I never had a problem with ESPN, or really any sports media (except Pat Forde, that guy was always a tool) until the rabid dog coverage of Tatgate. It was like a feeding frenzy of great white sharks! the constant front page coverage of Tatgate while in comparison, barely covering the tidal wave of much more serious college football scandals in the few years following (Penn State being the exception), makes it really hard to forgive them. I mean they raked us over the coals and piled it on for a looong time. even going so far as to sue OSU to try to get more info to bring us down with. And having reporters stationed on campus for weeks at a time. All for a story about tattoos and jerseys. i think it was only a year later, when Miami got busted for have a longtime booster, who was an actual criminal, breaking actual laws, (not NCAA "laws" but Actual USA laws) like taking high school kids on Yachts with drugs and hookers, and it got maybe 1/5th the coverage and animosity that we got.
I was so embarrassed and mortified. and living in the south, I see how easily ESPN controls what the rest of the country's opinions are on the teams they don't follow. ( does that make sense? I mean everyone who doesn't follow OSU, or is neutral on OSU, has their opinions on OSU shaped by the head lines and coverage, that ESPN gives.) They over blow a Tatgate and then proceed to take little jabs at us and patronize our accomplishments in the years following, until we finally win the Championship and they are left with no choice but to finally give us some credit. I know they don't hate us, I never thought they did for the obvious reasons you stated. But I definitely think they've done our national perception some real damage up until this year. and they've ruined my day quite a few times by giving all the S.E.C fans I live amongst some serious ammunition to throw at me. most of it overblown, inaccurate, hyperbole that the rest of the country blindly accepts as fact.