The OSU-Sports Illustrated saga is technically a football story, but since a former golf coach is in charge of cleaning up whatever mess this leaves behind, I’ll use that as a flimsy excuse to add my two cents.
Despite SI’s use of all the modern technology to present the story, it all seemed out of time and place, an anachronism from an era when SI, due to its immense credibility, could shock us and cause real concern. John Underwood handled these type of investigative stories back in the day. When he wrote "The Death of an American Game" about the seamy side of college football in 1979, all of us young collegiate sportswriters bought it and read every word. If Underwood and SI said we needed to be worried about this – whatever this was at the time – and clean it up, we believed them.
It wasn’t just Underwood. It was Frank DeFord, Dan Jenkins, Curry Kirkpatrick, Jack McCallum, Tex Maule or Ron Fimrite. If it was in SI, there was an inherent collective trust built up.
Sorry, but Thayer Evans, listed as a senior writer, doesn’t inspire the same trust. For one thing, I don’t associate his name with any particular reporting in the magazine, and I still receive the print edition every week. It seems a huge mistake for SI to allow him to be involved. Regardless of whether any of the OU-OSU stuff that has been slung around is true, just the perception that he might be biased has cast a shadow over the entire report.
Another major problem for SI is in all the video pieces they’ve done this week, even when answering softball questions from their own employees, the editors have been unconvincing except to themselves that this story is of any lasting importance. Is it because we’re so jaded to these types of allegations? Or is it because we know something much bigger is on the immediate horizon, something that could make the $100 handshake either a thing of the past or perfectly legal.
The college football landscape is on the verge of huge, fundamental changes. Pay for play is coming. Players may be able to market themselves to some degree and keep money for things like autographs. The big schools are about to band together into a super group with its own laws and rule books. The NCAA and BCS could both be outdated. Could a new governing body emerge? What will it look like? How will it work?
A 10-month investigation resulting in a thoughtful series looking ahead to those changes (or showing the way) would have been a much better use of SI’s time and resources. How will the new order end sham-amateurism? How will it change the behaviors outlined in the report fromOSU or other college football powers? What will happen to the schools left out, like the University of Tulsa? Tell us that, and maybe regain some of the trust we used to have in SI.
Ken MacLeod – Editor