03/17/17: USA Gymnastics loses a Penny; Standoff continues for women’s Hockey; IMG hears the Call


Good morning. It’s Friday March 17, 2017 and this is your first early morning Sports briefing. 

The USA Gymnastics Board of Directors accepted Steve Penny’s resignation as President and CEO of USA Gymnastics on Thursday. Penny informed the Board of his decision to resign during a Board conference call stemming from criticism over his handling of the organization’s response toward allegations of sexual abuse by a team doctor and coaches at member gyms across the country.. USA Gymnastics will now launch a national search for a new president and CEO with Board Chair Paul Parilla guiding the organization’s operations in the interim. “The Board believes this change in leadership will help USA Gymnastics face its current challenges and implement solutions to move the organization forward in promoting a safe environment for its athletes at all levels,” said Parilla. The resignation comes a week after the USOC board recommended that Penny should step down, according to reports.


USA Hockey notified all 23 members of the US women’s national team that they had until 5p yesterday to decide if they were going to play in the IIHF World Championships, which starts March 31 in Michigan. However, the deadline passed without a response from the team’s members. The team announced Wednesday that they intended to boycott the tournament due to a deadlock over contract discussions with players declaring that they wanted to be treated equitably compared even to the boys’ developmental teams with issues that include the amount of financial assistance the players receive.

FOX Sports assembled its broadcast roster for its FIFA World Cup Qualifier doubleheader presentation featuring USA hosting Honduras and Mexico facing Costa Rica with coverage starting March 24 at 8p on FS1. Landon Donovan returns to the booth for the USA match at 10:30p, joining lead play-by-play announcer John Strong and Stu Holden on the call. Jenny Taft reports from the sidelines. The early games sees Jorge Perez-Navarro and Cobi Jones call the match with Francisco X. Rivera reporting from the sidelines. Sports Illustrated’s Grant Wahl serves as reporter at-large, and Dr. Joe Machnik weighs in as a rules analyst for both matches. Rob Stone hosts FS1’s FIFA World Cup Qualifier pregame, halftime and postgame coverage.

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NBCSN delivers a World Series of Fighting title fight tripleheader on Saturday at 11p, headlined by Blagoy Ivanov/Shawn “Savage” Jordan. Play-by-play announcer Todd Harris calls the action beside analysts Kayla Harrison, Bas Rutten, Randy Couture and Joey Varner.

Meanwhile, Saturday will also see NBCSN deliver the 2017 International Gymnastics Federation all-around World Cup competition at 8p. Coverage of the event continues Monday at 11p on the network. Tanith White calls the action, alongside analyst and two-time Olympic gymnastics medalist Jonathan Horton.

In other fighting news, Bounce serves up another round of Premier Boxing Champions: The Next Round tonight at 9p, showcasing Kermit Cintron/David Grayton , among other bouts, and headlined by Travis “My Time” Kauffman/Amir “Hardcore” Mansour.


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This week saw ESPN debut the first in a series of promotional spots featuring MMA fighter Conor McGregor. The promos were created by ESPN’s Creative Works team in collaboration with Big Block Productions and will run across ESPN platforms through the end of the month, promoting the upcoming Netflix Original series Marvel’s Iron Fist. In it, SportsCenter anchor Stan Verrett bumps into McGregor in the hallway, prompting Verrett to imagine himself as “The Iron Fist” and challenging the UFC champion to a fight.

Fanatics is partnering with the International Champions Cup for this summer’s event and will see Fanatics operate in-venue retail for all 12 matches taking place across the US as well as power the online tournament shop, icc.teamfanshop.com. "The ICC is thrilled to once again partner with Fanatics as the official licensed retailer of the 2017 International Champions Cup presented by Heineken. The ICC is dedicated to offering our fans the best possible fan experience. Fanatics is a stellar retail partner helping us achieve this goal by allowing our fans the opportunity to show support for their favorite teams through exclusive merchandise." said David Tyler, Chief Executive Officer of Relevent Sports.

Eight-time national champion and former Gold Gloves champion Vanes Norkovich Martirosyan inked a promotional contract with boxing promoter Don King. “I’m thrilled to sign with the legendary Don King,” said Martirosyan.  “I’m certain Don will guide my career in the right direction and in doing so, will get me another chance to become a world champion.”



The National Women’s Hockey League landed a new home, announcing a deal with ABC News to bring the NWHL’s Isobel Cup Playoff stream to ABCNews.com and the ABC News app as part of Women’s History Month. The planned coverage includes live streaming of one semi-final game as well as the Isobel Cup Final. "We’re proud that ABC has partnered with us during this big week in our league’s young history,” said NWHL Commissioner Dani Rylan. “We’re very appreciative of ABC News for its support of the NWHL and women’s hockey.”

Yesterday saw a new collaboration between Turner Sports, the NCAA, and CBS Sports through Twitter with the launch of a 30-minute breakdown show that ran on the social platform titled NCAA March Madness Now. Produced by Turner Sports the show will air four times throughout the tournament, hosted by Noah Coslov and Jarvis Hayes. Ep 2 runs tomorrow at 11:30a.

ESPN announced that this year’s Men’s Tournament Challenge drew a record 18.8 million completed brackets, surpassing the previous mark set last year at 13.0 million. At the peak period of entries this morning, fans locked in 31,184 brackets per minute for an uptick of 69% over last year. More people picked Arizona, Kansas, North Carolina, and Villanova to reach the Final Four than any other teams with North Carolina and Villanova picked to reach the national championship game in a rematch of last year’s final, and North Carolina is the most popular pick to win the title.

OMNIGON locked in an exclusive partnership today with Shareablee that will allow clients of both companies to have access to the complementary and additive service portfolio the other offers. “OMNIGON is the best in its class at building new product suites to amplify and drive fan engagement for its sports and entertainment fanbases,” said Shareablee Founder and CEO, Tania Yuki. “We’re excited to tap into those fanbases with Shareablee’s unique ability to measure and analyze all brand social interactions across the web and package engagement data into actionable directives to help grow our clients’ social presence.”


IMG detailed plans to launch Boomeo, described as “a web-based esports platform featuring premium gaming content and exclusive educational tutorials from top esports teams and professionals.” The platform will see five professional esports organizations – Cloud9, compLexity, Counter Logic Gaming, G2 Esports and SK Gaming – as well as pro players and influencers including Spencer ‘Hiko’ Martin, Eric ‘Adren’ Hoag, Duncan ‘Thorin’ Shields, partnering to serve up exclusive Counter-Strike: Global Offensive instructional content for the platform. “The launch of Boomeo speaks to our continued investment in the esports industry and our focus on delivering premium and accessible content to consumers,” said Karen Brodkin, IMG. “Boomeo is ahead of the curve with its innovative training functionality, and we are excited to develop the platform as a go-to for serious gamers and those looking for an easy entry point to esports.”

Intel Extreme Masters saw its heavyweight tournament in Katowice, Poland generate 173,000 fans attending the stadium event and surrounding festival over the course of two weekends. Digitally, IEM Masters World Championship 2017 reached more than 46 million unique online viewers, for a 35% rise from last year’s event to rank as the most broadcasted event in ESL’s history, with 70 linear and digital partners worldwide who produced and distributed content in 19 languages. Intel and ESL’s partnership with SLIVER.tv and WonderWorld VR saw the VR stream score 200% growth in peak concurrent viewers compared to IEM’s first virtual reality live stream in Oakland, with 340,000 unique viewers tuning into the VR broadcast.

FACEIT’s Esports Championship Series has a new home, departing Twitch for YouTube Gaming courtesy of a new exclusive multiyear deal. The Counter-Strike: Global Offensive league will now start streaming with the ECS Promotion matches starting March 25 on FACEIT’s YouTube channel. YouTube Gaming will also work with players to help grow their followings. "YouTube offers fans of the ECS an unmatched online viewing experience,” said Michele Attisani, Chief Business Officer and co-founder of FACEIT. “YouTube is by far the most watched platform for gamers in the world and continues to innovate and lead on video technology, making it a great place for us to call our new home for the Esports Championship Series.”

Ubisoft and ESL issued marching orders for the Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six Year 2 Pro League competition, which will begin on March 20 in North America. The second year of competition will include three seasons of Pro League and a grand final that will crown the global Rainbow Six Champion. At the end of each season, the top placing teams in Europe, North America and Brazil will compete head-to-head against one another at a live event with $100,000 in prize money on the line for the PC Season Finals.


Today’s NCAA Men’s Tournament tips off across CBS, TBS, TNT and truTV beginning with Oklahoma State/Michigan on CBS at 12:15p.


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ON THIS DAY in 1995: Michael Jordan announces his return to the NBA.

In The Know: Two teams playing today in the NCAA Men’s Tournament are known as the Gamecocks. Who are they? (Email [email protected] with your answer and be sure to include your name, company and city.)

Answer to Our Last Sports Trivia Question: This school –currently in the NCAA Tournament – saw former player Austin Carr set a record for most points in a single tournament game, scoring 61. Which university did he play for?  Answer: Notre Dame. Kudos: Aymon DeMauro-Discovery Communications/NY; Lewis Blaustein-GreenSportsBlogger/NY; Tom Buffolano-LTN Global Communications/Brooklyn; Marc Goldstein-Marc Goldstein Media Solutions/NY; Ken Nice-TesmPeople/DC; Jim Sweeney-MIKE on Sports/Clearwater; Howie Schwab-Tandem Enterprises/Lakewood Ranch; Scott Leslie-UPS/Atlanta; Mark Stulberger-Stully’s Broadcasting School/Houston; Bill Robertson-WCHA/Edina; Will Allmendinger-Clear Channel Outdoor/Chicago; Gretchen Brady-KTVT/KTXA/Dallas; Greg Moloznik-GLM Media/Scottsdale; David Hauptman/Denver; Judie Henninger-Valentine Productions/Santa Monica; Paul Gygli-NBCUniversal Television Distribution/Universal City; Bob Ramsey/Palm Springs; Nick Monroe-Monroe Photography/San Diego.

Later — Chris
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