Tom Farrey is an enterprise reporter whose work has been recognized among the nation’s best on television, in print and online. A pioneer in cross-platform, long-form journalism, Farrey’s pieces have won two sports journalism Emmy Awards for Outside the Lines and his stories have also appeared on SportsCenter, E:60, ABC’s World News Tonight, ESPN.com, and in ESPN the Magazine.
He is the author of Game On: The All-American Race to Make Champions of Our Children (ESPN Books), recognized among experts as a leading journalistic work on modern youth sports. The 2008 book and subsequent paperback have been made required texts in university courses on more than a dozen campuses, from Oregon State to the University of Florida. The book’s insights continue to be explored through the Aspen Institute’s Sports & Society Program, which Farrey directs.
Farrey began working with ESPN in 1996, as deputy editor of the website that later became known as ESPN.com. Later, as a reporter, he developed the first integrated television-online investigative packages for Outside the Lines, through stories that connected the world of sports to the most relevant themes in the broader society. His reports have helped create national conversations and been a catalyst for change, from grassroots sports to college sports and beyond.
His 2011 report on sexual molestation allegations against longtime AAU president Bobby Dodd led to a series of reforms by the largest organization in youth sports. His 2010 E:60 profile of former college football player Preston Plevretes, and subsequent Outside the Lines reports including one on NFL players and families who are withholding their children from tackle football, have advanced and sharpened the debate about the future of America’s favorite game.
In 2001, Farrey’s exclusive report on the torture of Iraqi athletes by Saddam Hussein’s son Uday, the nation’s top Olympic official, led to the disbanding of the Iraqi Olympic governing body by the International Olympic Committee. That year, Farrey also exposed Christopher Robin Academy, an obscure, New York high school that basketball recruits used to acquire bogus grades that qualified them to play college basketball. His report on the academy revealed a loophole in the eligibility process for coveted athletes, helping prompt the NCAA to later create a list of dubious high schools. Both stories won Outstanding Sports Journalism Emmy awards for Outside the Lines.
Internationally, Farrey has delivered reports from Europe, Africa, Australia and Latin America. His hour-long ESPN documentary, “Witness to a Defection,” on Cuban baseball defectors included a hometown interview with future major league star Jose Contreras before he fled the country. In 1999, he drew early attention to use of steroids by baseball players with a hidden-camera investigation of Tijuana pharmacies. In 2004, his series on the corrupt business of recruiting Dominican baseball prospects won top national honors from the Sigma Delta Chi/Society of Professional Journalists. He later revealed that major league shortstop Miguel Tejada had lied about his age when signing a contract.
Farrey joined ESPN after eight years as a reporter for The Seattle Times, where he covered the NBA and NFL as a beat reporter before moving to general assignment work. In 1992, his probe into the University of Washington football program revealed that the quarterback on the defending national champions had taken a loan in violation of NCAA rules. The Huskies received a bowl ban from the NCAA, and Times a best investigative reporting award from the Associated Press Sports Editors.
As a magazine writer, his work has been selected for Best American Sports Writing. His Pacific Magazine story on prison basketball, “Hard Core Hoops,” was cited by Booklist as the best of the collection in the 1996 anthology. He is now a contributing writer to ESPN The Magazine.
Farrey was raised in Hollywood, Fla., and graduated from the University of Florida.