate Partner Program.
Collegiate Football
AdvoCare V100 Texas Bowl (Houston); AdvoCare Texas Kickoff (Houston); Birmingham Bowl (Alabama); Bitcoin St. Petersburg Bowl (Florida); Boca Raton Bowl (Florida); Famous Idaho Potato Bowl (Boise); Gildan New Mexico Bowl (Albuquerque); Hawai’i Bowl (Honolulu); Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl (Dallas-Fort Worth); MEAC/SWAC Challenge presented by Disney (Orlando, Fla.); Raycom Media Camellia Bowl (Montgomery, Ala.); Royal Purple Las Vegas Bowl (Nevada); The Home Depot College Football Awards (Orlando, Fla.) and Zaxby’s Heart of Dallas Bowl (Dallas-Fort Worth)
 
Collegiate Basketball
Armed Forces Classic (U.S. Coast Guard Air Station Borinquen, PR); DIRECTV Wooden Legacy (Orange County, Calif.); Gildan Charleston Classic (South Carolina); Hawaiian Airlines Diamond Head Classic (Honolulu); Jimmy V Men’s & Women’s Basketball Classics Presented by Corona (New York City & Notre Dame, Ind.); Orlando Classic (Walt Disney World Resort near Orlando, Fla.); Puerto Rico Tip-Off (San Juan, PR) and State Farm Champions Classic (Indianapolis)
For more information, visit www.espnevents.com or follow on Twitter and Facebook.

-30-

 

ESPN NFL Content for Week 14

Sunday NFL Countdown logoSunday NFL Countdown: Waiting for Wilson, Antonio Brown’s Double Move, Rick Reilly’s Fantasy Pressure, and More; Special Time – 9:30 a.m.

Sunday NFL Countdown with host Chris Berman and analysts Cris Carter, Mike Ditka, Tom Jackson, Keyshawn Johnson and Ray Lewis will preview the NFL’s week 15 games on Sunday, Dec. 7, at 9:30 a.m. (ESPN and WatchESPN). Anchor/host Wendi Nix will handle select segments, while NFL insiders Chris Mortensen and Adam Schefter will report the day’s headlines and news.

Note: With ESPN’s College Football Playoff Selection Show scheduled for Sunday, Dec. 7, at 12:30 p.m., the three-hour Countdown pregame will begin 30 minutes earlier than usual (9:30 a.m.). In addition, the two-hour Fantasy Football Now (11 a.m.) will move to ESPNEWS. Highlights of the special Sunday morning and early afternoon schedules for ESPN, ESPN2 and ESPNEWS on Sunday:

 

Times (ET) Program Network
8 – 9:30 a.m. SportsCenter ESPN
9 – 9:30 a.m. Colin’s Football Show ESPN2
9:30 a.m. – 12:30 p.m. Sunday NFL Countdown ESPN
9:30 a.m. – 1 p.m. SportsCenter ESPN2
11 a.m. – 1 p.m. Fantasy Football Now ESPNEWS
12:30 – 3 p.m. College Football Playoff Selection Show ESPN

Reporters at game sites:

  • Steelers at Bengals (Lindsay Czarniak and Merril Hoge)
  • Ravens at Dolphins (Ed Werder)
  • Colts at Browns (Josina Anderson)
  • Seahawks at Eagles (Sal Paolantonio)

Features:

  • Waiting for Wilson: NFL Insider Adam Schefter reports on how the Seahawks zeroed in on their future franchise quarterback months before his final college season at Wisconsin. The story goes inside the team’s 2012 NFL Draft war room as the coaches and player personnel staff plotted and planned back-up scenarios as they patiently waited, and hoped Russell Wilson would be on the board at pick No. 75. Wilson was the sixth quarterback selected in the draft.
  • Antonio Brown Double Move: The Steelers wide receiver leads the league in receptions (96) and yards (1,258). Brown, regarded as one of the best in the league in running routes, shares insight on how he developed the skills with Countdown’s Jim Trotter.
  • Fantasy Pressure: Monday Night Countdown’s Rick Reilly reports how Twitter taunts from fans frustrated by their underperforming fantasy team players have become personal for NFL players, including the story of former Giants running back Brandon Jacobs.

NFC Division Leaders Meet on Monday Night Football: Aaron Rodgers and Packers Host Matt Ryan and Falcons at Lambeau Field

Aaron Rodgers and the NFC North-leading Green Bay Packers host Matt Ryan and the Atlanta Falcons – who are tied for first in the NFC South – on ESPN’s Monday Night Football on Dec. 8 at 8:15 p.m. ET. Mike Tirico, analyst Jon Gruden and sideline reporter Lisa Salters will call the game from historic Lambeau Field. MNF will also be available on Spanish-language ESPN Deportes and via WatchESPN for fans with video subscriptions from affiliated providers.

The Packers have appeared on MNF for 22 consecutive seasons (1993-present), second only to the Denver Broncos (1992-present). Green Bay is 6-0 at home this season, and quarterback Aaron Rodgers has thrown 360 consecutive pass attempts and 31 touchdown passes in a row at home without an interception, both NFL records.

The NFL’s week 14 finale kicks off with a more than two hour Monday Night Countdown, which begins at 6 p.m. Suzy Kolber anchors ESPN’s coverage from Lambeau with analysts Trent Dilfer, Ray Lewis and Steve Young and host Chris Berman joins the show from ESPN’s headquarters with analysts Cris Carter, Mike Ditka, Tom Jackson and Keyshawn Johnson and Insiders Chris Mortensen and Adam Schefter.

Monday Night Countdown features:

  • Gruden’s Grill Session with Jordy Nelson: MNF’s Jon Gruden sits with Packers wide receiver Jordy Nelson.
  • Rick Reilly’s Feature – Hating the Packers in Green Bay: What is it like to live in Green Bay and hate the Packers? Countdown’s Rick Reilly travels to the smallest city with a professional football team to find out.
  • Matt Ryan – Conversation with Lisa Salters and Soundtracks: Countdown takes a two-part look at Matt Ryan. The Falcons quarterback sits with MNF reporter Lisa Salters for a one-on-one conversation; he is also featured in “Soundtracks.”

NFL Matchup: Patriots Run Defense, Russell Wilson’s Improvisations, Steelers Defense, Ravens Play-Action Offense and More

NFL Matchup host Sal Paolantonio and analysts Ron Jaworski and Merril Hoge preview the weekend’s key matchups via a film-room Xs and Os analysis on Saturday, Dec. 6, at 8:30 a.m. on ESPN2 (re-airs on ESPN, Sunday at 5 a.m. and 6:30 a.m.).  Highlights:

  • Disaster Down – Brandon Flowers Interception: Jaworski takes viewers through a well-designed blitz by the Chargers defense that fooled Rams quarterback Shaun Hill and led to an interception.
  • Hoge Breakdown – Patriots Run Defense: Hoge explains why the Chargers must run the ball effectively against the New England Patriots to have success in Sunday’s crucial AFC matchup.
  • Let’s See it Hoge – Russell Wilson’s Improvisations: Hoge traces the unpredictability of the Seahawks offense to quarterback Russell Wilson’s ability to extend plays when things break down.
  • Between the Lines – Darren Sproles Out of the Backfield: In the matchup between the explosive Eagles offense and the Seahawks’ stout defense, Jaworski shows why versatile running back Darren Sproles will be the X-factor.
  • Inside the matchup – Steelers Defense: Hoge looks back to last season’s game when the Steelers defense confused Andy Dalton and put consistent pressure on the quarterback and the Bengals offense.
  • Blitz Breakdown – Packers Sack vs. the Eagles: Green Bay has used linebacker Clay Matthews as a movable piece this season, and Jaworski explains how opposing offenses must account for his blitzes to have success against the Packers defense.
  • Jaws Playbook – Ravens Play-action Offense: Jaworski shows how a strong running game in Baltimore sets up big-play opportunities in the Ravens play-action passing game.
  • Run to Daylight – Broncos Newfound Running Game: Hoge shows how running back C. J. Anderson has seen his role increase in Denver, aided by the fact he is running behind six linemen on 39 percent of his rushes over the past two games.

ESPN Radio: NFL Doubleheader Sunday – Colts at Browns and Bills at Broncos

The NFL on ESPN Radio continues Sunday, Dec. 7, with a doubleheader broadcast – Brian Hoyer and the Cleveland Browns host Andrew Luck and the Indianapolis Colts at 12 p.m., followed by Fred Jackson and the Buffalo Bills visiting Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos at 4 p.m.

ESPN.com: NFL “Hot Read” – Young Quarterbacks Face Adversity, Scrutiny

In this week’s “Hot Read,” senior NFL columnist Jeffri Chadiha takes a deep-dive into the league’s young quarterbacks – Robert Griffin III, Cam Newton, Colin Kaepernick and Russell Wilson – who arrived with much early fanfare and promise, but now appear to be caught in adversity and scrutiny, barely two to three years into their promising careers.

-30-

ESPN Acquires U.S. Rights to Seasons of Champions Curling Events through March 2015

espn-logoHome Hardware Canada Cup Live on ESPN3 This Weekend

Five Additional Tournaments in 2015, including the Scotties Tournament of Hearts and Tim Hortons Brier

ESPN today announced it has acquired the rights from the Canadian Curling Association to deliver more than 300 hours of live action from the Seasons of Champions curling events on ESPN platforms in the U.S. through March 2015.  The events will be produced by TSN, the official broadcaster in Canada.  The announcement comes off the heels of ESPN’s debut coverage this past weekend of the 2014 European Curling Championships on ESPN3.

Curling events under the new agreement include:

  • Wednesday-Sunday, Dec. 3-7 – Camrose, Alta. – 2014 Home Hardware Canada Cup
  • Thursday-Sunday, Jan. 8-11 – Calgary, Alta. – 2015 World Financial Group Continental Cup of Curling
  • Friday-Sunday, Jan. 16-18 – Banff, Alta. – Pinty’s All-Star Curling Skins Game
  • Friday Jan. 31-Sunday, Feb. 1 – Corner Brook, Nfld. – 2015 M&M Canadian Juniors
  • Saturday-Sunday, Feb. 14-22 – Moose Jaw, Sask. – 2015 Scotties Tournament of Hearts
  • Saturday, Feb. 28-Sunday, Mar. 8 – Calgary, Alta. – 2015 Tim Hortons Brier

“Through this agreement with the Canadian Curling Association, ESPN is making a new and exciting commitment to the sport,” said Brian Kweder, senior director of programming and acquisitions, ESPN.  “We look forward to delivering these events nationwide to draw out the curling fan in all of us.”

“We couldn’t be happier to have ESPN on board, and to give curling fans south of the border this opportunity to watch Canada’s elite curlers in action,” said Canadian Curling Association chief executive officer Greg Stremlaw. “We know there’s an appetite in the United States, particularly with snowbirds who spend their winters in warmer weather, Canadians working or attending school south of the border, and the many curling enthusiasts that travel throughout the United States. We’re excited that these fans will be able to get their curling fix this season.”

Sweeping coverage of the 2014 Home Hardware Canada Cup – featuring the country’s top seven men’s and top seven women’s teams – continues today with round robin draws and culminates on Sunday, Dec. 7 with the finals live on ESPN3, accessible online at WatchESPN.com, on smartphones and tablets via the WatchESPN app and streamed on televisions through Amazon Fire TV, Apple TV, Chromecast, Roku, Xbox 360 and Xbox One.  The schedule:

Date Time (ET) Event
Friday, Dec. 5 10:30 a.m. 2014 Home Hardware Canada Cup – Draw #7
3:30 p.m. 2014 Home Hardware Canada Cup – Draw #8
8:30 p.m. 2014 Home Hardware Canada Cup – Draw #9
Saturday, Dec. 6 10:30 a.m. 2014 Home Hardware Canada Cup – Tiebreaker (If Necessary)
3:30 p.m. 2014 Home Hardware Canada Cup – Women’s Semifinal
8:30 p.m. 2014 Home Hardware Canada Cup – Men’s Semifinal
Sunday, Dec. 7 12:00 p.m. 2014 Home Hardware Canada Cup – Women’s Final
7:00 p.m. 2014 Home Hardware Canada Cup – Men’s Final

ESPN3 is currently available to 95 million homes at no additional cost to fans who receive their high-speed Internet connection or video subscription from an affiliated service provider.  The network is also available at no cost to approximately 21 million U.S. college students and U.S.-based military personnel via computers, smartphones and tablets connected to on-campus educational and on-base military broadband and Wi-Fi networks.

About the Canadian Curling Association
The Canadian Curling Association (CCA) is the national sport governing body responsible for the development, promotion and organization of curling in Canada. In cooperation with its Provincial and Territorial Member Associations from across Canada, the CCA provides programs and services to curlers ranging from the youngest ‘little rocker’ (age 7 and up), to those participating at ages 70 and over – and from aspiring Olympians to Canadians with special needs, coaches, curling facility operators, ice makers and officials. The CCA also oversees and provides the comprehensive management of the Season of Champions event portfolio; develops and administers the Canadian Team Ranking System (CTRS) for Olympic qualification; and organizes and operates the championship system for Juniors (under 20), Seniors (over 50), Mixed, Women, Men, University and Wheelchair.

-30-

ESPN to have ‘Major League’ Presence at 2014 Baseball Winter Meetings

ESPN-MLB

  • Baseball Tonight Hits the Road for Two Daily Shows, Plus Digital Episodes
  • SportsCenter to Provide Regular Daily Updates Beginning at 11 a.m. ET
  • Nearly 30 ESPN MLB Commentators and Insiders Contributing to On-site Coverage

ESPN will have a ‘major league’ presence at the 2014 Baseball Winter Meetings in San Diego, Calif. from Monday, Dec. 8 through Wednesday, Dec. 10, including on-site Baseball Tonight shows and regular SportsCenter updates. The 2014 Baseball Winter Meetings – emanating from the Hilton San Diego Bayfront – is the largest annual gathering of baseball executives and personnel and serves as the “Hot Stove” hub for various trades and free agent signings.

Baseball Tonight will hit the road for two daily shows, beginning Monday, Dec. 8. Baseball Tonight will air live each day on ESPNEWS at 6:30 p.m. ET and again after midnight on ESPN2. Baseball Tonight host Karl Ravech will be joined by analysts Curt Schilling (Sunday Night Baseball) and Aaron Boone (Monday Night Baseball) and ESPN MLB Insiders Buster Olney, Tim Kurkjian and Pedro Gomez. Baseball Tonight will include breaking news, trade and free agent analysis and interviews with team executives and managers.

Baseball Tonight at the Winter Meetings schedule:

Date Time Network
Mon, Dec. 8 6:30 p.m. ESPNEWS, WatchESPN
  12:30 a.m. ESPN2, WatchESPN
Tue, Dec. 9 6:30 p.m. ESPNEWS, WatchESPN
  1 a.m. ESPN2, WatchESPN
Wed, Dec. 10 6:30 p.m. ESPNEWS, WatchESPN
  1:30 a.m. ESPN2, WatchESPN

SportsCenter will also have a daily, on-site presence at the Baseball Winter Meetings, with updates beginning each morning at 11 a.m. and continuing throughout the day. A variety of ESPN MLB commentators will contribute to SportsCenter segments.

ESPN Digital

ESPN.com will launch a special, mobile-friendly “Winter Meetings 2014” page that will serve as a hub for all digital Baseball Winter Meetings coverage. The page will be featured on the ESPN.com MLB homepage and include links to Baseball Tonight digital shows, Rumor Central and the Winter Meetings Live; a 72-hour plus, continuously running ScribbleLive application which will feature social media updates from various ESPN MLB Insiders.

ESPN MLB Commentators, Insiders and editors contributing to ESPN.com’s breaking news and trade and free agent analysis include: Stephania Bell (ESPN Fantasy), Jim Bowden, Jerry Crasnick, Gordon Edes, Jonah Keri (Grantland.com), David Kull, Keith Law, Peter Lawrence-Riddell, Ben Lindbergh (Grantland.com), Jonathan Luna, Andrew Marchand, Doug Padilla, Brendan Roberts, Jesse Rogers, Adam Rubin, Mark Saxon, Kelsey Schroyer, Jayson Stark, Calvin Watkins and more.

-30-