Monday, March 30, 2009

Timing of the Yahoo! Article aka The Guillotine

Earlier today, we linked an article by Jason Whitlock criticizing Adrian Wojnarowski and Dan Wetzel and the timing of their report on the UConn recruiting scandal.

Maybe he judged too soon.

From a column by Jeff Jacobs of the Hartford Courant:

"We sent a FOI request for phone records several months earlier and were promised that they were coming very quickly on several occasions in the last couple of months," Wojnarowski said Sunday. "The records never came. It wasn't until we got our legal people involved to help us get UConn to honor the FOI that they finally provided the phone and text records."
When we did get them, the process of going through almost two years worth of phone records, identifying numbers, text messages, understanding the patterns and sequences, took more time," Wojnarowski said. "There was some more reporting we had to do based on the phone records, and from there we had to put together the complete story. We did all that within two weeks. The story was going to run the moment it was ready and up to our standards."
He does have a point. We are talking about a hall of fame coach and one of the top ten programs of the last 20 years. No matter when this report was released, it was going to be a huge deal.

But if it was released in, say, August, when the baseball pennant races are just starting to heat up and football is on the forefront of every red-blooded american's mind, would it have created as much of a stir as it did when released a few days before the Huskies were to take on Purdue in the Sweet 16?


In an era of internet journalism, where page views are absolutely everything, wouldn't these two journalists want a story that could very well define their career to get as much play as possible? Would they have spent an entire morning with their article all over sportscenter, doing a number of on-air phone interviews at the same time, were this to have been released at a time other than the NCAA Tournament, when an entire nation is wrapped up in college basketball and their tournament bracket?

Again, doubtful.

But I don't blame them. Hell, I probably would have done the same thing. To be honest, it has probably been a long time coming for this program. Duke Basketball Report says it best:
UNC has overcome a great deal this season and deserves respect for doing that. They’re not our choices, but they do deserve immense respect for their grittiness. Finally, after four years, they are taking on Tyler Hansbrough’s personality. On-court anyway.

And then there’s UConn. How to put this…UConn at times plays superb basketball. They’re smart, they’re fast, they shoot well, they’re sound in almost every area. And yet they’ve been dislikable for some time.

They beat Duke in 1999, of course, and knocked Duke out again in 2004. Losing isn’t the worst thing in the world. Duke’s had tremendous games with Michigan, for instance, for years. There’s still respect there. But with UConn? Not so much.

It began when UConn coach Jim Calhoun, instead of celebrating his own team’s win, bragged that UConn had “kicked some ass and broken some hearts” or words to that effect. It was kind of a stupid thing to say, and not particularly good sportsmanship, but that’s who he is. He’s a tremendous coach. He’s also cranky, obnoxious, and prone to shoot off his mouth at times when he could just as easily shut up. That whole deal with the overreaction to the reporter who was questioning his salary - it was a setup, but his reaction was perfectly in character.

Then of course there were the hints that not all was right at UConn. First it was the off-court behavior of Khalid El-Amin, who was busted for marijuana. Former Huskie Doug Wrenn was arrested for shoplifting. Then assistant Clyde Vaughan was arrested for solicitation and Antonio Kellogg for marijuana. Then of course there was the recruitment of Rudy Gay, with what amounted to a legal bribe to his AAU team, and LaptopGate, which saw former star Marcus Williams and current point A.J. Price arrested after stealing and fencing laptops from other students.

Did they get a break? Sure seemed like it.

Then there was the hilarious overbuying of NCAA rings, with one even going to the governor, and the deal where UConn athletic department officials were trading tickets for cars. It more or less amounted to scalping.

And now the latest, where we learn that a former student manager turned agent has allegedly been steering players to Storrs, allegedly paying for surgeries.

What UConn has done on the court has frequently been magnificent. But what they’ve done off of it has frequently stunk. It’s very hard to find anything admirable about them at this point. The current investigation will uncover whatever it uncovers, but at this point, after everything else that’s gone on, UConn’s reputation is shot.
It is probably too much for Husky fans to hope for that this report won't tarnish Calhoun's legacy and won't but a giant question mark next to their success's of the last fifteen years. What they should be hoping is that the NCAA doesn't use this as an opportunity to make an example out of the Huskies and throw the book at them.

This very well could be the proverbial "death penalty" for this UConn program.

Enjoy this Final Four while it lasts. It could be the last one for a long time.

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