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Canceled College Sports Games Put Millions on the Line for ESPN

Ad revenue will plunge, and cable subscribers may balk at paying for nothing.
Empty stands at Clemson Memorial Stadium in South Carolina.

Empty stands at Clemson Memorial Stadium in South Carolina.

Photographer: Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

You almost feel sorry for Mark Packer and Wes Durham. The two veteran broadcasters have what might seem like dream jobs, chatting about college sports for two hours every morning for the Walt Disney Co.-owned ESPN empire. These days they air their show separately from their respective homes, and you can hear the frustration in their voices when yet another athletic league cancels its season or a high-profile school delays its start date because of the coronavirus.

“We’ve talked about this almost ad nauseam,” Packer told his colleague after football powerhouse Clemson University said its students won’t return to campus until late September. If students aren’t even able to walk across a quad to class, “how can you have a football game, a baseball game, a tennis match, whatever it happens to be? That’s a very difficult question.”