ESPN is a strange beast. People don't realize the dichotomy between broadcasting and doing actual journalistic work.
CNN decided to go all-in on every news story. The Malaysian plane was the best example. They literally would not shut up about it. You know why? Because it got ratings. Speculation and debate and controversy get the most views. And that takes all of the attention away from CNN's actual journalistic work, which in most cases is pretty excellent.
Same goes for every news entity that relies heavily on traffic and ratings. Huffington Post comes to mind, they're clickbait whores who stir up controversy but they have guys like Ryan Reilly who are actually great reporters. Fox News and MSNBC are the same way. Any hard news that they do tends to be pretty solid, but they put a much larger emphasis on their ratings than they do on their actual journalistic work.
ESPN is the same way. E:60 and OTL are fantastic. And while College Gameday is always just a big self-aggrandizing circlejerk, their human interest pieces are frequently incredible. And despite being in arguably a much better timeslot, and having a much better program, I'd bet that E:60 gets worse ratings than the flaming pile of shit that is First Take.
As I've been saying for years, ESPN is great at journalism when they want to be. But more often than not, they just go for what gets them ratings, because that's how the network earns its money. Broadcasting and journalism are not the same thing at all. There can be overlap, and ESPN tries to dress up its circlejerk-y shows as journalism more often than not, but that does not give those shows legitimacy.
Actual journalism is not nearly as "sexy" as the stupid, endless debates about Johnny Manziel or Tim Tebow. Those things grab ratings, and it's easy to see a pattern. Controversial figures and/or large-market teams tend to be their main focus.
ESPN focuses so much on New York and Boston and Los Angeles and Philly and Chicago teams because that's where the money is. With the exception of LA, none of these high-population areas have major college football teams. These cities all care more about professional sports than college sports. Meanwhile, the deep south lives and breathes college football. That's why there's so much SEC coverage.
But I digress. Like almost all media organizations, you can find great examples of journalism in ESPN. But you have to look, because they're not primarily a journalistic entity anymore. Same goes for any cable news channel. Once you know how to look past the filler crap to find real journalism, ESPN becomes much more useful and enjoyable.