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Bama Says It’s Clear; Website Has More Questions

Good morning.  Let’s start where the big news always seems to be when it comes to the SEC — in the state of Alabama.  And like so many stories over the past few months, the big news of the day revolves around a potential football scandal at Alabama or Auburn.  Today it’s Alabama. 

Give it a week.

In this case, if it’s found that Tide players were paid for autographs or given merchandise at discounted rates by a Tuscaloosa menswear shop, those players could be ruled ineligible (or retroactively ineligible).  Think Ohio State.  Free tattoos brought down that program and have led to the vacation of a season’s worth of victories.  (The cover-up cost Jim Tressel his job, too.)

Players also are not allowed to have their likenesses used as advertising for a product or a shop, either.  It doesn’t look like that’s what’s been going on, but it’s part of this “investigation.”

The gist of the new info:


1.  UA put out a press release yesterday stating that it had found no violations of NCAA rules in its own investigation into the connection between multiple past and present players with a Tuscaloosa menswear store and its owner (who had Tide sideline passes in 2009 and 2010).

2.  The school released a letter that it sent to Tom Albetar — the store owner — on March 31st telling him that he was being disassociated from the program for three years.  Alabama had also sent him a cease-and-desist letter in December instructing him to stop selling merchandise featuring UA players’ autographs.

3.  Players like former Tide quarterback Greg McElroy are now coming forward to say that Albetar never paid them for their signatures.  Ex-player Chris Rogers said: “He’d (say), ‘Hey guys, I like you guys, but nothing is going to be free or discounted in there.  You have to pay for everything, because they’re watching me.  He would always say that, and he always would make sure you bought everything for what it was (worth).”

4.  Bama officials have still not filed a report with the SEC or NCAA, suggesting that they feel quite buttoned-up on this issue.

5.  Nick Saban spoke about the situation on KESN-FM in Dallas yesterday: “… Our compliance people have been on top of this for a long time.  I think this is an example of… it’s not a violation if you sign a shirt for somebody, you just can’t receive compensation for it.  We’ve done a cease-and-desist with this establishment a long time ago to make sure everybody understands what players can and can’t do.  You know, I guess I could ban our players from the place but until somebody can sorta convince me that somebody is doing something wrong — which I haven’t been convinced of yet — I don’t know if that’s fair to our players.”

6.  Meanwhile, the site OutkickTheCoverage.com — which happened to start this tempest with a launch-week story that ran just hours before Nick Saban’s SEC Media Days press conference — continues to ask questions.

7.  UA officials says they did discuss the matter with the SEC office.  The site questions why Bama officials initially said they did not file a report only to later come back and say that they did talk with the SEC. (Of course, it’s possible that there’s a difference between talking to the SEC office and filing a report.  Seems rather obvious to us.)

8.  The site also wonders what happened between last December’s cease-and-desist letter and the March letter disassociating Albetar from the program.  If nothing illegal was taking place, why was the second letter necessary?  That’s a good question.

9.  Here’s one of the site’s queries (verbatim): “Do you think Alabama would have ever released this letter without OKTC and the huge audience we’ve already created in less than a week pursuing this story?” 


On that front, we get to the meat of this story.  OutkickTheCoverage.com pulled a launch week coup by posting photos — and there’s no doubt in our minds those photos were sent to them by an Auburn-backer or 40 — of Bama players with Albetar.  In this day and age, that qualifies as “investigative journalism.”

Get a photo.  Post it.  Say “what’s up with that?” and then sit back and see where it goes.  When someone provides an answer, question the answer.  We’ve seen this same type of thing play out at SportsByBrooks.com again and again, too. 

It’s good business.

Clay Travis — the man behind OutkickTheCoverage.com — is an extremely sharp guy with an entertaining writing style.  He also would do anything for a pageview.  Nothing wrong with that, we suppose, as that’s how the business works.

Two years ago, Travis asked Tim Tebow at SEC Media Days if he still had his virginity.  Many laughed.  A few old-timers — like those of here at MrSEC.com — cringed at the line he had crossed.  That question was further proof that “old school” sports coverage was becoming more of a “National Enquirer,” “TMZ” style coverage.  You know why?  ‘Cause folks eat that stuff up.  Somebody’s been buying The Enquirer for all these years.

OutkickTheCoverage might have just found some real dirt on Alabama in this case.  It might lead to the downfall of its football program.  (Just as one of the 50 Auburn stories SportsByBrooks posted in the past 12 months might eventually damage the Tiger program.)

But we think this is a fishing expedition.  We feel the NCAA needs to get involved at this point to do some real legwork on the story… so we are not downplaying what OKTC has found.  We’re just suggesting that their method of investigation was pretty loose.

The trouble with sites like OutkickTheCoverage and SportsByBrooks is that they could post questionable photos of any program in the country.  While it doesn’t excuse a school’s actions, there’s some real truth in the old, “everybody does it,” line.  In this day and age, no player can be photographed with a booster, in a store or out to dinner without the photographer gaining the ability to start a controversy. 

It begins with a “What’s he doing there?” post.  Ten days later we may find that the player was doing nothing wrong at all.  Or we might find that John Edwards really was having an affair (to put things in a National Enquirer perspective).

These “investigations” aren’t “60 Minutes” in nature.  They’re much more toss-it-to-the-wall-and-see-what-sticks.

In this case, Alabama had better hope the photos OutkickTheCoverage has thrown against the wall don’t stick.  Or else the Tide could be on a Buckeye-like path to serious trouble.

 


21 comments
Kaleb
Kaleb

John,

I've been selectively reading your stuff on MRSEC.com for the past couple of months, and most of what I've read seems to carry the theme of snarky criticism of other media outlets, under the imaginary ausipices of being above them, and the theme of self-congratulation of past successes. Is this the basis for your journalistic approach? I especially resent the use of the third-person plural (we at MRSEC.com) to repeatedly justify the beliefs you espouse simply because more than one person may (or may not) hold them.

I've don't see many other journalists (I use the term to encompass anyone who professes to report from a factual basis) taking these approaches, and I find the whole strategy to be a tawdry way to gain an audience. It seems you're trying to insincerely maintain journalistic integrity by constantly taking an adversarial stance to the integrity of fellow media.

In the past couple of months, I've seen you lament the oncoming new media multiple times. You're SERIOUSLY going to go onto the internet to complain about people who use the internet? REALLY?! The truth is, in the present reality, new media is a permanent establishment, and nobody needs your dearly-held qualifications anymore to be a journalist. Although I couldn't agree less with the overall message of their brand, as Hardees says, "that's just the way it is".

johnmrsec
johnmrsec

Kaleb...

No one here has said we're above any of these sites. If you can find that typed out somewhere, please let me know.

We do, however, explain our feelings on the way stories are covered. Personally, I went to school in the communications/journalism field. I've been working in radio, television, print, internet or some mix of the four since I was a senior in high school. I don't feel that WE in the media do a great job at times. I also have a problem with the fact that many people now in the media have no ethics, because they've had no training. Not everyone, of course, but some. (If you choose to view writings on "Bleacher Reports" and consider that journalism, that's your prerogative.)

This site isn't about journalism -- and neither is OutkickTheCoverage.com (which was the point of the above piece). They're smart business men and good writers and they know how to draw traffic. But posting a photo and saying, "What's up with that," is not journalism.

Here's what we do around here because some folks can't seem to grasp it:

1. We try to bring you all the major stories from around the SEC everyday. So you never miss a big story (or most small ones, either). It's a free service and if you don't appreciate that, feel free to go elsewhere.

2. We give you our opinions on those stories. It's commentary. Agree with it, disagree with it, fine. (Unfortunately, when people disagree they usually decide to go ugly, too.)

3. Those opinions might deal with the subject of the story, the manner in which a story is presented, or the credibility of the people reporting the story. Again, this is opinion. You don't have to read it.

We do our thing here. We don't do what others do. If you like what we do, great. If you don't -- as you noted -- there are all kinds of other people covering different stories in different ways.

We don't view ourselves as better than SportsByBrooks or OutkickTheCoverage. They do more business than we do. But we do often try to explain why we're more cautious reporting on their reports... than they are in their reports. We don't have the same view of our job that they do.

To suggest that NPR, Howard Stern and Rush Limbaugh all view their shared medium in the same way would be just as ridiculous.

We aren't journalists here, but we try to stick to the ethics lessons we learned in college and in practice over the past 20 years.

If that's not good enough for you or if you don't like the opinion we share, that's okay. SportsByBrooks and OutkickTheCoverage will be glad to have you.

But as long as we're here, we're going to be open about what we write and why we write it. And if we sometime suggest that other sites have posted something that we wouldn't, so be it.

(Also, the third-person plural is used because there are three of us working at this site. You'll see a lot I's on the site too.)

John

BamaDave
BamaDave

John(Mr.SEC),
I have been reading your website for about two years now and absolutely love it. I don't post that often because most people just want to argue or pick apart the grammatical errors so I liken it to arguing with a fence post or throwing jello at a ceiling fan. With that being said, I appreciate the way you handle things here. The site is very informative yet continues to stay objective. As for Clay Travis, it may be good business at the moment but he won't keep page views high if he continues to, at the risk of sounding like a pure redneck, piss in his punch bowl. I have purchased his books in the past and really enjoyed them. I knew he was a Vols homer but I never considered him the shock jock type to drum up pure crap just to pimp his site. He may be garnering a few fans at the moment, most notably Vols and Tiger fans but when he is also loosing a lot of his base. I will never purchase another of his books and haven't nor will I look at his site. Come to think of it, I have never been on the sports by brooks site either. When I want information about what is happening in the SEC generally come to this site first. So, for what it is worth, thanks for covering it, but more importantly thanks for the way you do business. There is something to be said for a little bit of honor in media. Something most of the media folks seem to have forgotten about in the past ten years or so.

textbook journalism
textbook journalism

http://outkickthecoverage.com/how-in-the-world-co...

Have you seen the latest Clay Travis article ?

The best blunder yet. He posts a pic of a kiosk selling Bama gear claiming it is outside T-town Mens Wear in Tuscaloosa Mall...

ONLY... turns out it was taken at the Galleria in Birmingham, and is 100% unrelated to T-town Mens Wear owner. Better, Clay spent 3 days at that very mall just last week at Media Days!!

also, that very picture, if you look closely, not only has jerseys by Julio, Dareus, & Ingram... but they are side by side with signed jerseys of Cam Newton, Michael Dyer, & Ontario McCaleb!!!

you just cant make this stuff up... Well, nevermind... I guess Clay Travis can

retraction
retraction

think he will post a retraction or correct that mistake and update the article with the correct info?

its only been brought to his attention in the comments about 50 times

somehow, I doubt it

Can't wait for tomorrow's earth shattering fabricated story!!!

RonMexic0
RonMexic0

"8. The site also wonders what happened between last December’s cease-and-desist letter and the March letter disassociating Albetar from the program. If nothing illegal was taking place, why was the second letter necessary? That’s a good question."

That's the only major question he's raised since that I think could be the most concerning for Alabama fans. But even then it could easily be explained by any number of benign reasons as we simply don't know the whole back story. The rest of his more recent questions are all just trying to pick apart tiny details from answers from multiple sources from a large entity (which are rarely going to be in lock step anyway as different people in an organization may only know different parts of a broader story - particularly if they personally considered it a non-story.)

I actually like Clay and find him entertaining - on the radio. But what concerns me is that he (and sites like SportsbyBrooks - which he's clearly modeled himself on) can just throw any wild speculation out there now. And because of the Ohio St. situation this particular scenario is more topical so it looks even worse than it would have a couple years ago. But after initially thinking this might have some merit I'm increasingly getting the impression that this is just like all the old 'how can that player afford that car' pictures we've seen tossed around rival message boards for years now.

govols
govols

black people cant afford $200 suits

-Clay Travis

W. Stewart
W. Stewart

Well surely everyone knows that Clay Travis is simply a Tennessee Vols homer who poses as a legite sports journalist, don't they? If not, go do some research on this clown. Misery loves company, and he'd love to make a buck and feel better at the same time with an archrival school being brought into the penalty box with his Vols. There's not much worse in the sports media industry than a homer trying to come off as a levies writer. For an example, just go check out the Bleachers Report. This is a nonstory and I just hope that folks write off this clown when they realize it as the biased, skewed and illegitimate piece that it is.

Ira McGee
Ira McGee

"Get a photo. Post it. Say “what’s up with that?” and then sit back and see where it goes. When someone provides an answer, question the answer. We’ve seen this same type of thing play out at SportsByBrooks.com again and again, too.

It’s good business."

So if I have a picture of you and a kid, I can post it on the Internet and ask if John Pennington is a pedophile and then "sit back and see where it goes"? THAT'S good business?

page views
page views

If all you are after is page views... that will surely get the for you

so if you look at it like that, its good business

however, if you destroy your reputation in the process- maybe not so great for you 5 year business model

johnmrsec
johnmrsec

Ira McGee...

I think we made it quite clear that that kind of "investigation" isn't our style. I think we made it pretty clear that we think it's National Enquirer type journalism.

But, yes, it would get you pageviews, as we stated.

I'm often amazed at how poor people's reading skills are.

John

page views
page views

I understood what you were saying

Good Business usually means doing something that is at least borderline unethical

Business doesnt care about feelings or morals, it cares only about the bottom line

johnmrsec
johnmrsec

Ira McGee...

And it IS good business. That site is getting traffic and making money because of that story. Good business = pageviews, traffic, and money.

But you still take line that completely out of context, because we made it clear that's not the way we believe "investigations" should be handled.

Here's another example -- It's good business to force out your partner in a company if you see that you can make twice as much money. From a pure business sense, you're making double the cash. However... that doesn't mean it's the right thing to do. Good business doesn't equal right.

I think my feelings on this issue were clear in the piece. I would not change a word of what I wrote. It's clear to all but those who A) aren't great readers or B) scan entire articles looking for lines to complain about.

John

Ira McGee
Ira McGee

John, you didn't just say lying college football players would get pageviews, you said "It's good business."

I'm often amazed at how poor people's writing skills are.

page views
page views

It certainly worked pretty well for Glenn Beck...

Tyler B
Tyler B

I find it very interesting that ESPN has yet to mention it in any way on their site as of this morning. A site that often leads the charge on things such as this is errily silent, so either the dam is about to break - which I don't believe it is - or ESPN has nothing to report.

BamaCLT
BamaCLT

There's a link on there under the NCAA FB section.

johnmrsec
johnmrsec

BamaCLT...

With no mention of OutkickTheCoverage.com, I might add.

John

johnmrsec
johnmrsec

Tyler B...

ESPN often avoids giving any credit to any other site's investigation. Whether it's deserved or not.

I guarantee you Joe Schad is calling around on this one right now, however.

Doesn't mean he'll find anything.

John

Doc Johnson
Doc Johnson

John, this story is OVER.

You posted "He(Travis) also would do anything for a pageview. Nothing wrong with that..." There is nothing wrong with telling lies to tarnish the image of college football players and their schools? Do you really believe that? Or, are you just after page view? John, you once referred to yourself as a journalist. Act like one.

johnmrsec
johnmrsec

Doc Johnson...

You're not a very good reader. You're taking an excerpt of my comments and ignoring the entire point of the piece. I made it quite clear that we don't post photos sent to us just for pageviews. I compared that style of "investigative journalism" to TMZ and The National Enquirer.

However, from a pure business sense there IS nothing wrong with that. I guarantee you Clay Travis' photos-first approach will draw bigger traffic than our more measured approach. (Our sites do two different things though... he posts a story or two a day... we cover about 50 with links and opinions... big difference.)

As someone who's worked in the media for 20 years, I'm set in my ways. I'd love to get a million pageviews a day, but I'm not going to post a photo I know nothing about just in the hopes that it will get take off and become a real story. I think that IS acting like a journalist (though I don't recall ever arrogantly claiming in a story that we at MrSEC.com are out to be Edward R. Murrow or something).

But for you to take one line totally out of context because you don't like me, well... if you want to be considered an intelligent reader, maybe you should "act like one."

John



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