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The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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The BattalionMay 4, 2024

A&M may terminate ‘Sidelines,’ ESPN deal

A&M officials are considering ending cooperation with ESPN camera crews filming the reality show “Sidelines” unless the show focuses more on Aggie football and less on the indiscretions of students.
“We have the option to cancel our participation in future taping,” A&M President Dr. Ray M. Bowen told the Dallas Morning News at Saturday’s A&M-Kansas State game in Manhattan, Kan.
A&M University officials have asked ESPN executives to reconsider the subject matter of the show “Sidelines”, which was intended to show A&M football from the perspective of its fans and players.
ESPN director of communications Rob Tobias could not be reached for comment.
In the second episode, aired Oct. 11, two women were engaged in drunken behavior outside The Salty Dog bar in College Station. The third episode, aired Thursday, concerned a former A&M athlete and her relationship with a current A&M basketball player, also a female.
The coeds from the second episode were not A&M students; both attend Blinn College in Bryan, said Kristal Sheaves, one of the girls in the Oct. 11 show. Sheaves said despite what the show suggested, she and her friend, both friends of “Sidelines” cast member Clay, did not drink at The Salty Dog. They had all of their drinks and spent most of the evening at Bennigan’s in College Station, she said.
“The alcohol happened to hit us outside the Salty Dog,” said Sheaves, an education major at Blinn. “It was very upsetting, and I don’t know why they decided to show that, except to say that that type of stuff is what attracts people to watch TV.”
Salty Dog owner Gary Seaback allowed the Sidelines crew to film inside his bar, where they stayed 15 or 20 minutes, he said. None of cast member Clay’s party were drinking while at the Salty Dog, Seaback’s managers told him.
“They made it look like it was all Salty Dog,” Seaback said. “And not that it matters, because we’re all Aggies, and we’re kind of getting blamed by ESPN for being a party school. They have no idea how much they’re hurting the image of this school.
“But at least if you’re going to put out this image of A&M, use A&M students,” Seaback said.
The second and third episodes of Sidelines do not represent the majority of A&M students, said A&M athletic director Wally Groff.
Groff called ESPN programming executive Mark Shapiro after the second show, telling him the show “was an extreme deviation from what we expected,” Groff said. During the conversation, Shapiro offered to send Groff a tape of the third show, but said to Groff, “I don’t think you’re going to like it,” Groff said.
Taping for the fourth show is already complete. With 10 more shows slated for the season, Groff will decide whether to cut access to the Sidelines camera crews or to see if the show will return to the original focus of A&M football.
“There’s a heck of a lot more to A&M than that,” Groff said. “I asked [Shapiro], `Can you get it back on the course it was intended?’ I’ve got his promise to get it back on course, but if not, it was a verbal agreement, and we can disassociate with the show.”
ESPN executives met with University officials, including Groff and Bowen, this summer to make an agreement on the show’s basis, which Groff said was to be “a soap-opera type show using A&M football as the focal point and what football means to local people.”
Shapiro told Groff the fourth episode of Sidelines, set to air Thursday at 11 p.m., would be one he could approve of, Groff said.
“Typical Hollywood-type producers look for this kind of thing and try to find the things other people are used to seeing,” Groff said of the most recent “Sidelines” episodes. “I told them this school was really conservative, a Bible Belt school, and we do things different here. We discussed this all back in July.”

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