OXFORD, Miss. – A top executive at ESPN and a senior writer for the sports network are set to lead a roundtable discussion about college football controversies, including Southeastern Conference expansion, at 10 a.m. Friday (Oct. 14) at the University of Mississippi.
Sponsored by the Overby Center for Southern Journalism and Politics, the program is free and open to the public at the Overby Center Auditorium. The speakers are John A. Walsh, ESPN’s executive vice president and executive editor, and Wright Thompson, a senior writer for ESPN.com.
Walsh is a legendary figure in sports news. For more than four decades, he has guided newspapers, magazines and television coverage of sporting events. Since joining ESPN in 1988, Walsh’s fingerprints are on many of the network’s most ambitious initiatives, such as the launch of ESPN The Magazine and ESPN Radio. He also played a major role in shaping “SportsCenter,” the network’s flagship program.
“It’s always fun when ESPN brings John Walsh to Oxford,” said Curtis Wilkie, Overby fellow. “He is a man full of great humor and wonderful tales. And Wright Thompson is one of the treasures in Oxford’s writing community, with a lot of insight into what’s going on in college football today.”
Before going to ESPN, Walsh was the founding editor of the original Inside Sports Magazine and a managing editor of Rolling Stone magazine and, later, U.S. News and World Report. He was also an editor at Newsday and the Washington Post.
Thompson has become one of the rising stars in American sports journalism. A Clarksdale native, graduate of the University of Missouri and a resident of Oxford, Thompson’s stories for ESPN.com have been selected repeatedly for inclusion in annual anthologies of the “Best American Sports Writing.” He is the author of a lengthy piece on the undefeated 1962 Ole Miss football team that played during a year of crisis at the school, but he is best known for stories he has filed from exotic spots around the world. He has reported on cricket in Bangladesh and golf in Scotland.
This fall, Thompson filed a lengthy piece, “A Tree Dies in Auburn,” on an attempt to poison two trees revered by Auburn fans.
Speaking on the eve of the Ole Miss-Alabama game, the pair is expected to discuss the shifting scene in college sports conferences as well as the perilous careers of coaches and athletic directors.