Know your role.

yahoo_picThat’s the message delivered by Sports Illustrated this week as it launched a nuclear attack on the Oklahoma State athletic program.

Know your role.

Is that also the message the NCAA will send in light of clear and obvious violations at Alabama unearthed by Yahoo!Sports?

Unless you’re one of the “established powers” if you build your program, if you win, you’re clearly violating the rules.  That’s the basis of SI’s assault on OSU.

If you win enough, even the most blatant transgressions can be ignored. Will that be the response to the Yahoo! bombshell?

According to promo material distributed by SI, OSU was chosen for examination because the once-struggling program (11 losing seasons in 12 years) rose to national prominence, winning a Big 12 title and a BCS bowl in 2011.

Read that again.

SI chose to “examine” Oklahoma State because the team rose to national prominence, won a Big 12 title and earned a BCS bowl berth.  Apparently Big 12 success is only allowed if you’re Oklahoma or Texas.

To this point, the exposé on OSU is based on little more than a handful of disgruntled players making vague statements that are essentially unprovable.

Consider the televised hysteria on ESPN and other media outlets based on the thin wisps of rumor that are the foundation of the SI series.

Keep in mind the bellowing that accompanied allegations that Johnny Manziel may have been paid for autographs.

Think back on the lynch mob mentality that followed rumors of rumors about Auburn and Cam Newton in 2010.

Now take a look at news breaking on Yahoo! Sports in regard to payments made to players at Alabama, Tennessee and Mississippi State.

In that story you find real journalism. Detailed receipts, bank records, copies of checks, transcripts of text messages and emails are included in the report.  No need to look for smoke here, the Yahoo! report unleashed a roaring ball of flame.

And what’s the response to this point so far?  A collective national yawn.

ESPN, which built a bonfire on Auburn rumors and set it ablaze again for Manziel and the Cowboys scarcely mentioned the report. It was ignored despite the fact that there’s more actual documented concrete evidence of improprieties in one paragraph of the Yahoo! story than there is and was all the gallons of ink spilled over Auburn, OSU and Manziel combined to this point.

We cannot speak to the veracity of the allegations being brought against the OSU Cowboys.  We have no idea if what is alleged is true or not. We hope the allegations are just that, and there is no substance behind them.

We know that the allegations hurled against Auburn were false.

We know that there was no evidence that Manziel was paid for autographs.  NCAA said so.

It’s pretty difficult to deny copies of checks, receipts and transcripts, though. They are what they are.

CHECK!

CHECKMATE

At least in this case we won’t have to worry about Danny Sheridan searching for a phantom bagman. There are names and dates on the checks.

As observers, it’s fairly obvious that the method of attack, the faces behind it and the personal agendas that may be driving the assaults on Manziel and OSU seem remarkably similar those applied against Auburn.

This all feels awfully familar to an Auburn family that withstood months of rumor and innuendo.

Was the 2010 attack on Auburn because the program didn’t know its role? Because our Tigers dared to enter the national championship discussion with clearly the best player in decades at the helm? Were we grilled and drilled for being usurpers to the throne of the traditional powers?

Did Oklahoma State threaten to upset the applecart by positioning itself to possibly play for the national title a year ago?

ONE OF THESE THINGS IS NOT LIKE THE OTHER

ONE OF THESE THINGS IS NOT LIKE THE OTHER

Did Manziel’s cocky attitude offend the purists and challenge the staid powers that be?  Did he rile those same chirping purists who seem to have forgotten how they revel in the past exploits of players like Joe Namath and Kenny Stabler?

Eventually exonerated by the NCAA (and every other investigating body) our beloved Auburn program was still convicted in the court of public opinion by a lazy and agenda-driven media. We bear the scars of that trial by fire, even though none of it had any validity.

Manziel, despite being cleared by the NCAA and  forced to serve a farcical half game suspension, can never escape the Johnny Autograph tag no matter what he does on the field.

That’s the fate of Oklahoma State today. Regardless of the truth of the matter, their program has been forever branded. It doesn’t matter if every allegation is thoroughly and completely debunked and refuted. This stain will remain.

We’ve been there. Every allegation against Auburn was proved false. Every rumor was followed to its last wisp of smoke. There was nothing there. And still today we fight a perception that is absolutely baseless while the real violators — those who actually engaged in nefarious activities — sail on unscathed.

Will that continue now, even in the face of the hard cold facts detailed in the Yahoo! report?

Know your role, OSU.  How dare you make a BCS bowl, challenge for the national title, rebuild your program? Stay in your place and publications like SI won’t let people like Thayer Evans loose on you.

You remember Evans. He was front and center of the campaign against Cam Newton in 2010. He helped lead the torch and pitchfork charge with distorted facts, empty rumors, unverified allegations and unsupportable leaps of logic.  Maybe he hoped to make a name for himself with the house of cards he built against Auburn.

He’s back again, targeting another school with the same shady, unreliable and completely unprovable claims.

Respected journalist Jason Whitlock, who contributes to ESPN excoriated Evans and trashed the SI piece.

Having worked with Thayer Evans at Fox Sports, having followed his work for some time, I am completely and utterly flabbergasted that a legitimate news outlet would allow Thayer Evans to be involved in some type of investigative piece on college football that tears down a program, and particularly one that tears down Oklahoma State when it is no secret what a huge, enormous, gigantic Oklahoma homer Thayer Evans is. This is just incredible. Knowing the lack of competence that’s there with Thayer Evans, knowing the level of simplemindedness that’s there with Thayer Evans, to base any part of the story on his reporting is mind-boggling.

It’s worth noting here that Evans was once a beat reporter in Oklahoma, covering the Sooners, who provided a salacious (and refuted by everyone connected) report to the New York Times about the recruitment of a high school player who was strongly considering rival Texas. Thayer’s sketchy report helped influence the player to reject the Longhorns and sign with OU.

Just as in Evans’ sensational piece slamming Oklahoma State, the article on the Texas recruitment has just enough information to make it seem plausible while avoiding pesky little things like details.  It’s impossible to verify when all you have to go on is a vague  “some man I didn’t know offered me” type allegations. Evans provides essentially the same level of proof offered against both Texas in 2008 and Oklahoma State in 2012.

Evans springboarded from that to a regular post with the Times and then to a position with FoxSports, the platform from which he launched his dubious attacks on Auburn.

To Whitlock’s point, it’s a disgrace that Sports Illustrated would permit Evans, whose allegiance to Oklahoma is undeniable, to run point on a piece that tears down a rival, particularly if it bases that decision on the fact that the rival has emerged as a threat to the established powers. It smacks of the worst kind of bias and elitism.

It’s also curious that the litany of allegations detailed against OSU all seem to follow the same basic pattern as those leveled against Auburn.

We hope for the sake of college football that Evans is once again proven to be nothing more than a raker of muck who has all the credibility of a sea slug.  Even though it’s too late for OSU to avoid the damage to the public perception this series of articles has already caused, we can hope against hope that another abject reporting failure by Evans will finally render his career as impotent as his articles tend to be.

Know your role, Johnny Manziel. Otherwise a lawyer with Alabama ties might smear your name.

Is it a coincidence that the Alabama-educated lawyer who contacted reporters claiming that he was brokering deals to sell Manziel autographs is also the person who released a defamatory doctored video of Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn’s wife?  Is it further coincidence that this same lawyer wrote thousands of dollars worth of checks that are central to the Yahoo! report’s paper trail?

It’s no coincidence lawyer, sports agent and Alabama booster John Phillips was central to all three.

For years we’ve watched this charade in Tuscaloosa.

Struggle Over Wit? Or Just Beginning?

STRUGGLE OVER WIT?

Fishing trips. Laptops. Grade changes. Transcript alterations. Cash-laden tweets. Suit after suit after suit. Autograph signings. Sushi dinners. House sitting jobs. Rental cars.  ”Disassociated” boosters with obvious and often photographed access to the team and coaches.  Every bit of this well documented.

Is this pursued? No. Typically state media attempts to explain it all away and it is ignored nationally.

Instead the media sets the hounds loose to chase faint smoke and threadbare accusation against Auburn. Against Manziel. And now against Oklahoma State.

During the numerous investigations into Auburn in 2010, all of which turned up nothing, the media mantra was one of corruption, shame and disgrace.  Auburn was allegedly out of control and Newton, in particular was a pariah.

Where was that same outrage in the immediate aftermath of the Yahoo! release?  The spin coming from national pundits was “poor kids, coming from poor families, so what if they took money? Good for them!”

Dan Wetzel tugged on Hurricane Katrina heartstrings, noting:

ROOM FOR FOUR?

ROOM FOR FOUR?

It looks even worse when it argues that something horrible occurred if a kid such as D.J. Fluker, who grew up poor even before Hurricane Katrina left him homeless and sleeping in a car with four others, actually accepted some of the money that just about everyone was willing to throw at him because they’ve defined his worth as far greater than just tuition, room and board.

Really?  Was that before or after he put new rims on his gold Caddy?

Where was the “poor kids” angle when the media was relentlessly (and fruitlessly) pursuing Cam?

The NCAA investigated Auburn based on nothing more than a shadow. It dogged Manziel on the word of an Alabama booster. It’s opening the books on OSU on the vague supposed recollections of a handful of disgruntled former players as related by a fan of its major rival.

If the NCAA turns a blind eye to the Yahoo! report and its thoroughly researched, well documented account of flagrant violations at Alabama (and MSU and Tennessee) then we’ll all know.  If the national media continues to ignore the irrefutable transgressions outlined in the Yahoo! report then we’ll all know. We’ll know for sure that there are different sets of rules for different programs.

If the howling pack of jackals in the national media picks the Yahoo! report up and tears into it with the same breathless hysteria it did with the Auburn allegations and the Manziel autograph saga, then we’ll know that there are no sacred cows.

If the NCAA storms into Tuscaloosa with a team of investigators to leave no stone unturned, then we’ll know that the rules are the same for everybody and that there is some modicum of fairness in the application of those rules.

Until then, those schools that aren’t considered traditional powers need to know their role.  Otherwise someone with a personal agenda might decide to try and bury them.

 

 

 

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