Journalism Showcase

ESPN’s “Journalism Showcase” – March 11, 2016

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John Barr films a stand-up outside Billy Minardi Hall at the University of Louisville. (Caitlin Stanco/ESPN)
John Barr films a stand-up outside Billy Minardi Hall at the University of Louisville.
(Caitlin Stanco/ESPN)

The 2015-16 college basketball had yet to start when Outside the Lines’ John Barr and ESPN college basketball Insider Jeff Goodman presented a wide-ranging story on the University of Louisville basketball program’s recruiting practices that reverberated across the sports world.

Now, on the eve of Selection Sunday, Barr and OTL revisit the Louisville scandal with a new interview with Powell and other developments in the case (Sunday OTL, ESPN, 9 a.m. ET; ESPN2, 10 a.m.). Andy Katz hosts and guests will include Barr, ESPN.com’s Dana O’Neill and Louisville Courier-Journal columnist Tim Sullivan.

“After several conversations with a source source close to the NCAA investigation, we realized that we could report new information about what NCAA investigators know about what happened at Louisville,” said Barr, who returned to Louisville this week with producer Caitlin Stanco. “This is information that did not come from Powell or her attorney. According to yet another source we spoke with, a person who has knowledge of the NCAA enforcement process, that new information from a source close to the investigation is sufficient to make the case a ‘slam dunk’.”

Louisville has self-imposed sanctions that will keep them from postseason competition this year. The NCAA has been investigating Louisville since Powell, a former escort, detailed in her book, “Breaking Cardinal Rules,” that several dancers were paid to have sex with recruits and players at parties hosted by former Cardinal staff member Andre McGee.

Despite working on several other stories in the interim since his first report, Barr has managed to stay close to the evolving Louisville story.

“It’s always a juggling act,” he said. “But, when possible, we try to keep in touch with sources and continue to push to find new reporting avenues to explore. That’s what we did in this case. We knew there was interest in updating the Louisville story. We knew that Powell was meeting NCAA investigators for a second time in early March so, to us, it made sense to sit down with Powell and her attorney once again, after their second meeting with the NCAA, to try to get a better understanding of what NCAA investigators are focusing on and what Powell has shared with investigators to date.”

Of particular note in the follow-up reporting is the fact that Barr was able to track down McGee, the former Cardinals’ graduate assistant and Director of Basketball Operations at the center of much of Powell’s book. He has hardly been seen and has not spoken publicly since the scandal broke.

In the end, McGee proved to be as unwilling as he’s been in the past to really engage us on the subject of what happened at Louisville, but I think it may surprise some people when they find out what it is that Andre McGee is up to these days.
– John Barr on getting Andre McGee for a rare interview

“We acted on a tip about where Andre McGee is currently working,” Barr said. “It took a little doing but we managed to find McGee at his current job, or what may well be one of his current jobs. We had made several past attempts to try to find McGee and, for this story, I’m pleased to say that we finally did.

“In the end, McGee proved to be as unwilling as he’s been in the past to really engage us on the subject of what happened at Louisville, but I think it may surprise some people when they find out what it is that Andre McGee is up to these days,” he said.

As for Powell herself, Barr noticed some changes in his interview subject from when they first met in October.

“My impression is that Powell is just burned out after dealing with the backlash from her book,” he said. “She told us she’s received a number of threats on social media. Not any that make her immediately concerned about her well being, mind you, but enough that it got her attention. She’s also being sued by several people who question some of the claims in her book and she still faces possible criminal charges.

“The one thing I’ve always maintained about Powell is that, no matter what you may think of her as a person and the choices she’s made in her life, her information about the parties checked out, time and again, when we went to others for confirmation,” he said. “Our original story in October revealed that and this update will drive that point home even more.”

Trade Tips: When the Story becomes the Story

Sometimes, in the course of reporting a story, the reporting of that story becomes story in and of itself. Such is the case in Outside the Lines’ John Barr’s continued investigation into the Louisville basketball scandal.

“This week, I was reminded how big a story this is locally for the basketball fans in Louisville,” Barr said. “When we completed one of our on-camera interviews, which we conducted at a hotel in downtown Louisville, there were a few reporters waiting in the lobby, who wanted to try to speak with the same individual we’d just interviewed and who then proceeded to ask me questions about our upcoming report.”

Barr, a seasoned, award-winning reporter who has been with ESPN since 2003, isn’t surprised by the media-on-media reporting.

“I certainly understand that high level of interest on their part,” Barr said. “Rick Pitino is a Hall of Fame coach and his talented team will not play in this year’s NCAA Tournament, due to a self-imposed postseason ban. That really stings for many Cardinals fans. And there are still so many unanswered questions: Will there be even more penalties from the NCAA? Will the fallout from the scandal lead to Pitino’s departure? What, if anything, will the NCAA investigation reveal about what others knew about the parties in the dorms? Those open questions help explain why we – and others – continue to follow this story closely.”

Journalism on Display

  • Sunday’s SC Featured on SportsCenter tells the story of Texas A&M men’s basketball head coach Billy Kennedy, who, despite being diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease five years ago, led the Aggies to their first conference title in 30 years this past weekend. The feature (see trailer below) will debut in the 10 a.m. edition of SportsCenter and will re-air in other editions of the program throughout the day.
  • The latest 30 for 30 film, “Fantastic Lies,” debuts Sunday at 9 p.m. on ESPN. Coinciding with the 10th anniversary of the Duke lacrosse scandal, the movie has received early, widespread acclaim and attention. ESPN’s Jay Bilas discussed the film with Front Row.
  • Panelists on Sunday morning’s The Sports Reporters (9:30 a.m. ET, ESPN; 11 a.m., ESPNEWS) will be Mike Lupica (guest host), William C. Rhoden, Bob Ryan and Gene Wojciechowski.

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