It looks like ESPN executives were as annoyed with Mark Jones as Washington and Pac-12 officials were.
After Washington lost to Auburn in Week 1, Jones, an ESPN announcer, goofed on the Huskies on Twitter, alluding to past friction between the network and UW football program in the process.
“Washington Huskies took one on the chin,” Jones tweeted. “Where’s Montana?”
Washington Huskies took one one on the chin. Where’s Montana ?
— MarkJonesESPN (@MarkJonesESPN) September 2, 2018
Jones was part of the ESPN broadcast team that poked fun at Washington last year for an easy non-conference schedule by laying out three cupcakes on the field. That was one piece of a multi-layered beef between ESPN, Washington and the Pac-12 that prompted meetings to smooth things over between the Pac-12 and ESPN — who is one of the conference’s television partners, by the way.
‘Childish behavior that is unacceptable’
Jones’ tweet sparked old feelings, prompting UW athletic director Jen Cohen to reach out to ESPN reps. Via an open records request, Jon Wilner of The Mercury News detailed how the correspondence went down:
“Childish behavior that is unacceptable,” an ESPN executive wrote to UW athletic director Jen Cohen in an email obtained by the Hotline via a public records request.
Nick Dawson, ESPN’s vice president for programming and acquisitions, also told Cohen that “we will also ensure that Mark is not assigned to any further Washington games.”
Also included on that email chain were two senior ESPN executives, Lee Fitting and Pete Derzis, and Jamie Zaninovich, the deputy commissioner of the Pac-12. The email from Dawson to Cohen said Jones would be dealt with “directly” by Fitting, the longtime producer of “College GameDay” who was promoted to “vice president, college sports” last summer.
Once Washington learned of the tweet, Cohen sent an email to Zaninovich saying, “we are all at a loss for how to work with mark.”
Zaninovich responded to Cohen that “at a loss” was “the right phrase” and took the matter to Dawson, describing the behavior as “bizarre” in his email.
Jones barred from calling Washington games
After Jones’ Sept. 2 tweet, ESPN assured the Pac-12, which called Jones’ comments “inappropriate,” that Jones would not be on the call for any Washington games this season.
Jones’ involvement in this whole saga came after UW coach Chris Petersen voiced his frustrations with the number of late-night ESPN games his team played last year.
“We want to play at 1 o’clock,” Petersen said last October. “It hurts us tremendously in terms of national exposure. No one wants to watch our game on the East Coast that late, and we all know it. It is painful for our team. It’s painful for our administration. And we certainly know the most important part is [it’s painful] for our fans.”
In response, Kirk Herbstreit said on GameDay that Washington should thank ESPN for giving UW national exposure. That same day, when UW hosted Cal in a late-night broadcast on ESPN, sideline reporter Quint Kessenich’s now-infamous cupcake bit (one of several involving food) hit the airwaves.
In case you wanted to see the cupcake schedule thing for yourself: pic.twitter.com/U5RXEqwRDi
— Kevin Shockey (@KevinShockey) October 8, 2017
Jones was the play-by-play man for that game and referred to Petersen as “irascible and somewhat cantankerous” while referencing Petersen’s decision not to meet with the ESPN crew for interviews.
After the reaction to his initial tweet, Jones tried to smooth things over with another tweet. It did not seem to ease the tension.
Hey don’t get me wrong…I still think Washington will have a great season..losing to Auburn in their backyard is a lot better than what a team like Miami did to their CFP chances. All love Seattle. S/o to the bruthas at Greenlake Park ✊🏾
— MarkJonesESPN (@MarkJonesESPN) September 3, 2018
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