Tom Farrey is a veteran journalist whose work has been recognized among the nation’s best on television, in print and online. An ESPN correspondent, he has been called a “brilliant investigative reporter” by the Boston Globe and in 2007 was one of seven journalists selected among the “100 Most Influential Sports Educators in America” by a panel of experts brought together by the Institute for International Sport at the University of Rhode Island.
Farrey’s reports have appeared on ESPN’s primetime newsmagazine, E:60, as well as Outside the Lines and SportsCenter, ESPN.com, and in ESPN The Magazine, where he is a Senior Writer. His work has won two Emmy awards for Outstanding Sports Journalism as well as top national honors from, among other organizations, the Sigma Delta Chi/Society of Professional Journalists, the Asian American Journalists Association, the U.S. Basketball Writers Association and the Women’s Sports Foundation.
His first book, Game On: The All-American Race to Make Champions of Our Children, was honored as 2008 Sports Education Book of the Year. Recognized as the leading journalistic work on contemporary youth sports, the book is a required text in university courses across the country, from Oregon State to Michigan State to the University of Florida, Farrey’s alma mater. He has been asked to share the book’s insights, as keynote speaker, at the annual conferences for such groups as the USA Coaching Coalition, whose partners include the U.S. Olympic Committee, NCAA and National Federation of State High School Associations.
Farrey joined ESPN in 1996 after eight years with The Seattle Times. His career has been devoted to telling the stories that connect the world of sports to the most relevant themes in the broader society—whether it be race, gender, politics, economics, technology, science, immigration, education or otherwise. His approach is to treat sports as a significant cultural force worthy of first-rate reporting, while staying one step ahead of the national conversation.
With E:60, Farrey has introduced viewers to everything from the cloning of race horses, to the hidden public costs of the New York Yankees’ new $1.9 billion stadium project, to a sperm bank that now sells the seed of anonymous college athletes. He has also authored defining profiles of such prominent figures as Ultimate Fighting Championship president Dana White, age-defying Olympic swimmer Dara Torres, and NASCAR prodigy Joey Logano. In 2007, Farrey told one of the more touching sports stories of the year, the return of a Lost Boy marathoner to the war-torn village in Sudan he left as a boy.
In 1999, Farrey was among the first journalists to report on the illegal flow of steroids from Mexico, with a hidden-camera investigation that documenting the ease with which baseball players can buy—and import—the drugs from Tijuana pharmacies. Other reports on the topic of drugs and sports introduced the public to anti-aging doctors who prescribe muscle-building hormones to injured pros, and the popularity of steroid precursors among high school athletes.
In 2001, Farrey’s exclusive report on the torture of Iraqi soccer players 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 dispensed bogus grades to top basketball prospects so they could qualify for NCAA ball. His reporting revealed a loophole in the eligibility process for athletes, and the NCAA later moved to create a list of dubious schools. Both stories appeared on Outside the Lines, and won Emmy awards for journalism.
In 2004, Farrey presented a three-part Outside the Lines series on the corrupt business of recruiting and signing Dominican baseball prospects. The series discovered that the names and ages of teenagers were easily changed by unscrupulous street agents, and revealed how one major league team (the Arizona Diamondbacks) made a $100,000 side payment to a street agent to steer a future major league pitcher their way. He also found prospects who had died after injecting their bodies with animal compounds in an attempt to bulk up for tryouts with major league scouts. Farrey’s series won a Television Investigative Reporting award from Sigma Delta Chi/Society of Professional Journalists.
In April 2008, former American League MVP Miguel Tejada was forced to change his age in official baseball records as a result of an E:60 report that he has lied about his birth date and identity throughout his major league career. The revelation came at a time when Tejada, who is two years older than he had said he was, was under federal investigation for lying to Congressional investigators about his knowledge of steroids—a charge to which he later plead guilty. The age discrepancy also meant the Houston Astros had acquired a shortstop who was 33, not 31, picking up the final two years of a six-year, $72 million contract that had been gained with false information. A top executive for the Baltimore Orioles, his previous team, said that club wouldn’t have given him that long of a contract if it knew the player’s true age.
Farrey has filed reports from Europe, Africa and Australia, as well as several countries in 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 2007, an E:60 investigation documented the illegal trafficking of a 14-year-old soccer star from Senegal to Portugal. For a futuristic look into the world of talent identification, Farrey went to Australia with a cheek swab to get his one-year-old son genetically screened for athletic traits; his ESPN The Magazine account served as the inspiration for Game On, published in May 2008 as a hardback and in August ‘09 as a paperback.
At The Seattle Times, Farrey covered the NBA and NFL, and events including the Olympics and World Cup. In 1992, he broke the news of improper loans given to quarterback Billy Joe Hobert of the University of Washington football team, a report that led to NCAA sanctions including a bowl ban for the defending national champions. One of his Sunday magazine pieces, on prison basketball, was selected by John Feinstein for the annual anthology, “Best American Sports Writing,” and was identified by Booklist as the collection’s highlight that year.
His reports also have appeared on ABC’s World News Tonight and Good Morning America, and in Business Week, the Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, St. Petersburg Times Miami Herald. He has lectured at many universities, and in 2004 and ‘06 served as Master of Ceremonies at the National Youth Sports Awards, presented by the Positive Coaching Alliance.
A native of Hollywood, Fla., Farrey now lives in Connecticut with his wife, Christine, and their three children, Cole, Anna and Kellen.