Chris Petersen made news a couple weeks ago when he complained about the prevalence of night games on the Huskies’ schedule. Actually, Petersen was empathizing with fans’ complaints of a schedule that at the time all six of Washington’s games to start at 5 p.m. local time or later.
Petersen wasn’t specifically talking about ESPN, but ESPN took the Washington to task for his comments. Kirk Herbstreit lectured Petersen on College GameDay, and the ESPN broadcast crew of that night’s game — Mark Jones, Rod Gilmore and Quint Kessenich — took Petersen to task as well, calling him “cantankerous,” not only for his comments, but also for declining to meet with the broadcast crew ahead of the game. (Just about every head coach meets with the broadcast crew on Fridays, but Petersen doesn’t — ESPN or otherwise.)
To make matters worse on Washington’s end, Kessenich mocked the less-than-stellar non-conference schedule Washington played in a sideline stunt.
Kessenich does a food-related sideline stunt each week but, combined with the tenor of the weekend leading up to that point combined with the natural East Coast bias that all Pac-12 programs naturally feel, it was easy to see why Washington felt like ESPN was picking on them.
And, according to Washington AD Jennifer Cohen, ESPN apologized. From the Seattle Times:
A week later, Cohen allowed that she was “extremely disappointed” in the tone of the broadcast and seemed particularly irked at the use of cupcakes to depict Washington’s nonconference opponents.
“I felt more like that was such a disrespectful move for the people we play,” she said. “For those that do this, we do this because we love the kids. These are somebody’s sons, somebody’s brothers. They’re 18- to 22-year-old kids, and so I was more offended, not for us, as I was for our opponents.”
The good news, Cohen says, is that she got a phone call last week from Peter Derzis, ESPN’s senior vice president of college sports programming and events (and a former college associate athletic director), offering an apology, as well as assurance that it had been dealt with and wouldn’t happen again.
“It was a class act, and he made the right call,” she said. “I think Chris and I feel like it’s time to move on.”
Washington played in the same 10:45 p.m. ET #Pac12AfterDark time slot last week — with a different broadcast crew this time — in a 13-7 loss at Arizona State.
The episode is officially behind both parties now. Washington is off this week, and ESPN picked up next week’s home game with UCLA for a long-awaited 12:30 p.m. local time kick.
But in the event a 1-loss Pac-12 champion Washington gets left out of the College Football Playoff — the ESPN-televised College Football Playoff, that is — for a 1-loss team elsewhere, expect the whispers of a conspiracy to grow into shouts.