Sprints Defends the Media in the Cam Newton Investigation // 11.16.10

AUBURN AL - NOVEMBER 13: Quarterback Cameron Newton #2 of the Auburn Tigers watches the jumbotron against the Georgia Bulldogs at Jordan-Hare Stadium on November 13 2010 in Auburn Alabama. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

THE BALLAD OF CAM NEWTON

The media are not to blame for the Cam Newton saga
Normally, I wouldn't bother responding to something like this, because I absolutely disagree with the premise on every level. It completely ignores everything that creates the uniqueness of college sports that it extols, and it pays no attention to the effects of the policy that it advances. (Among those consequences: Say goodbye to about half of the college football programs in America, because they won't be able to pay the bills.) But it is on our main site, so I'll respond to a few of the points in the spirit of friendly argument. So here goes.

First of all, anytime anyone says something about sports along the lines of "the NCAA's more Al-Qaeda than All-America" -- even if in humorous hyperbole -- I think you're taking sports just a bit too seriously. Second of all, it leans on the well-worn and widely acceptable line that the media sucks. This is a well-worn and acceptable line because people simply don't like the media.

There are some things about the media that don't fit well with people who are inherently cynical, which pretty much encompasses almost everyone in America now. Not that it's necessarily the fault of cynical people. There are plenty of people who have fueled the cynicism and given it root -- from political leaders to even some media figures. But there's a difference between the Anthony Davis and the Cam Newton stories that are currently swirling, and it starts to some extent with trusting people. As a reporter, there are all kinds of rumors I hear and even things I know happened -- but can't prove or can't be certain enough about what happened to put in print. If I can get some people who are in a position to know to confirm it, even on background (which is not the same as off-the-record, but I digress), I might run with it. But if it is just a rumor or doesn't come from someone in a place where they should know what's going on, I'm hesitant to print it unless someone is willing to put their name on it.

So how do I tell the difference between the two kinds of stories? Well, I've been doing this for more than eight years now. And to a certain extent, my readers have to just trust me. We all know about the conspiracy theories that some people have about car mechanics, but where do most of us go when we have a car that needs to be fixed? A mechanic.

So one of the things that paints the Anthony Davis story as unreliable is this: Other journalists, including myself on this site, said it was a terrible story that was shoddily done. That should prove that there is no reflexive circle the wagons. But instead, the author here takes it as a sign of a double standard in journalism. We're never really told the central element of what is usually required for a double standard -- a motive or belief on the part of those people who are instituting the double standard -- but it sounds good enough to be true. Maybe we should, um, trust the author?

Basically, depending on the source, they go back and forth between "don't ask don't tell" and "shoot first, ask questions later." And for the past week, for some reason, everyone decided that Cam Newton's reputation and character needed to get assassinated.

I have always laughed at the idea of a wide-ranging media conspiracy. I knew one reporter at one of my stops in political journalism that was an avowed socialist -- the kind of person who literally calls themselves a socialist. The head of another bureau in that some press corps was not only a very conservative person, he had run for the Legislature as a Republican years earlier. So those who believe in a media conspiracy in political journalism would have you believe that this cabal has an ideology with room for a socialist, a conservative Republican and everyone in between. Sounds completely plausible.

The truth is, people in the media argue with each other -- a lot. One of the reasons that media personalities believe the ESPN stories is that they are well-sourced (as anonymously sourced stories go) and come with the credibility of a major news outlet and respected reporters behind it. But even if you want to disregard those arguments or say my anecdotes about political journalism don't apply to sports, there are at least three reasons why the Cam Newton stories are more credible than the Anthony Davis rumors or anything similar:

- The NCAA is reportedly investigating the Newton situation, something that has not been directly confirmed but has been indirectly confirmed by on-the-record sources.
- The FBI, well-known for its penchant for wasting time on baseless investigations, is also involved.
- Since the original story broke, there are several on-the-record sources to confirm at least some portions of the Mississippi State side of the story. Those on-the-record sources go beyond "some snake like John Bond" -- though the author also doesn't bother to say why John Bond is a snake (Kenny Rogers, I'd agree with) -- but include the athletics director of Mississippi State University.

One more thing: If Newton broke the rules, whether those rules are stupid or not, it could lead to him being declared ineligible, which I think most people would regard as news. The possibility of that coming down the road is newsworthy; reporting news is a reporter's job.

That's why I think all this hyperventilating about the media's role in all of this is a bit misplaced. As for the rest of the article: I have no problem with small payments to NCAA athletes. But if anyone actually believes that even sizable payments would cut back on the level of corruption in college football, I have oceanfront property in South Dakota I'd like to sell you.

All of that is in that mega-post on Cam Newton and AgentGate that I've been promising and am working on. But I'm sick of people blaming the media for doing their jobs. And if you're really all that sickened by players not getting compensation, there's a league for you. It's called the NFL. Watch it instead.

Cam Newton investigation could be costly for Gene Chizik
Of course, this is way down the line. It requires some assumptions about what Auburn does over the next few weeks and what could happen in the NCAA investigation. But Gene Chizik might need to ask Cecil Newton for a loan, according to USA Today.

However, Auburn can suspend one or both of the nearly $60,000 payments it makes monthly to Chizik for personal endorsement rights and TV, radio and personal appearances "in the event an investigation is instituted by Auburn, the SEC or the NCAA into alleged major rules violations involving Coach and/or the football program," the contract says. ...

In addition, all of the $1.45 million in bonuses Chizik can earn "are subject to there being no major violations of NCAA Bylaws during the period in question."

And if he gets fired? There's going to be a lot of schadenfreude at Iowa State, for starters.

All criticism of CBS' game choice must now stop
If ratings are any indicator, the eye network's decision is backed by the people of America.

Its coverage of the Tigers' win vs. Georgia drew a 5.4 overnight rating, translating into 5.4% of households in the 56 urban markets measured for overnights. Only one college football game this season -- ESPN's Boise State-Virginia Tech opener -- had a higher overnight.

So obviously, the way to get good ratings is to pair a national title contender with a mediocre team. Ho-oh! (HT: Blutarsky)

OTHER NEWS

Great news for Florida fans
John Brantley is coming back for his senior season! And as for all those rumors you've heard about offensive coordinator Steve Addazio maybe getting fired?

I don't think that will happen. I'm not into blame, I'm not into excuses. We're into solutions right now. The solution is to somehow have a great Tuesday and Wednesday.

Some might argue that the solution would be to have a great Saturday, but I digress. We do have a clear front-runner this year for the "Willie Martinez Memorial Why Is This Assistant Coach Still Employed? Award."

Mike Pouncey has a point
No matter what you might think about the Gators this season or Mike Pouncey, he has been emotional about Florida all season. Some other players, he says ...

There are people who drift away when things aren’t going right. You look after the game and start realizing it. It is (frustrating). It’s human nature. When things aren’t going people’s way, that’s what happens. The only thing you can do is do your job.

Which is a shame if it's true, but not unexpected. Florida has built a reputation that helps it for recruiting: Come here, and you'll have a chance to win the SEC every year. When that doesn't actually happen, is it any wonder that some of them begin to temporarily lose interest?

You can officially take Mark Richt off the hot seat
This was pretty much a good bet after the second-half resurgence, but Greg McGarity is looking for Mark Richt to return in 2011.

"Sure I do," McGarity said. "Absolutely." ...

"I fully expect Mark Richt to be with us for awhile," McGarity said.

Which, in retrospect, makes a lot of sense. Remember that McGarity was at Florida when they stood by Ron Zook for almost three seasons. Giving Mark Richt as many disappointing years before asking if he can ever turn things around seems only fair.

At least he didn't challenge Pete Carroll to a fight this time
To make this crystal clear: Les Miles is not going to definitively say that LSU should go to the BCS National Championship Game should Auburn and maybe Oregon lose before the season ends. However...

There's no doubt that great teams can come from any conference, there isn't any question. But it's that team that can prove over a length of schedule that it has played the best and deserves the opportunity to represent all of college football in that (BCS championship) game.

I still think this is the nightmare scenario for the BCS, particularly if LSU somehow gets into the national title game ahead of an undefeated Boise and/or TCU. You thought Southern Cal being dissed for an Oklahoma team that didn't win its conference was bad? Imagine the outrage that would accompany an undefeated Boise getting dissed for an LSU team that didn't even win its own division, especially after the national media has spent the last year hyping Boise as a contender.

Houston Nutt has finally gone round the bend
We knew it was coming, and Veazey has the full recap at his blog, but Houston Nutt has finally taken complete leave of his senses.

But I just want to remind our fans of this, number one, it was just 50 years, its been 50 years since you won back to back January 1 games. Fifty! Fifty! And so my point is, I’m excited about -- not with wins and losses, but I’m excited that there’s 12 freshmen that are playing. Twelve! I’m excited about the future.

Either he's gone completely crazy, or he's campaigning for his job. Hmm.

Burying the lead
Veazey, you can't leave us hanging like this. On a post about Jerrell Powe considering his potential NFL future in the offeseason, there's this, which has apparently not yet been elaborated upon:

Today’s visit with Powe eventually led to his personal opinion on tasers. To explain that fully, well, I’ll need more time.

Please, enlighten us.

Bill Curry explains why he left Alabama
This has been a topic of some discussion over the years, but this is some of Curry's conversation with al.com about his decision to walk away from Tuscaloosa.

What led me to leave was the reality that I had become a deterrent to my guys having a good college experience. I called a team meeting and I said, 'Men, I guarantee you you'll win the national championship ... and I'd love to be here for it. But I have become a polarizing factor, and all you're having to do is defend why is this coaching here, and I don't want you to have to do that. So I'm going to extract myself from the situation.' And it was also taking a toll on my family. Carolyn does not like me to talk about that, but it's just a fact of life. It seemed like the appropriate thing to do.

Don't know if that will change any minds about Curry's time at Alabama, or if his vouching for the rock-throwing story will soothe nerves. It could be one of the most emotional lead-ups to an FCS team in Alabama history.

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