Brett McMurphy is in the middle of the biggest week of his professional career. The former ESPN college football reporter has grabbed headlines this week for his investigative report that lead to Ohio State placing head football coach Urban Meyer on paid administrative leave.
The whole story was reported for and published on McMurphy’s personal Facebook page. He is a guest on Richard Deitsch’s Sports Media podcast on The Athletic this week. The headline from their conversation has been McMurphy’s assertion that in 2018 you do not need the backing of a major media company to break a story.
“When I first got to ESPN five years ago I thought, man, I’m at ESPN, this is awesome, it’s unbelievable. Obviously it raised my profile nationally and all that stuff. But what I found out in the last 18 months is you can stay relevant on Facebook or Twitter if you’ve got good information…people are gonna find you. In a weird way, we don’t really need these giant media corporations because we can get our message out. I think you’re seeing this with a lot of athletes that, basically when they have any type of news, they just post it on their Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, instead of going the traditional route of calling up a writer and having them break the story.”
McMurphy also described the reasons why and situation that lead to him posting such a long and well-researched story to Facebook.
“I was part of the mass layoffs at ESPN last April and I had 18 months left on my contract. So we had non-compete clauses in our contracts. What that means in simple terms is if I wanted to go work for another company I was free to but by doing so ESPN was no longer required to pay me the remainder of my contract. So to get paid the remainder of my contract…I could not work for a third-party. However, I was able to tweet on my personal Twitter account. Also put information on my personal Facebook account because that was not a third party.”
“So when I got laid off, I had a decision to make. You know, I could sit on my couch and eat lime Tostitos for the next 18 months, which I did a lot of anyway, and not work and hope I get a job in 18 months or I can continue to try to report news, break news, via Twitter or Facebook, and try to stay relevant. So when my contract is up in August of 2018, then hopefully I’ll be more attractive to be hired somewhere else. So basically that’s what I did. I said I’m gonna bust my ass and I’m gonna try to keep working.”
“I just figured the way the industry was, if I didn’t stay relevant or try to stay relevant, any value I had to a future employer 18 months ago would diminish greatly if I wasn’t doing anything for the following 18 months. So I kinda worked while I wasn’t working, if you will, and tried to stay relevant, and here we are.”
The story about former Ohio State WR coach Zach Smith and the domestic violence accusations made by his ex-wife is not the first major story McMurphy has broken exclusively for his social media followers. He was also the first to report that Mississippi State had hired Penn State offensive coordinator Joe Moorehead as its new head coach, that Scott Frost was leaving Central Florida for Nebraska, and that the NCAA was considering adding three new bowl games for the 2020 season.
Deitsch also asked McMurphy if he considered going to ESPN with the Ohio State story in hopes that it would find a larger audience that way.
“That didn’t cross my mind because by doing that I’d be telling them what story I had and then that would be a mistake cause then they would pursue it. And secondly, that’s not something that they would get a quick answer out of. I’d have to go through their legal department…Honestly I didn’t really think about it.”
“I didn’t have any thoughts of trying to sell this story to anybody. Certainly, I wasn’t paid. I didn’t pay Courtney Smith to talk to me or anything like that. I just said I’m gonna report this story and see what I can find out. I never would have envisioned it would have reached this point. Ultimately it started out that I heard there were some domestic violence issues with Zach Smith in his times at Florida. I did a couple simple public record requests. Got the information and then it’s been a marble down a mountain since then.”
The interview is absolutely fascinating. You can hear it here.
Ryen Russillo: ‘Why Would You Talk About Politics On Your Sports Show?’
“Why would you talk about politics on your sports show? Now people could say ‘Hey this is more important. This is more important than sports’.”
Ryen Russillo joined Barstool’s Pardon My Take podcast in studio, and shared an interesting story about a sign at ESPN Radio that shaped what he talked about during his time with the network.
“When I was first at ESPN, so ’06, there was a sign up in the radio department that said ‘If what you’re talking about is not interesting to an 18-45 year old male, stop talking about it’,” Russillo revealed. “For the old rules, why would you talk about religion on your sports talk show? Why would you talk about politics on your sports show? Now people could say ‘Hey this is more important. This is more important than sports’.
“Well, no shit this stuff is more important than sports. But you know what? They don’t talk about sex trafficking on (CNBC). Because that show’s about money. Those shows are about finances and all this other stuff. Is it as important as all these other horrible things that happened? Of course it isn’t. But that’s not what the job is. So that’s where I think again — this is expanding into a much bigger deal — I’d love to talk about some of this stuff, but I know I can’t win no matter what I do.”
Later in the episode, Russillo discussed how proud he was of his Brandon Marshall interview. Russillo had confirmed former Pro Bowl wide receiver and I Am Athlete co-host Brandon Marshall to appear on his podcast. When the interview time rolled around, Broncos linebacker Brandon Marshall appeared on the screen. The former ESPN Radio host asked the linebacker a few questions before ending the interview. The podcast aired both interviews with both Brandon Marshall’s.
Penn National To Acquire Barstool Sports In Full
“Bloomberg reports that the two step process will be completed by February.”
Penn National Gaming made its initial investment in Barstool Sports in 2020, paying $161.2 million for a 36% stake in the content factory. Just a few years later, the casino company will acquire the remaining shares.
The relationship with Barstool has had ups and downs for Penn National.
A Business Insider report dropped in December accusing Barstool founder Dave Portnoy of sexual misconduct with multiple women caused serious headaches for Penn National. Portnoy denied any wrongdoing, saying all of the incidents detailed in the piece were consensual. He has also filed a defamation suit against the publisher.
Jay Snowden, the company’s CEO, encouraged investors to be patient. That didn’t stop the reaction though. Penn National lost over $2.5 billion in value and drew the attention of regulatory boards in Nevada and Indiana.
Still, the relationship with Barstool is one the casino company wants to keep. The company has found value in using the brand’s name to attract a younger audience to its sportsbooks. The Barstool name has been used on other venues and products inside of Penn National’s casinos as well.
Barstool podcasts and videos give Penn National a valuable, proprietary means of advertising. Plus, the Barstool Sports Arizona Bowl and the Barstool Classic in Philadelphia, put Penn National in the live sports business.
Penn National has an option to acquire the rest of Barstool for another $387 million. Bloomberg reports that the two step process will be completed by February.
Dana White Calls ESPN Writer a “F—ing Scumbag”
“It wasn’t a serious interview,” White said. “It was a fun, f—ing edited piece…”
UFC president Dana White did not hold back when talking about a recent piece by ESPN, which claimed in the story headline that White said fighters would not be getting pay raises.
White did an interview with GQ last week and answered a Twitter question about UFC fighter pay. He said fighters “get paid what they’re supposed to get paid. They eat what they kill. They get a percentage of the pay-per-view buys and money is spread out amongst all the fighters.”
White prefaced those words by saying boxing is not what it used to be on account of money and other issues. “It’s never gonna happen while I’m here,” he said, which was meant to be interpreted that he would never allow pay to force the UFC to become like boxing.
“Do you think I’m going to sit here and say, ‘Fighter pay will never go up while I’m here.’ That’s the dumbest f—ing thing I’ve ever heard,” White told Yahoo Sports. “And do you know how stupid you have to be to think that’s what I said in that interview when I was talking about boxing?”
White was fired up mainly because ESPN took words he said in what was supposed to be a fun and light interview with GQ and, in his opinion, changed the context to create a more salacious story.
“It wasn’t a serious interview,” White said. “It was a fun, f—ing edited piece, and ESPN, the leader in sports, is going to write a story on fighter pay based off that f—ing video? Give me a f—ing break.”
Marc Raimondi, who covers MMA for ESPN, wrote the article in question. White didn’t know that, but he made it clear he was pissed off about the piece.
“I didn’t see the story,” White said. “I don’t even know who wrote it, but you’re not a journalist. You’re a f—ing scumbag.”
Jordan Bondurant is a features reporter for Barrett News Media. He also works for ABC8 News and Newsradio WRVA and 910 The Fan in Richmond, Virginia. His prior experiences include working for the Richmond Times-Dispatch, the Danville Register & Bee, Virginia Lawyers Weekly and iHeartradio Richmond. He can be reached by email at Jordan.E.Bondurant@gmail.com or follow him on Twitter @J__Bondurant.