After Sunday's announcement from ESPN that the network remains unsure who modified Chad Ford's NBA pre-draft rankings years after the fact, we immediately asked, "How is that possible?" Nearly every known content management system tracks changes, and we're told ESPN's usual process is especially well-monitored, with editors maintaining full oversight over what information appears on every page of ESPN.com.
But we've been told by multiple current and former ESPN employees, none of whom wanted their names used, that the specific system used for the ESPN Insider NBA draft rankings pages runs under an entirely different, dynamic process—one they suggest is outdated and a remnant of the old Go.com era—and that the data administration tool used to construct the draft page has "far less oversight and audit records" than ESPN's standard CMS.
That means just about anyone, including Chad Ford, could have modified his rankings without leaving a trail. The motivation? As an ESPN Insider writer, Chad Ford has significant incentive to have his track record be—or merely appear to be—as accurate as possible. While to casual fans this sort of prognostication may seem silly and a waste of time, to industry experts and hardcore NBA wonks the best predictions are worth the money, and we're told Chad Ford drives a lot of ESPN's Insider revenue. That would make it worth the while of anyone with a vested interest in Insider's success to tamper with Ford's records.
We don't believe anyone will ever be publicly exposed as the culprit. Due to the technological challenges in ascertaining who made the edits, Ford's economic value to ESPN, the potential threat to Ford's day job teaching at BYU-Hawaii, and the sheer embarrassment of the whole mess, there are few reasons for anyone to dig too deeply. Even so, the people to whom projections matter now know all about these suspicious edits, and they don't need a CMS to keep track of Ford's credibility.