After 17 years at ESPN, where he was one of the first hires for the WWL's website once upon a time, college football writer Bruce Feldman announced today that he was leaving for a gig at CBSSports.com. He also made an appearance this morning on Dan Patrick's radio show and spoke freely about what went on behind the scenes during his "non-suspension" suspension from The Brand back in July—an experience that led him to say, toward the end of the interview, "In the last six weeks, I've seen what they're capable of."
Here are some highlights from the interview:
Feldman said ESPN had approved of his doing a book with Mike Leach, and that they had even asked him to come on SportsCenter the day Leach was fired from Texas Tech to offer insight on Leach's mindset. Feldman said he made clear to his bosses that the book was written "with" Leach, not "about" him. He also said ESPN had asked for his help in setting up an interview with Leach after Leach's firing.
Feldman said ESPN was aware that Leach was going to sue them as far back as the spring of 2010, that Leach had gotten documentation saying as much, and that all of it was in the back of the book.
When I had went [sic] to my bosses at ESPN Magazine—literally up the food chain, one to the next to the next, to tell them—they were clear on it. They knew exactly what was going to be in the book. They knew there was going to be a lawsuit. On top of that, six months before the book went to print, I had talked to ESPN's lawyers; they had interviewed me. So, actually, when it came out in mid-July and Norby [Williamson] and Vince [Doria] and whoever up there got really angry—they shouldn't have been surprised.
Patrick then asked Feldman what they were angry about.
I don't know. One of the things they said was, 'We've got to figure out what to do about this?' And I was like, 'What's the this here? You were told about it. You were told when there was a lawsuit going to happen. You were told about everything.'
Feldman went on to say he was told not to tweet, not to go on the radio, not to blog, and that he couldn't cover the SEC's football media day the following week, for which he had already made travel arrangements.
The day after the conference call [with ESPN management], when ESPN put out that he-didn't-get-suspended-but-he's-resuming-his-duties press release—that day, when they put that out, the editor-in-chief of ESPN Magazine, Chad
MillerMillman, actually put more restrictions on me. They also sent out a do-not-book list to their talent producers I found out about. They basically stopped me from being able to do my job.
Patrick asked Feldman if he had considered himself suspended.
Yeah, because I was basically in complete limbo.
Feldman also indicated ESPN was just about to renew his contract for another three years and give him a raise.
I have that in e-mail.
But then, Feldman said, Vince Doria let him know where he stood.
I brought that up on the conference call and Vince Doria got all bent out of shape—the word he used was 'credibility.' He said I have credibility issues. I'm sitting there listening to this, and I said, 'Wait a minute. You guys put Craig James on the air.'
A week later, Feldman said he was in Bristol and was subsequently offered a one-year deal, with no raise.
Well, something changed. There was some kind of disciplinary action that was taken.
And, finally, this:
ESPN ... if you're not part of their agenda and you're a problem for them, you can't exist in that world. And once you come out of there—you know, do you have faith in the people who are running the place? And if you can't trust the people you work for, you have a problem, and that's why I'm so excited about going to CBS.
UPDATE: Feldman also told Richard Dietsch he was asked not to speak to ESPN's ombudsman.
The complete audio of Feldman's interview with Patrick can be heard here: