The premise of ESPN’s “Depth Chart'” as an hour-long glimpse inside the lives of Arkansas football players struck me as far-fetched from the get-go. When it comes to media availability, Razorback football likely has the tightest restrictions of any program in the state and the walls have only shot up higher this season. Look, for instance, at information flow in the immediate aftermath of Knile Davis’ devastating ankle injury during an August practice. By far the most important news that afternoon was Davis’ injury – which left him screaming and requiring a cart to drive him off the field – yet the UA prohibited teammates from talking about Davis afterward. Offensive coordinator Garrick McGee began post-practice comments by informing media only Arkansas’ head coach could discuss injuries, and Bobby Petrino was not scheduled to speak that day.
I absolutely understand elite college footballl programs’ desire to control the when and how news about them is released. What I was less clear about was how that desire would jive with a team of ESPN cameramen and producers trying to document the on and off-field lives of Arkansas’ quarterbacks in the week leading up to the Auburn game. “This position is so closely scrutinized that we created this series to draw back the curtain and reallly show fans what it takes to play quarterback in one of America’s top college programs,” said Vinnie Malhotra, excutive producer of ESPN Content Development, in a press release before the four-part “Depth Chart” series started airing in early October.
So it was with great interest that I watched Arkansas’ episode, which aired last week. By the time I was through, I felt like I had watched the most beautiful sports infomercial ever.