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ESPN’s high school football broadcast hit a low point in 2010. Coaches at two California high schools expressed their frustrations to the Sacramento Bee about everything from players getting pulled out of class for interviews to mandates on which brand of water coolers and jugs must be displayed on the sidelines.
Minnetonka football coach Dave Nelson participated in an ESPN3-aired game at Arrowhead (Wis.) last season. He said Gatorade, one of Paragon’s national sponsors, provided coolers and water bottles that had to be used during the game. The teams were allowed to keep the items.
Margulis blamed the problems in California on a breakdown in communication and said the network learned when “to be big where it’s appropriate and to be small where it’s intrusive.”
With no beverage sponsorship this season, there are no ESPN mandates on water jugs at Friday’s game at the University of St. Thomas, where Cretin-Derham Hall plays its home games.
In advance of the game, both schools were asked to submit school background, player bios and photographs. ESPN staff talked to coaches about players to watch and other game information. No player was pulled from class for an interview.
Showcasing teen athletes
For Cornell, the nation’s No. 1 rated recruit hailing from a non-football hotbed, national television means his successes and failures are magnified.
“We’re cognizant that they are 16, 17, 18 years old,” Margulis said. “We have to be respectful as storytellers. More often than not we’ve done it the right way. We try to identify these kids have potential; they haven’t done anything yet.”
Cornell, an explosive 6-foot-3, 245-pound defensive end, has 13 tackles and five sacks in two games this season. Cornell is excited to have teammates recognized but understands he will held to a different standard.
“The bad thing about it is if you mess up on one play, everybody on national TV is going to judge you like, ‘He’s No. 1?’ ” said Cornell, who has scholarship offers from 22 colleges, including Minnesota.
Cretin-Derham Hall coach Mike Scanlan is critical of Cornell’s status, calling it “ridiculous” to “identify one person as this or that.” But Scanlan said it’s “hard not to love” the lure of playing on an ESPN station.
“It’s hard to say, ‘We have to keep perspective,’ ” Scanlan said. “Come on, let’s enjoy it because you’re never going to get another opportunity to do this.”
Football games on ESPN typically help “gate receipts pop a little bit because of the added excitement in the school community,” Ghazi said. O’Shaughnessy Stadium holds about 4,000 fans. Friday is also Cretin-Derham Hall’s homecoming game.
“It’s a big, exciting moment because 99 percent of these kids aren’t going to be on national television again,” Margulis said. “It’s their moment, and we try to treat it with respect.”