In 2023, Shelley Smith, a veteran reporter with ESPN for 26 years, received a confidential request from Stephanie Druley, ESPN’s executive overseeing studio and event production, to return two sports Emmy awards she had obtained over a decade ago.
This request was part of a broader action by ESPN after the National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences (NATAS), the Emmy-awarding body, uncovered a deception where ESPN acquired over 30 Emmys for its staff who were not eligible. Beginning in 2010, ESPN reportedly submitted fake names for Emmy consideration, later reassigning the won awards to its actual on-air staff.
College Gameday in the Line-of-Fire with ESPN’s Emmys Fake Name Scandal
Prominent ESPN figures and the faces of ESPN’s College Gameday like Kirk Herbstreit, Lee Corso, Chris Fowler, Desmond Howard, and Samantha Ponder were among those who received these Emmys, as reported by a source familiar with the situation. These on-air talents reportedly had no knowledge of the irregularities in obtaining their Emmys.
Shelley Smith, reflecting on the situation, expressed her dismay, having been with ESPN until her contract ended in July of the previous year.
NATAS’ discovery led to investigations by both NATAS and ESPN, resulting in various penalties, including the return of the trophies. Craig Lazarus, VP and executive producer, and Lee Fitting, senior VP overseeing properties like College GameDay, were found ineligible for future Emmy participation by NATAS.
ESPN acknowledged the wrongdoing in a statement, admitting the inappropriate submission of names going back to 1997 and describing it as an attempt to honor key on-air team members.
How altruistic of them.
So they used fake names to scam the Emmys into giving them more awards because they cared about former contributors from 1997.
Anybody else call bullshit?
The network claimed to have reformed its submission process and disciplined those responsible after conducting an internal investigation with external counsel.
Adam Sharp from NATAS commented on ESPN’s subsequent corrective actions, including the return of awards and commitment to procedural changes.
In a notable twist, the scheme was centered around College GameDay, a popular ESPN show. Until 2023, NATAS rules prohibited on-air talent from receiving Emmys in certain categories, a rule meant to prevent “double-dipping.” ESPN was found to have circumvented this by listing fake names similar to real on-air personnel as “associate producers.”
An investigation revealed that names resembling those of real ESPN personalities were consistently listed under the guise of different roles for several years. These included variations of names like Kirk Herbstreit, Lee Corso, Desmond Howard, and others. The review also uncovered additional dubious names linked to College GameDaytalent.
The controversy extended beyond College GameDay, with Linda Cohn, a long-time SportsCenter anchor, posting about her Emmy awards, including one for a category where she was previously ineligible.
NATAS has since strengthened its credit verification processes. The ongoing fallout from this incident includes the return of 37 Emmys, changes in eligibility for ESPN staff for future awards, and the absence of implicated names from Emmy ceremonies and credit lists. Despite returning her 2008 award, Smith retained an Emmy she earned in 2018 for her work on E:60, reflecting mixed feelings about the situation.
Does this behavior by ESPN shock you even a litte?
I’m not, but maybe I’m being hard on them. Let me know, either in the comment section below, or follow us on social media: