ESPN used fake names to skirt Emmy Award rules and secure statuettes for on-air talent on “College GameDay,” according to a report published Thursday.

ESPN Comes Out At Biggest Loser After Emmy Scandal

The self-proclaimed Worldwide Leader in sports is also a leader in delivering fake Emmy Awards.

The National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences (NATAS) has taken back at least three dozen Emmy Awards that fake ESPN employees won, then re-engraved and given to hosts who were ineligible for the awards, according to a report in The Athletic.

The fraud was discovered by NATAS, which prompted an investigation by that organization and later by ESPN. Those probes resulted in sanctions beyond the return of the trophies.

While it is not known who orchestrated the scheme, Craig Lazarus, vice president and executive producer of original content and features, and Lee Fitting, a senior vice president of production who oversaw “College GameDay” and other properties, were among the ESPN employees NATAS ruled ineligible from future participation in the Emmys.

NATAS has taken back 37 awards given for the “College GameDay” program, which won multiple awards for outstanding weekly studio show.

At the time of the show’s victories, on-air talent was prohibited from winning outside of individual categories to “prevent front-facing talent from winning two awards for the same work (termed ‘double-dipping’ in the NATAS rulebook),” The Athletic reports.

Kirk Henry (Kirk Herbstreit), Lee Clark (Lee Corso), Dirk Howard (Desmond Howard), and Tim Richard (Tom Rinaldi) appeared in all seven years. Steven Ponder (Sam Ponder) and Gene Wilson (Gene Wojciechowski) appeared in five from 2014-18. Chris Fulton (Chris Fowler) appeared in 2010, 2011, 2014 and 2015. Shelley Saunders (Shelley Smith) appeared in the 2010 credit list.

Under NATAS rules, on-air talent could not win two awards for the same work until 2023. For instance, Herbstreit could win for his work as an analyst but he could not win an award won by College GameDay as a program.

To rectify this, according to Strang, ESPN would take the Emmys given to the nonexistent persons they submitted to NATAS as “associate producers”—often similar in name to actual on-air talent; for instance, “Kirk Henry” and “Lee Clark” for Herbstreit and Corso—and give them to its stars, later re-engraving the correct names on the statuettes.

Per Strang, no evidence exists the show’s on-air personalities were aware of the scheme.

In a statement, ESPN said: “Some members of our team were clearly wrong in submitting certain names that may go back to 1997 in Emmy categories where they were not eligible for recognition or statuettes. This was a misguided attempt to recognize on-air individuals who were important members of our production team. Once current leadership was made aware, we apologized to NATAS for violating guidelines and worked closely with them to completely overhaul our submission process to safeguard against anything like this happening again. We brought in outside counsel to conduct a full and thorough investigation and individuals found to be responsible were disciplined by ESPN.”

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