Mike Drago

Mike Drago

Senior Deputy Editor

Mike Drago is an award-winning journalist with more than 35 years of experience in reporting, writing, editing and directing news coverage. Since joining ESPN in 2016, he has been helping to produce and lead original longform journalism and cross-departmental collaborations ranging from interactive digital stories to podcasts and TV pieces. Since 2020, he has led ESPN’s Investigative Unit, which focuses on deep-dive accountability journalism across the worlds of amateur and professional sports, as well as supporting the missions of journalists throughout the company.

He has won two Sports Emmys for his work as a supervising and coordinating producer for work that appeared under ESPN’s E60 brand. In 2020, he led a team that was recognized with an Emmy for Outstanding Sports Journalism after an 18-month investigation – “44 years, 41 allegations” — by reporters Mike Kessler and Mark Fainaru-Wada uncovered a still-active track coach with a 44-year record of sexual abuse of athletes as young as 12.  A written feature based on the same reporting was included in the 2020 edition of The Best American Sports Writing. The project also was honored with the Award for Excellence in Coverage of Youth Sports, presented by the John Curley Center for Sports Journalism at Penn State University. In addition, the story won the top investigative award in 2019 from Associated Press Sports Editors. In 2019, Drago managed the reporting and production of Tisha Thompson’s “Dead Man Walking,” a written and longform TV profile of a boxing coach targeted for murder by his wife. The video story was part of an Emmy award for Outstanding Sports News/Feature Anthology.

Also in 2020, Drago led a reporting team of Paula Lavigne, Elizabeth Merrill and other colleagues who investigated the 2006 unsolved killing of former University of Miami football player Bryan Pata. About a year after the story was published, police made an arrest in the then 15-year-old case. In 2019, Drago led reporting by Steve Fainaru and Mark Fainaru-Wada that examined how the market for insurance was reshaping the economics of football, a story that won a first-place award from APSE.

More recently, Drago oversaw team investigative coverage of former Washington Commanders owner Daniel Snyder, including an October 2022 story by Tisha Thompson, Don Van Natta Jr. and Seth Wickersham that is widely credited with triggering the push for Snyder to sell the franchise. Drago also edited an investigative profile of Brooklyn Nets owner Joe Tsai by Fainaru-Wada and Steve Fainaru. Both stories received honorable mention in the 2023 edition of Best Sports Writing.

Drago arrived at ESPN in 2016 as a senior editor, overseeing NFL coverage for ESPN The Magazine. The next year, he contributed to the publication’s entry that received a 2017 National Magazine Award for General Excellence.

Before ESPN, Drago spent the better part of 15 years at The Dallas Morning News, where among other assignments he led an education coverage team that won several national awards from the Education Writers Association. One investigation, into corruption by officials of the Dallas Independent School District, led to lengthy federal prison terms for a school administrator and a school vendor. Drago also worked as state editor, city editor and assistant managing editor at the News before two years on the Editorial Board as opinion page editor.

He began his career at United Press International and later at The Associated Press as an editor and reporter. In nearly a decade at the AP, he helped cover the 1993 FBI siege of the Branch Davidian compound in Waco, the Dallas Mavericks’ draft-night trade for Dirk Nowitzki and more than 20 space shuttle missions at NASA’s Johnson Space Center.

Drago graduated from the University of North Texas and resides in Connecticut, where he enjoys cycling, watching his son on the soccer field and learning to build and play cigar-box guitars. He and his partner, Amy, also have two adult daughters who live in Texas.

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