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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Why Was Kiper Only Guy On Balmer Bandwagon?

Current Seahawks defensive lineman Kentwan Balmer is a former first round pick (29th overall) taken by the San Francisco 49ers in the 2008 NFL Draft. During his first two seasons with the Niners, Balmer not only didn’t record a single sack, but failed to start a game.

Mel Kiper John Blake Kentwan Balmer

(Balmer in two NFL years: No sacks, no starts)

He also failed to show up for training camp this season, forcing the 49ers to trade him to the Seattle Seahawks in August for a sixth-round pick in order to realize any value for what might’ve been the worst first round pick of the 2008 draft.

Yesterday George Dohrmann of SPORTS ILLUSTRATED had the sordid, first-person story of Josh Luchs, a former longtime NFL agent who admitted to Dohrmann that he paid current college players while recruiting them as clients.

In his commentary to Dohrmann about his unsavory deeds, Luchs cited NFL Agent Gary Wichard as having what some might consider undue influence over ESPN NFL draft expert Mel Kiper as it pertained to the agent’s clients:

Gary also used his contacts in the media to help him recruit. In 2000, before a meeting with Stanford defensive lineman Willie Howard, Gary arranged for ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper to call. Gary and I were talking to Willie in Gary’s office when Gary’s phone rang, and he put it on speakerphone.

“Viper, how are you?” Gary said. That’s what he called Mel, Viper or Vipe. “Viper, I’m sitting here with the best defensive lineman in college football. Do you know who that is?”

“You must be with Willie Howard,” Mel said.

Gary used Mel like that all the time. In the agent business, people know Gary and Mel are close, and some people suspect that Mel ranks players more favorably if they are Gary’s clients.

Kiper has sinced denied showing Wichard clients any favoritism in his NFL Draft analysis over the years.

With that in mind, I thought I’d examine Kiper’s treatment of current Wichard client Balmer, who has been in the news recently not only because of his trade to Seattle, but thanks to alleged impropriety of his former position coach at North Carolina, John Blake.

Former UNC Assistant Blake was recently accused of being a “runner” for Wichard by recruiting current college players for the L.A.-area based NFL agent. Despite having resigned as a coach for the Tarheels, Blake’s bio remains on the official North Carolina football website.

Here’s an excerpt from that bio:

In three seasons at UNC, Blake has sent five defensive linemen to the NFL, including 2008 first-round draft pick Kentwan Balmer. Blake earned rave reviews from NFL Draft analysts for his ability to develop Balmer into a first-round selection in just one year of coaching.

“Kentwan had a great senior year under the tutelage of John Blake, who I think is one of the best defensive line coaches at any level,” said ESPN’s Mel Kiper Jr.

Before the Niners took former UNC Tarheel Balmer in the 2008 NFL Draft, Tom Margeneau of the DAILY OKLAHOMAN wrote of Blake in a “Cheers and Jeers” column:

Cheers: To John Blake, who is drawing rave reviews from NFL draft guru Mel Kiper Jr. for Blake’s work with defensive linemen, first Nebraska’s Adam Carriker, who went 13th overall to the Rams in the 2007 draft, and now North Carolina’s Kentwan Balmer, who has shot into first-round projections.

If you pore over Kiper’s mock drafts leading up to the NFL Draft in 2008, he ranked Balmer’s draft status well above where Balmer was projected by many other distinguished draft experts - including Mike Mayock of NFL Network, Todd McShay of ESPN and Scouts, Inc., Rick Gosselin of the DALLAS MORNING NEWS and Don Banks of SPORTS ILLUSTRATED.

Before the 2008 Senior Bowl and NFL combine, in his Jan. 22, 2008, mock draft, Kiper projected Balmer as a tenth overall selection going to the New Orleans Saints. On Feb. 20, the first day of the 2008 combine, Balmer was Kiper’s 12th selection in his first round projections. Read more…

ESPN Dumps Draft Devotees For Blonde Mistress

Last night I spent the start of the NFL Draft flipping back and forth between ESPN and the NFL Network before finally settling in to NFLN coverage for most of the night.

Todd McShay and Mel Kiper Debate Jimmy Clausen

(Dude on the left? A-hole, which is why I like him)

Why? Because ESPN left its big NFL Draft guns Mel Kiper and Todd McShay on the bench in favor of offhand analysis by Jon Gruden. Inexplicable when considering that ESPN singlehandedly built the NFL Draft into the popular, pop culture event that it is today by the non-stop propping up of prognostication by Kiper and now McShay.

Once I realized that Kiper and McShay were being shoved aside by ESPN to placate Gruden’s ego, I turned to NFL Network, which spent most of the night giving viewers what they wanted, astute analysis from draft expert Mike Mayock.

So why did ESPN flip the script? The network is doing all it can to keep Gruden from returning to the NFL, so it showcased the coach on what has become perhaps ESPN’s signature NFL property. But in the process of doing so, Bristol betrayed what it has built into an astonishingly popular property.

I’m flummoxed by ESPN’s naivete about Gruden. Bristol execs somehow think that he wouldn’t break his current contract with the network if the right coaching deal came along. A deal that would probably include an NFL team buying out a portion of Gruden’s remaining ESPN contract.


So on what should be a triumphant night for a property ESPN basically invented, the network sent NFL Draftniks scurrying to the NFL Network as Kiper and McShay were mostly idle throughout the night.

While I know there are probably plenty of you who despise Kiper and McShay, ESPN has turned them into undeniable celebrities. So ESPN spends all this time building up the pair’s predictions, then shoves them aside during the actual NFL Draft coverage just to make Gruden happy? Though the coach could leave the network at any moment and is somewhat reticent about giving strong opinions for fear of alienating a future employer?

I’m not defending Kiper and McShay, more making a comment about ESPN’s inability to see how its being played by Gruden.

Read more…

JaMarcus: 3 Months To Make Good On Kiper Call

So you’re saying there’s a chance?


That’s gotta make the Clausen camp feel great this AM. Along with Todd McShay.

Thanks to YouBeenBlinded.com.

Draft Analysts Have No Idea What They’re Doing

As if we needed proof that the three months of journalistic masturbation that leads up to the NFL Draft is pointless, the first two rounds proved yet again that all the mock drafts and preparatory analysis does little — if anything — to make the draft day picture clearer for fans. In fact, if you go by the percentage of picks that ESPN’s Mel Kiper Jr. and Todd McShay — and the NFL Network’s Mike Mayock — get right, you’d be convinced that you, too could be a highly paid NFL Draft analyst.

mark sanchez combine jets draft

(Analysts on Sanchez: 33 percent right.)

How bad were they? Well, as you can see after the jump, there were only three picks in which all three analysts agreed on the selection … and in which they were correct. Mayock was significantly off throughout — largely because he picked the wrong spot for Sanchez, despite being closer to Sanchez’s actual selection than McShay — and McShay had moments where he completely failed to read between the line (despite the fact that both ESPN analysts cleverly adjusted their drafts to include a Chiefs pick of Tyson Jackson).

Read more…

Kiper, McShay Sure (Don’t) Know How To Pick ‘Em

Now that the 2008 NFL Draft has come & gone, Mel Kiper & Todd McShay won’t have to be heard from again until training camp, when some of the higher selected players are still holding out.

Mel Kiper Todd McShay

With all their in-depth analysis and high-level face time in front of the cameras, how did ESPN’s draft experts do in predicting the picks?

Not that well. Read more…

Confused USC Cheerleader Marries USC Center Ryan Kalil Hopes To Remember To Put Hands Down Pants Of Right Guy

CONFUSED USC SONG GIRL TO LINE UP BEHIND RIGHT GUY? USC cheerleaders (or Song Girls as we SC fans call them) have gotten a bad rap over the years, but I’m happy to report that Scott Wolf of the LOS ANGELES DAILY NEWS has some (supposed) good news regarding Natalie Nelson, the USC Song Girl who was torched by internet-based sports observers for supposedly cheering for Texas’ game-winning touchdown in the 2006 NCAA BCS championship game.

Natalie Nelson Ryan Kalil Marriage USC Cheerleader Texas

Wolf notes Nelson is getting married to former USC offensive lineman Ryan Kalil, who will be going pro this season and is expected to be a relatively high NFL draft pick (there is some disputing of this fact by commenters on Wolf’s blog).

Natalie Nelson Ryan Kalil Marriage USC Cheerleader Texas

Kalil was the center for USC offensive line the last three years, and here’s hoping that Nelson makes sure, unlike a prominent quarterback of the past, she’s got her hands down the pants of the right guy.UPDATE: I talked to someone today who knows Nelson, and the engagement is true. She had previously dated Dallas Sartz for some time, but now is hot on Kalil, and now plans to tie the knot with the USC lineman (after consulting on Ryan’s draft position with Mel Kiper? Hmmm).