Sports network apologizes for location gaffe

John Sharp

ESPN apologized Thursday for running an incorrect map of Indiana with a star in it signifying where Peoria is located during its Sportscenter highlight segment of Tuesday’s Bradley-Michigan State game.

"That was our error," ESPN spokesman Josh Krulewitz said. "We put it on the wrong spot. We apologize."

The station caught the error after it first aired, Krulewitz said, and did not include it during its later editions of Sportscenter. The error appeared during a pre-midnight edition of the show Tuesday, about an hour or so after the game ended.

A correction was posted Wednesday on the station’s Web site, www.espn.com.

"Clearly while we take accuracy as being of the upmost importance to us, our expertise is in sports and not geography," Krulewitz said. "On the map, it was our mistake and an honest mistake. It wasn’t intentional."

But Krulewitz did not apologize for the rest of the segment, which has upset some Peorians. Dozens of postings on the Journal Star’s sports message boards blasted ESPN for its handling of the segment.

"People should understand those highlights were not randomly thrown up there by an anchor, they were taken from a local source," Krulewitz added. "It was not something we created ourselves or came up with."

Before showing Tuesday’s highlights from the Bradley-Michigan St. game, ESPN displayed a comment by Spartans coach Tom Izzo printed in the Detroit Free Press saying, "I read one article an alum sent me that said this is the biggest thing that has happened there in 10 years."

ESPN anchor Linda Cohn then talked about other big happenings in Peoria the last 10 years focusing on three things: a KISS rock concert played at the Civic Center in 1997, the Peoria Pirates indoor football championship in 2000 and Peoria getting a second Wal-Mart Supercenter.

Cohn and co-anchor Neil Everett continued cracking remarks about Wal-Mart as ESPN aired the highlight of Michigan State’s 66-61 victory.

"In this case, Linda Cohn did the highlight but she was not responsible for creating the graphics," Krulewitz said. "I’m sure it’s something from someone in the production team who got (the information for the segment) from a local Web site."

Bradley University officials, however, want ESPN to broadcast something more factual about the city when the cable TV giant returns to Peoria for a Feb. 26 game between Bradley and Southern Illinois University. That game will be broadcast on ESPN2.

"Maybe they will highlight some of the good things about Peoria and provide some actual facts about our city," said Bobby Parker, spokesman with Bradley’s athletics department.

Parker did not see the pre-midnight segment Tuesday, but he said later airings of the highlight had been corrected.

"I called the next day to talk to people in the news department to let them know (we) were disappointed in what they did," Parker said. "They said they would look into it."

John Sharp can be reached at (309) 686-3282 or jsharp@pjstar.com.