ESPN’s “Journalism Showcase” – April 21, 2017

Some of ESPN investigative reporter Paula Lavigne’s stories have, in part, led to changes across college campuses, most recently with the firing of Baylor football coach Art Briles and other changes at the school.

Continuing ESPN’s penchant for impact journalism, Sunday’s Outside the Lines (9 a.m. ET, ESPN) features two former Indiana University student-athletes telling Lavigne how the University’s medical staff neglected their injuries and affected their futures. That same medical department will face a restructuring later this month due to the school’s own discoveries.

“We found that Indiana also conducted at least two investigations, one with the football players and one with the rowing team,” said Lavigne. “Because of a number of investigations, the school says they are restructuring their medical staff which will go into effect on May 1.”

Lavigne said it was fortuitous timing because while working on this story, the NCAA and National Athletic Training Association were drafting legislation to address concerns that coaches were influencing medical care and that team physicians needed to be empowered to make decisions that were in the best interest of the athletes. “In that conversation, there was a lot of talk about the importance of the team doctors being the lead decision-makers,” she said. “When Indiana football coach Kevin Wilson was asked to resign, a number of players came out and said he was berating them – especially the injured players – and we thought that this may be worth looking into.”

As Lavigne was researching Indiana’s medical director for athletics, Dr. Andy Hipskind, she discovered some interesting details.

“I came across a complaint that a student-athlete had filed against him with the state of Indiana and that was actually a precursor to a medical malpractice lawsuit,” Lavigne said. “This was a member of the women’s rowing team, so that changed the conversation for us. ‘Can you peg this all on one coach [Kevin Wilson] or is this really the responsibility of the medical staff at Indiana?’”

Lavigne hopes this story will help college athletic programs to listen to athletes and address their injuries before it’s too late.

“[The athletes’] goal in speaking out is that they want college athletic programs, not just Indiana, to take injured athletes at their word and not to shame them for having injuries,” Lavigne said. “A couple of these athletes had to go to outside physicians to get a diagnosis and with all the money that is coming into these programs and the commitment that these athletes have made to these programs, they want to be able to seek athletic care within their program.”

SC Featured looks for elusive former NFL placekicker
Sunday’s SC Featured will tell the story of former placekicker Bjorn Nittmo, the first Swedish-born player in NFL history, who captivated fans with his offbeat charm. But as Chris Connelly reports, one play in a 1997 preseason game altered Nittmo’s life forever.

Dan Arruda, who produced “Finding Bjorn” for the ESPN Features Unit, began working on the piece in early September of last year. Nittmo’s ex-wife, who allowed ESPN cameras into her Texas home, helped connect them, but getting Nittmo on camera wasn’t easy.

Arruda flew to Arizona earlier this year to try and locate Nittmo.

“He lives a very nomadic life and travels from job to job,” Arruda said. “Most of his days are spent driving around Northern Arizona putting up satellite dishes and installing internet cable.

“He’s dealing with a lot in his life, and if you can meet him on his terms, then fine, but he’s not going to return phone calls or texts, so getting him to sit down for an interview is very difficult,” he said. “You just kind of show up where you think he might be and hope that he agrees.”

The feature will debut in the 10 a.m. ET edition of SportsCenter on Sunday and will re-air in other editions of the program throughout the day.

Additionally, as part of a new SC Featured podcast series, Jen Lada will host a two-part podcast, also dropping Sunday. Part One will feature a conversation with Connelly and Arruda about finding Nittmo, while Part Two features an interview with Buffalo News reporter Tim Graham, who wrote an extensive story on Nittmo last year.

By Andy Hall

Journalism on Display

  • ESPN The Magazine senior writer Tim Keown profiles North Carolina’s Mitchell Trubinsky, the projected No. 1 quarterback in the 2017 NFL Draft. Keown tells the unusual story of how Trubinsky transitioned from spending most of his college career on the bench to becoming a first-round pick. Keown interviewed those closest to the former Tar Heel including his mother, his coach and some of his best friends. On ESPN.com and in ESPN The Magazine’s NFL Draft Issue.
  • Portland Trail Blazers center Festus Ezeli has a generous family to thank for a chance at playing in the NBA again. After suffering a serious knee injury, Ezeli had to have replacement surgery. Although he doesn’t know who the donor is, Ezeli is writing a thank you to the family in hopes they will agree to meet him. Marc J. Spears writes the story on The Undefeated.com.
  • espnW’s Sarah Sekula speaks with six top female athletes to find out how they relax and recover after constantly pushing their bodies to the limit. Athletes like Olympic medalists Lindsey Jacobellis and Carli Lloyd open up about their unusual routines and share their personal photos at espnW.com.
  • Panelists on Sunday morning’s The Sports Reporters (9:30 a.m. ET, ESPN; 10:30 a.m., ESPN2) will be Mike Lupica (host), William C. Rhoden, Bob Ryan and Jeremy Schaap.

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