Cup switch leaves ESPN in wake


The calm of the Pacific Ocean waters off the coast of San Diego, where the America's Cup defender and challenger finals series are taking place, belies a swirling controversy.

It seems the qualifying rules for the defender series, which involves three American yachts vying for the right to face the defender winner for the America's Cup, were changed at the last minute, a fact that doesn't sit well with Gary Jobson, ESPN's sailing analyst.

"Were the rules changed at the last minute? You bet. Should they have been changed? Maybe, but you've got to do it a couple of months before, not at the last possible second," said Jobson, an Annapolis resident, who is working his fourth America's Cup for the network.

What Jobson is referring to is a decision by the San Diego Yacht Club two weeks ago to basically scrap a one-race sail-off that would have pitted Dennis Conner's Stars & Stripes against Bill Koch's Mighty Mary for a spot in the defender finals against Young America, which had qualified.

Instead, two hours before the race, a new round-robin format was developed to allow all three yachts to sail, throwing the Cup races, not to mention ESPN's telecast plans, into the proverbial maelstrom.

"It came as a total shock to all of us, and I can tell you that ESPN executives were not happy," said Jobson, who was the tactician on Courageous, the 1977 Cup winner. "We had a schedule of races that we were operating on and which had to be fit around other programming, including baseball. We were last to know. If they were going to do a three-race final, fine, but why didn't they decide that months ago,"

There has been speculation that the change was made to accommodate Conner's commercial sponsors, who would have been left out in the cold if Stars & Stripes had lost the sail-off.

"Conner's been sailing really well. Things have been slow and he's doing it by sailing better," said Jobson.

Live coverage continues each day, except for today, at 4 p.m. on ESPN with same-day taped coverage at midnight on ESPN2.

Award-winning coverage

We've been a bit lax in announcing the nominees for next Tuesday's Sports Emmy Awards, but now seems as good a time as any.

NBC led the networks with 22 nominations, followed by CBS, which had 16. ABC and ESPN tied with 14, and Fox captured nine nominations.

Three ESPN personalities, Chris Berman, Dan Patrick and Keith Olbermann, were nominated for best studio host, along with NBC's Bob Costas and Greg Gumbel of CBS and NBC.

Jon Miller was nominated for the Emmy for best play-by-play announcer for his work on ESPN's "Sunday Night Baseball," and is joined in the category by NBC's Dick Enberg and Marv Albert and ABC's Keith Jackson and Al Michaels.

In the analyst category, Mary Carillo and Billy Packer of CBS were nominated, along with ESPN's Tom Jackson and John Madden and Fox's Terry Bradshaw.

Among the sports specials, the nominees were ESPN's coverage of the Stanley Cup finals; the 1994 Orange Bowl, between Florida State and Nebraska, on NBC; CBS' Masters' telecast; the Indianapolis 500 on ABC; and the 1994 baseball All-Star Game, co-produced by NBC and The Baseball Network.

Finally, the live sports series nominees were HBO's championship boxing, NBC's NBA coverage, ABC's "Monday Night Football," Sunday night football on ESPN and, shockingly, Fox's NFL pre-game show.

Late additions

In case you were wondering, Saturday's Orioles-Chicago White Sox exhibition game from Sarasota, Fla., will be carried on Home Team Sports, and Sunday's game with Philadelphia from Camden Yards is slated for Channel 13.

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