OTL 25th Primetime Anniversary Special July 7, 7 p.m. ET

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OTL 25th Primetime Anniversary Special July 7, 7 p.m. ET

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ESPN’s award-winning Outside the Lines will celebrate its 25th anniversary with a primetime special on Tuesday, July 7 (ESPN, 7 p.m. ET).

The one-hour show will recognize television’s pioneering investigative sports news program, which has examined off-the-field events that have impacted what happens on the field since its May 7, 1990 debut. Bob Ley will be in his familiar host’s chair as he has been since OTL’s first show more than a quarter century ago. He will interview guests pertinent to the series, introduce some of its most impactful pieces and provide a commentary reflecting on his time as the face of ESPN’s journalism.

“I would like congratulate Bob Ley — and the whole team — on 25 spectacular years of OTL,” said ESPN President John Skipper. “He has established himself as nothing less than the Walter Cronkite of sports journalism, clearly the leading sports news host of the past quarter century. The range and quickness of his intellect, his ever-present curiosity and his persistent search for truth distinguish his work for ESPN and makes OTL a must watch.”

Vietnam: March, 1998 - Bob Ley in Vietnam for Outside The Lines show Made in Vietnam: The American Sneajer Controversy. .
Vietnam: March, 1998 – Bob Ley in Vietnam for Outside The Lines show Made in Vietnam: The American Sneaker Controversy.


Bristol, CT - June 30, 2015 - ESPN Newsroom: Bob Ley, John Barr, Tom Farrey, and Mark Fainaru-Wada before the 25th Outside the Lines anniversary special.(Photo by Rich Arden / ESPN Images)
Bristol, CT – June 30, 2015 – ESPN Newsroom: Bob Ley, John Barr, Tom Farrey, and Mark Fainaru-Wada.

Ley, who joined ESPN as a SportsCenter anchor on its third day of operation (September 9, 1979), recently signed a contract extension.

“It’s been a remarkable journey for Outside the Lines, from a monthly program 25 years ago, to a daily presence, on TV and digitally,” Ley said. “I’m so proud to work with the smartest and most creative individuals in journalism who bring OTL its edge and distinctive style. We’re all looking forward to many more years.”

“Looking back through 25 years of Outside the Lines has reminded us of the tenacity of our producers and correspondents in their efforts to report the stories that no one else in our industry was covering,” said ESPN Vice President of SportsCenter & News, Storytelling Units Craig Lazarus. “It was groundbreaking reporting that still holds up today. OTL has set the standard for enterprise and investigative sports journalism for the past quarter century and continues to be an important part of our commitment to reporting all issues, on the field and off.”

The July 7 show will feature:

  • John Barr’s recent interview with former Rutgers men’s basketball coach Mike Rice, and an in-studio discussion with Barr who originally reported on then-coach Rice physically and verbally demeaning his players. (Note: Barr’s full story will premiere on Sunday’s Outside the Lines at 9 a.m. on ESPN. It will re-air Tuesday at 2:30 p.m.)
  • An update on Tom Farrey’s September 2012 piece on former Pop Warner standout Donovan Hill, who suffered a spinal fracture while making the type of head-first tackle he says was encouraged by his youth coaches. Farrey, whoseGame On: The All-American Race to Make Champions of Our Children is recognized as a leading journalistic work on modern youth sports, joins Ley for an in-studio discussion.
  • A look back at OTL’s historical coverage of football concussions with Mark Fainaru-Wada (he and his brother Steve Fainaru co-authored League of Denial: The NFL, Concussions and the Battle for Truth complementing ESPN’s coverage of the subject). He joins Ley for a discussion as well.
  • A piece about race in sports and an in-studio interview with ESPN commentator and PTI co-host Michael Wilbon.
  • A look at OTL’s coverage of sexual assaults through the years.
  • Memorable moments from the past 25 years.

OTL Recognized:

The award-winning OTL has evolved from periodic specials to a six-days-a-week series (Sunday –Friday) which has captured 11 Sports Emmy Awards and some of most coveted prizes in TV journalism; including a recent duPont Award and Peabody Award, as well as multiple Edward R. Murrow Awards, including one in video investigative reporting – a first for a sports entry. This year alone, OTL was honored with a National Headliner Award first place in broadcast/cable news magazine, a Gracie Award, first prize in broadcast investigative reporting in the National Awards for Education Reporting, Mental Health America’s 2015 Media Award, and the Grand Award from the NY Festivals Television and Film Awards.

OTL History:

Outside the Lines – Television’s original investigative sports/news series debuted May 7, 1990 pioneering a primetime approach to the sports news journalism genre.

Outside the Lines Sunday – This live, 30-minute weekly edition of Outside the Lines was launched the morning of Sunday, April 2, 2000 as a series exploring a timely sports/news story in the format inspired by the classic ABC News show Nightline.

Outside the Lines Nightly – It premiered May 12, 2003 and generally aired at midnight (9 p.m. PT), presenting sports news in an even more timely fashion, with Ley, reporters and live interviews all focusing on the latest events impacting the sports world.

Outside the Lines First ReportOn July 24, 2006, Outside the Lines Nightly expanded from 20 to 30 minutes and shifted to Outside the Lines First Report at 3:30 p.m. Monday-Friday. As ESPN’s first live news show of the afternoon, Outside the Lines First Report had the opportunity to react to breaking and developing news stories, and presented newsmakers and opinion makers who expanded on daily issues through a multi-topic format with discussion.


Contacts: David R. Scott (860) 766-2360; [email protected]

Dan Quinn (860) 766-2234; [email protected]



Dan Quinn

I arrived in Bristol in 1991 to help launch ESPN Radio. Currently Associate Manager, Communications, working on our news-and-information platforms, particularly all things SportsCenter, as well as Outside the Lines and our Bureau Reporters. Also responsible for ESPN’s Weekly Enterprise Journalism Release, and a regular contributor to the company’s ESPNFrontRow.com site.
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