ESPN Won’t Reveal Reason Behind Kiper Coverup

On May 29, ESPN’s Outside The Lines program aired an investigative piece on 7-on-7 summer football.


As part of the piece, Joe Schad confronted 17-year-old 7-on-7 participant DeonTay Thomas and Thomas’ 7-on-7 coach, 23-year-old Cory Robinson about a photo taken on a boat before a 7-on-7 tournament in South Carolina.

Though no NCAA violation has been traced to anything in connection to the photo of Thomas or his coach, in blindsiding the two on-camera about the picture, Schad’s implication was that Thomas and Robinson may have been involved in activity outside NCAA rules.

But while Schad employed “gotcha” journalism on an unsuspecting teenager and his 20-something coach, the ESPN Outside The Lines reporter completely ignored a startling detail about the website page where the same photo was originally located.


Just below the boat photo Schad characterized as a representation of the dubious nature of 7-on-7 football - on the same website page - was an ESPN publicity image of Mel Kiper, Jr.. Below that picture of Kiper was a message from the ESPN NFL Draft analyst pledging his “support” to the same organization Schad was castigating in his OTL hit piece.

After the Outside The Lines report aired, the photo of Kiper was removed from the website page though below is a screen capture of the page before the images of the boat and Kiper were removed:

Mel Kiper Jr Endorses 7 on 7 team from ESPN report

Unlike 17-year-old Thomas and 23-year-old Robinson, who the NCAA has not charged with any wrongdoing, Kiper was not interviewed for the Outside The Lines investigative piece nor was his presence on the same website page as the boat photo in question even acknowledged by ESPN.

Though ESPN’s Bob Ley did note Kiper’s involvement in 7-on-7 football before Schad’s piece aired. Ley on May 29:

“ESPN draft expert Mel Kiper, Jr., has been involved in the sport.”

Less than 10 minutes later, following Schad’s report, Ley said:

“We mentioned earlier Mel Kiper, Jr., has had an involvement with a national 7-on-7 tournament. He is no longer involved.”

On May 29, after the Outside The Lines 7-on-7 piece reported by Schad originally aired on ESPN, an accompanying ESPN.com article recounting the on-air OTL piece was posted. At the bottom of the story read:

“Editor’s note: ESPN’s Mel Kiper Jr. has had involvement with a national 7-on-7 tournament, but he is no longer involved.”

On June 3 at 7:30pm ET, the message at the bottom of the same Outside The Lines 7-on-7 investigative piece on ESPN.com had been changed to:

“Editor’s note: This story, initially published May 29, noted that Mel Kiper Jr. was no longer involved with a national 7-on-7 tournament. On June 3, ESPN released the following statement: ‘Mel had told us that he was no longer going to be involved, but later changed his mind and is maintaining his relationship with the tournament.’

On June 4 at 10:30am ET, the message at the bottom of the same Outside The Lines 7-on-7 investigative piece on ESPN.com had been changed again:

“Editor’s note: This story, initially published May 29, noted that ESPN’s Mel Kiper Jr. was no longer involved with a national 7-on-7 tournament.”

Despite the latter claim that Kiper was “no longer involved with a national 7-on-7 on tournament,” Saturday I noted that ESPN Kiper was still formally involved in a 7-on-7 football-based business venture originating from the website 7on7u.com. A direct association which entailed an extensive network of Kiper-branded 7-on-7 events throughout the country culminating with a national tournament bearing his name,

Saturday I also noted the deletion of ESPN’s previous acknowledgement that Kiper had “changed his mind” and is “maintaining his relationship with the tournament.

Those events led me to conclude that ESPN was actively covering up Kiper’s involvement in the same activity Joe Schad cited in verbally attacking a 17-year-old high school student-athlete during his May 29 Outside The Lines piece.

ESPN Covers Up Mel Kiper 7-on-7 activities

After my post detailing the coverup, ESPN, for the fourth time, changed the disclosure tag which followed Schad’s Outside The Lines story on ESPN.com:

Editor’s note: This story, initially published May 29, noted that ESPN’s Mel Kiper Jr. was no longer involved with a national 7-on-7 tournament. On June 3, ESPN released the following statement: “Mel had told us that he was no longer going to be involved, but later changed his mind and is maintaining his relationship with the tournament.”

The change was clear confirmation that a coverup had indeed taken place.

So why did ESPN delete its own, previous acknowledgement of Kiper’s 7-on-7 activities?

Maybe it had something to do with the Southeastern Conference’s ban on all things 7-on-7 on Friday.

Or perhaps ESPN suddenly hiding Kiper’s 7-on-7 business venture less than 24 hours after the SEC’s newly-instituted embargo on 7-on-7 football was merely an extraordinary coincidence.

Or it could’ve been the fact that the NCAA, as noted by Schad in his Outside The Lines report, had recently hired “seven full-time investigators” to combat what was portrayed by Schad as a dubious development in college football recruiting.

That is, the recent growth of 7-on-7 football. (Thanks to people like Schad colleague Kiper.)

In requesting guidance on why ESPN had reversed field multiple times in its portrayal of Kiper’s 7-on-7 business venture, I was provided the following statement by ESPN vice president, public relations for college, news and networks information Josh Krulewitz:

“We were doing a story on 7 on 7 football and felt in interest of disclosure we should note Mel’s association which we did.

“It’s pretty simple and fairly standard in media for entities to note similar things as part of reporting when there is a connection.

“And as the Editor’s note on the report clearly states, Mel initially said he planned to end his association, but changed his mind and decided to maintain his connection.”

Over the past 48 hours, I did ask an ESPN official - multiple times - why the network changed its tune so many times about Kiper. I also inquired as to who at ESPN had knowledge of Kiper’s 7-on-7 association before the Outside The Lines piece was aired and why Kiper was not asked on-camera about his photographic presence on the same website page as the image cited by Schad in his “gotcha” of Thomas and Robinson.

The above statement was the response I was provided to those inquiries, leaving open the question of why Kiper was given a pass by ESPN for his 7-on-7 activities while others, who have not been proven to have committed NCAA violations, were not.

And why ESPN would allow Kiper to be involved in an activity that his employer’s award-winning investigative unit, Outside The Lines, recently portrayed as a serious threat to the integrity of college football’s observance of NCAA rules.

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ESPN Covers Up Mel Kiper’s SEC-Banned Activity

Last Sunday ESPN aired an in-depth piece from its award-winning investigative unit Outside The Lines targeting what has become public enemy number one for NCAA rules enforcement officials: 7-on-7 summer football.

ESPN covers up Mel Kiper SEC-Banned Activity

(ESPN noted - then deleted - Kiper’s refusal to give up 7-on-7 biz venture)

In the piece, ESPN OTL reporter Joe Schad revealed that the NCAA had recently hired seven full-time NCAA rules enforcement officials to investigate anything and everything related to 7-on-7. Less than a week later the crown jewel of ESPN editorial, Outside The Lines, proved prescient as the Southeastern Conference officially banned conference coaches from any involvement with 7-on-7 - along with a permanent SEC embargo on all on-campus 7-on-7-related activities by conference institutions.

The latter development, which involves a $2.25 billion broadcast partner of ESPN, makes the televison network’s decision to allow ESPN NFL Draft analyst Mel Kiper, Jr.’s now-documentedheavy involvement” in the same now-SEC-banned 7-on-7 activities newsworthy and - from the NCAA’s perspective - noteworthy.

At least if we’re to believe the recent, multiple updates to the Outside The Lines 7-on-7 story published on ESPN.com in the last 24 hours.

On May 29, after the Outside The Lines 7-on-7 piece reported by Schad originally aired on ESPN, an accompanying ESPN.com article recounting the on-air OTL piece was posted. At the bottom of the story read:

“Editor’s note: ESPN’s Mel Kiper Jr. has had involvement with a national 7-on-7 tournament, but he is no longer involved.”

On June 3 at 7:30pm ET, the message at the bottom of the same Outside The Lines 7-on-7 investigative piece on ESPN.com had been changed to:

ESPN Covers Up Mel Kiper 7-on-7 activities after SEC ban

“Editor’s note: This story, initially published May 29, noted that Mel Kiper Jr. was no longer involved with a national 7-on-7 tournament. On June 3, ESPN released the following statement: ‘Mel had told us that he was no longer going to be involved, but later changed his mind and is maintaining his relationship with the tournament.’

On June 4 at 10:30am ET, the message at the bottom of the same Outside The Lines 7-on-7 investigative piece on ESPN.com had been changed again:

ESPN Covers Up Mel Kiper 7-on-7 activities after SEC ban

“Editor’s note: This story, initially published May 29, noted that ESPN’s Mel Kiper Jr. was no longer involved with a national 7-on-7 tournament.”

So why did ESPN delete the note about Kiper “changing his mind” and deciding to “maintain” his extensive, NCAA-targeted 7-on-7 summer football activities?

On June 3, Chris Low of ESPN.com reported from the SEC Spring Meetings in Destin, Florida:

The SEC will also have oversight on those players placed on medical scholarship and has banned coaches from being involved in 7-on-7 events for high school prospects and will no longer allow 7-on-7 events to be held on SEC campuses.”

On June 3, SEC Commissioner Mike Slive said of the new conference ban on all things 7-on-7:

“There’s a sense in football by the coaches and some of us that there’s a bit of creep and that we think it’s in our best interest to do what we can to stop it.”

18 months ago, in announcing ESPN’s new $2.25 billion television deal with the SEC, ESPN’s executive vice president for programming acquisition and strategy John Wildhack said:

“This deal gives us an opportunity to associate ourselves with the preeminent athletic conference in the country. With all due respect to other conferences, there’s a passion and a fervor here that is unique.

“The SEC is king.”

Indeed, as the conference is so important to ESPN management as to neuter the editorial integrity of ESPN’s signature vehicle for sports journalism, Outside The Lines.


If one or more of those “seven full-time NCAA investigators” hired expressly to police the now SEC-banned activity of 7-on-7  football pays a visit to Mel Kiper, Jr., to investigate his 7-on-7 football business venture, is it unreasonable to assume ESPN will cover that up too?

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Update: “Mel Kiper Is Very Involved” With 7 on 7?

Last night I revealed that Mel Kiper, Jr. was unintentionally outed by his colleagues at ESPN after Joe Schad’s Outside the Lines hit piece on 7 on 7 summer football ensnared Kiper’s active involvement in the practice.

Mel Kiper Jr 7on7u Championship Series Facebook Page On June 3 2011

(New entry posted today on Kiper 7 on 7 official Facebook page)

Following Schad’s ‘gotcha’ report last Sunday, ESPN noted on-air and on ESPN.com: ESPN’s Mel Kiper Jr. has had involvement with a national 7-on-7 tournament, but he is no longer involved.”

But six days after Kiper’s employer claimed on-air and online that he had disassociated himself with a 7 on 7 football enterprise bearing his name and active participation - if we are to believe a new message on the official Facebook page for the “Mel Kiper, Jr. 7on7u National Championship Series” - that apparently is untrue.


As I noted last night, Kiper has not removed himself from the website promoting, as ESPN called it, his “involvement with a national 7-on-7 tournament.” And this morning, the official Facebook page for Kiper’s 7 on 7-based venture stated in an entry posted at 5am PT (6/3/2011): “Mel is very involved.

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Schadenfreude: ESPN Dragnet Catches Mel Kiper

Sunday ESPN’s award-winning Outside the Lines franchise aired a piece reported by Joe Schad in which the ESPN reporter employed a “gotcha” moment on a college football prospect and his summer 7 on 7 football coach.


But instead of victimizing his intended targets, Schad unwittingly outed the formal involvement of one of his colleagues in the very activity an NCAA enforcement official frowned upon in the same “OTL” report.

To leadoff his examination of the dubious NCAA nature of 7 on 7 football, Schad cited a photo taken on a 60-foot yacht that included the aforementioned prospect, DeonTay McManus of the “Next Level Nation (NLN)” 7 on 7 summer football team. The ESPN reporter also noted McManus’ coach, Cory Robinson, had knowledge of the photo and the activity that led to the image.

During separate interviews, Schad then confronted McManus and Robinson with the picture.

Though in attempting to shame McManus and Robinson for activity not yet proven to be against NCAA rules, Schad neglected to tell his ESPN audience that on the same webpage where that yacht photo was located was an image of ESPN NFL Draft analyst Mel Kiper, Jr., accompanied by the message: “NLN Supporter Mel Kiper Jr. ESPN Draft Expert.

Mel Kiper Jr Endorses 7 on 7 team from ESPN report

The yacht and Kiper photos have since been removed from the webpage, but still show up via this Google cache link. (For now.)

After I watched the ESPN report and discovered Kiper’s photo on the NLN 7 on 7 team website, I quickly located a site called 7on7u.com that featured an entire 7 on 7 summer football concept co-branded with Mel Kiper Jr.’s likeness and active participation in promoting the venture.

Mel Kiper 7on7u.com

(Images taken from front page of 7on7u.com on June 2, 2011)

It was as slick and professional a presentation I’ve seen involving all things 7 on 7 since I started tracking such ventures.

Kiper is seen in videos and promotional materials on the site touting something called, “Mel Kiper, Jr.’s 7 on 7 University” and the “Mel Kiper, Jr. 7 on 7 National Championship Series.

You can even watch video of Kiper hosting and narrating a 7 on 7-based camp that took place just last week at a high school in Virginia. (May 22, 2011.)

So what was Kiper’s reaction to Schad’s hit piece on the same NCAA-targeted enterprise in which he’s obviously invested a significant amount of time and effort?

At the end of the ESPN.com post detailing Schad’s OTL report, this passage was added after the piece initially aired on ESPN television:

Editor’s note: ESPN’s Mel Kiper Jr. has had involvement with a national 7-on-7 tournament, but he is no longer involved.

I initially did not report on Kiper’s involvement in an activity NCAA Director of Agent, Gambling and Amateurism Rachel Newman-Baker said in Schad’s report could “jeopardize the (NCAA) eligibility” of individuals participating in it.

That changed though when I discovered today, five days later, that Kiper still has a presence on the 7on7u.com website and its accompanying social networking sites - including Facebook. Here’s a screen shot of the official “Mel Kiper Jr. 7on7u National Championship Series” Facebook page on June 2, 2011 at 7:00pm PT:

Mel Kiper Jr 7on7u Championship Series Facebook Page On June 2 2011

Perhaps, like so many other NCAA member institutions in the past, “Mel Kiper, Jr. 7 on 7 University” figures the intercollegiate governing body will give him a pass.

Wouldn’t be the first time.

Safe now to assume “Willie Lyles 7 on 7 University” won’t be far behind?

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