ESPN apologizes for James Carville's comments suggesting a pro-Alabama SEC conspiracy

ESPN issued an apology Saturday for comments made by political figure James Carville during “College GameDay.”

Carville, a noted LSU fan, has accused the SEC of helping Alabama via targeting calls against other teams. LSU linebacker Devin White is set to miss the first half of Saturday night’s game against the Tide for a targeting penalty he received against Mississippi State. He reiterated the accusations on GameDay.

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ESPN's top 50 college football players of 2018

50. Devin Singletary, RB, Florida Atlantic

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49. Mack Wilson, LB, Alabama

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48. Shaq Quarterman, LB, Miami

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47. Deebo Samuel, WR, South Carolina

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46. Chase Winovich, DL, Michigan

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45. Montez Sweat, DE, Mississippi State

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44. Rodney Anderson, RB, Oklahoma

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43. T.J. Edwards, LB, Wisconsin

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42. David Edwards, OL, Wisconsin

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41. Derrick Brown, DL, Auburn

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40. Tee Higgins, WR, Clemson

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39. Greg Little, OL, Ole Miss

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38. Kyler Murray, QB, Oklahoma

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37. Greedy Williams, CB, LSU

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36. A.J. Dillon, RB, Boston College

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35. Drew Lock, QB, Missouri

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34. Levonta Taylor, CB, Florida State

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33. D'Andre Swift, RB, Georgia

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32. Dwayne Haskins, QB, Ohio State

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31. Jonah Williams, OL, Alabama

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30. Jake Fromm, QB, Georgia

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29. Jeffery Simmons, DT, Mississippi State

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28. Myles Gaskin, RB, Washington

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27. Devin White, LB, LSU

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26. A.J. Brown, WR, Ole Miss

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25. Shea Patterson, QB, Michigan

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24. Austin Bryant, DE, Clemson

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23. J.K. Dobbins, RB, Ohio State

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22. Devin Bush, LB, Michigan

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21. Cam Akers, RB, Florida State

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20. McKenzie Milton, QB, Central Florida

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19. Khalil Tate, QB, Arizona

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18. David Sills V, WR, West Virginia

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17. Raekwon Davis, DL, Alabama

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16. Nick Fitzgerald, QB, Mississippi State

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15. Jake Browning, QB, Washington

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14. Justin Herbert, QB, Oregon

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13. Damien Harris, RB, Alabama

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12. Clelin Ferrell, DE, Clemson

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11. Tua Tagovailoa, QB, Alabama

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10. Jarrett Stidham, QB, Auburn

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9. Trace McSorley, QB, Penn State

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8. Rashan Gary, DL, Michigan (Photo by Mark LoMoglio/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

7. Jonathan Taylor, RB, Wisconsin

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6. Nick Bosa, DE, Ohio State

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5. Dexter Lawrence, DT, Clemson

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4. Christian Wilkins, DL, Clemson

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3. Will Grier, QB, West Virginia

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2. Bryce Love, RB, Stanford

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1. Ed Oliver, DT, Houston

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“We have an apology to make on behalf of ESPN,” ESPN host Chris Cotter said. “While appearing as a guest on College GameDay earlier today James Carville offered his thoughts on SEC commissioner Greg Sankey. As we regularly demonstrate here on ESPN, diverse opinions are encouraged, however these actions were over the top and we’d like to apologize to Commissioner Sankey for that.”

Carville calls White penalty ‘nothing’

ESPN and the SEC have a tight relationship. The SEC Network is an ESPN property. But what did ESPN expect when Rece Davis asked the Democratic strategist about the debatable targeting penalty that was issued against White two weeks ago against the Bulldogs? Carville wrote an op-ed alleging collusion between Alabama and the SEC on Oct. 21. 

“Tennessee’s best defensive player couldn’t play against Alabama because of the SEC,” Carville said. “Missouri’s best defensive player couldn’t play against Alabama because the SEC kicked him out. A&M’s best defensive player couldn’t play against because Alabama because he was taken out and now the best defensive player in the conference is not going to play in the first half for nothing. For nothing.”

Tennessee cornerback Alontae Taylor was ejected against Alabama for targeting. Missouri’s Terez Hall was ejected against Alabama for targeting and Texas A&M’s Donovan Wilson was ejected for targeting against the Crimson Tide. Do all those penalties mean a conspiracy? No; targeting happens a lot and the rule is controversial because of how unevenly it can be applied at times. It’s the most-debated rule in college football even if some of the debates aren’t the most rational.

ESPN knows that. And while it has to stay on the good side of the conference because of their cozy relationship, it’s unnecessary for the network to apologize for Carville’s comments. ESPN knew what was going to happen when it had Carville on the set. Apologizing for Carville continuing to state his “over the top” collusion case while ESPN teed him up to do so is ridiculous. If ESPN was going to apologize for anything it should apologize for having Carville on the set in the first place.

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Nick Bromberg is a writer for Yahoo Sports.

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