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Rumors And Taking Credit Where Credit Isn’t Due: The Key To Web Success

When it comes to web traffic, the site SportsByBrooks.com knows how to get it.  From numerous stories about Auburn’s “illegal” activities to a wave (a Tidal wave, perhaps?) of photos showing Alabama players posing for photos at a menswear shop in Tuscaloosa, the folks at SportsByBrooks know how to get eyeballs — you run with hypotheticals, possibilities and rumors.

It’s a gold mine.  And if a rumor turns out to be true — boom — you “broke the story.”  If it doesn’t… no harm, no foul.

This week, SportsByBrooks set off a flurry of activity in the Twitterverse and Blogosphere by tweeting the following:

Hearing from multiple sources that high profile SEC coach will quit at end of season b/c of conflicts w/ AD

Not Joker, Nutt or Richt.

Cue the speculation.  The website FitsNews.com — which bills itself as “Unfair.  Imblanced.” — believes Steve Spurrier could be the coach to say bye-bye.

The site says its’ sources “say that they heard the rumor about Spurrier leaving at the end of the 2011 season ‘months ago.’”

From the handling of Stephen Garcia’s situation — which Spurrier never seemed to be in 100% agreement with — to the way the school’s administration handled his recent calling out of Columbia columnist Ron Morris, Spurrier hitting the exit makes sense.

But that’s the beauty of the blind item rumor.  If any coach not named Joker, Nutt or Richt leaves at the end of the season, the SportsByBrooks rumor can and will be called true.  Whether it’s factually true or not.

In Spurrier’s case, it’s possible that a coach could just get tired of having a struggling offense, isn’t it?

Seeing the success of SportsByBrooks, national freelance columnist Clay Travis decided to follow the model and by launching OutKickTheCoverage.com.  His first uber-story: photos of Bama players posing at a Tuscaloosa menswear store.  It was his story that SportsByBrooks picked up and ran with for days on end.  (For the record, nothing ever came of the numerous SportsByBrooks posts regarding Auburn and the NCAA has yet to get involved in the T-Town Menswear story.)

OutKickTheCoverage has exploded on the scene following SportsByBrooks’ plan — two or three stories per week, a healthy dose of cynicism, and plenty of rumors.  Travis is also a very witty writer.

But OutKickTheCoverage also is big on taking credit for things.  All kinds of things.  It’s the reason you’ve seen us start saying, “Hey, we were right about this months ago,” more often on our own site.

Yesterday, OutKickTheCoverage posted a story on Tony Barnhart’s involvement in the SEC’s accidentally-released dossier on Missouri last week.  It’s a good piece.  It examines whether or not Barnhart crossed a line with his CBS bosses by not reporting on the “hypothetical” Missouri-story the SEC website workers asked him about.

In what’s becoming a somewhat common move at that site, they said no one else on the web had even asked a question about Barnhart’s journalistic integrity in this matter:

“I did a Google search to find someone who even mentioned Barnhart’s conflict publicly.

Do you know how many results I got?

Zero.”

That’s funny.  ‘Cause when I did a Google search this morning of Barnhart + Missouri (searching under “news” of course, lest I get links to the town of Barnhart, Missouri), I found the following at the tip top of the page:

1.  Leaked Missouri to the SEC story raises serious ethical questions

That’s from the Capstone Report, an Alabama-centric site that posted its story six days ago.  That was the morning after the Barnhart Q&A appeared on the web.

2.  Questions Raised By Accidental Web Post

Uh, that one was from some site called MrSEC.com.  We also posted our story the morning after the web leak.  And we were the first site — as far as we can tell from searching the web and from looking all over the place that day — to reach out to Barnhart for a comment.  The comment he gave to us later popped up on his Twitter account and he’s repeated it numerous times to other outlets following up, like OutKickTheCoverage.  (For the record, knowing Barnhart, we gave him the benefit of the doubt.  You’ll notice that we also guessed — from the wording of the Q&A — that the “hypothetical questions” defense might be appropriate.)

3.  A link to the site TeamSpeedKills.com also popped up in our simple Google search, though not in headline form.

That site also raised the issue of Barnhart’s involvement with the SEC.

The folks at OutKickTheCoverage are sharp, witty and bigger than us.  A tip of the cap to them.

But that doesn’t mean they can do unto others as they so often complain ESPN does unto them.  If they think they can act like they’re the only site that exists and the rest of the world will let them, uh, no, that won’t happen.

In recent weeks, we’ve taken to point out when we’ve been right on a story and when we’ve been first on a story.  We get a few negative comments each time we do it.

Now you know why we do it.

If we report from May of 2010 to September of 2011 that the SEC could still possibly launch its own SEC television network, we’ll point that out.  Because we know live in a world where someone can come out after our most recent posting on that subject with “breaking news” that the SEC — can you believe it! — could start its own SEC Network.  Whoda thunk it?

Look, we don’t want a war.  The other guy’s got a national name and a pricier eduction than the guys here at MrSEC.  We’d lose that battle.

But we also don’t want to have to spend our time responding to questions about another guy’s report… a report that actually came a week after we covered the same topic and got the first comments from the person involved.

Fair is fair.  We’ve linked you to SportsByBrooks.com and OutKickTheCoverage.com a number of times.  They know how to get readers.  And some of their stuff is A-1 fantastic.

We only ask that if someone claims that he’s the only person to cover something — based on a Google search — that he actually learns how to do a Google search before making such a claim.

(And if someone has real information on a coach who might step down, go ahead and post that.  It won’t burn a source.  There are thousands of sources at every school.  Blind items for fun are one thing… blind items as “news” are something else entirely.)

There should be room enough for everyone on this here web without having to claim other people haven’t done their jobs, when they actually did theirs first.

As far as this site is concerned, if we say, “We told you so,” it means we told you so.  If we say, “We mentioned this as a possibility,” that means we mentioned the possibility, not that we “broke the story.”  And if we say we were first, it means we’re darn sure of the fact that we actually were first.

All it takes is a well-executed Google search to find who’s said what and when.

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The A&M/SEC Mating Dance – Morning Edition

With Texas A&M’s decision yesterday to give president R. Bowen Loftin the power to explore conference alignment options, the school and the Southeastern Conference continued to glide toward one another in what appears to be a pretty elaborate mating dance.  For decades the two parties have talked behind closed doors, flirted, and — as was the case last summer — come tantalizingly close to consummating their relationship.  This thing is Ross and Rachel on a much larger and much more entertaining scale.

We’ll have plenty of opinion as the day wears on, but first we wanted to get you up to speed on what everyone else is saying this morning. 

Some claim that the SEC and A&M will get together in just a matter of days.  Others are claiming that in the end the Aggies will stay put in the Big 12.  But as we’ve noted before — and has been proven out time and again — when you’re talking about major moves like this, the safe bet is to expect smaller moves and slower periods of time than the Twitter/messageboard crowd want to suggest. 

There’s a whole lot of disinformation being kicked around right now.  Remember that — as we try to do — while sifting through all of the following opinions:


1.  Andy Staples of SI.com provides an excellent overview for those who are trying to come to grips with the ins and outs of this process.

2.  Ron Higgins of The Memphis Commercial-Appeal caught up with former SEC commish Roy Kramer and ex-A&M/MSU coach Jackie Sherrill to discuss the A&M/SEC situation.  Sherrill says the deal will go through and that attorneys for the SEC slowed down the chase.  Kramer explains why A&M wants out of the Big 12:


“From Day 1 in our league, everybody was on equal footing and that was especially important in our previous expansion process.  Nobody was going to get a special deal to join the league, everybody was going to be one and the same.  That unity has always been one of the great strengths in this conference.

A&M and some of those other Big 12 schools face some tough, hard decisions, because they’ve allowed that (Texas) situation to go on.  That’s no way to run a railroad the way they (the Big 12) are trying to run that one.  You can’t have one engine running down a track that’s totally separate from the other 11 engines.”


3.  Sherrill also believes that recruiting will improve for A&M and the SEC’s schools (Arkansas especially) if/when the parties unite.

4.  Sam Mellinger of The Kansas City Star has a source who believes A&M will wind up staying in the Big 12.

5.  The story is now making the rounds that a recent phone conversation between Mike Slive and Big 12 commissioner Dan Beebe became quite heated.

UPDATE — Apparently Beebe didn’t view the conversation as “heated.”

6.  OutkickTheCoverage.com brings you a simplified breakdown of how ESPN — which has way too many fingers in way too many pies — will wind up at the center of this entire situation.  The network’s deal with Texas might force the Big 12 to break up… which could save the network money on its Big 12 contract… but could cost the network more money on the SEC end if A&M moves east.  Follow that?  Clay Travis does an excellent job of laying out the details right here.  (This beats the hell out of following the SportsByBrooks’ “release a photo and gossip” model.  Kudos to Travis for this one.)

7.  Dennis Dodds of CBSSports.com provides further info on ESPN’s involvement in this mess.

8.  Here’s an overview of the situation from a University of Texas perspective.

9.  The New York Times reports that NCAA president Mark Emmert is talking to conference commissioners about trying to handle expansion in a less canibalistic way.  (One, he has no power to enforce that and two, has any conference thanked another for taking one of its teams?  I don’t recall the Big Ten catching heat for swiping Nebraska.  Of the Pac-12 for trying to grab half the Big 12.)

10.  The Washington Post jumps on the “it’s all about the money” train.  (Can someone please point out to me a business that is not all about the money?)

11.  Some are already pushing Texas politicians to push (in turn) Houston into the Big 12 as a replacement for A&M… which hasn’t officially left yet.

12.  A&M’s president said he’s going to take his time in making a “100-year decision.”

13.  A political battle is brewing over all of this.  Some Texas, Texas Tech and Baylor backing politicians are already floating the idea that A&M’s departure might lead to economic destruction for the state.  (Yeesh.)  Well, Texas governor Rick Perry — a powerful A&M alum — is trying to downplay such spin:


“I’m sure when the Southwest Conference was disintegrated, there were those who thought it was the end of the world.  I’m sure when Colorado and Nebraska left (the Big 12) to go to their respective conferences, there were naysayers.  My instinct is that no matter what happens, we’ll wake up and the sun will still come up from the east.”


14.  It looks like Texas is leaning toward not playing A&M if the Aggies leave the Big 12.  Where’s the political pressure telling the Longhorns that they’ll hurt the Lone Star State if they act so selfishly?

15.  Andy Kats of ESPN.com looks at A&M-to-the-SEC from a hoops perspective.

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The T-Town Menswear Story Isn’t Going Away As Websites Keep Digging

The good folks at OutkickTheCoverage.com and SportsByBrooks.com aren’t letting the T-Town Menswear story drift into the backpages of the internet.  Both have posted new info on the maybe-it-is/maybe-it-isn’t scandal in the past 24 hours.

First… OKTC reports that they have photographic evidence that there were “autographed jerseys from current players at multiple locations.”  And those jerseys were for sale, which suggests either a) the players might have been rewarded in some way for their signatures or b) the players were helping a business promote itself.  Case a) would be a violation of NCAA rules and case b) could be viewed as a violation. 

The site also takes issue with the idea that Bama’s players didn’t know their signatures were being sold:


“… Would any reasonable person with even a smidge of intelligence not notice if they signed a jersey for T-Town Menswear one day and the next day or shortly thereafter it was for sale at a kiosk in the same mall?  Then, if after seeing this you went back and continued to sign autographs, would you lose all ability to play the “I didn’t know,” defense?

I think so.  And I think the NCAA will agree with me.”


The site adds this as well:


“So (Tuesday’s) announcement (from UA) was a bombshell.  A very bad bombshell for the Crimson Tide program.  Prior to now Alabama had been trying to hide the fact that it had been compelled to disassociate (store owner Tom) Albetar.  Now we all know.  And so does the NCAA.

Good luck with that.”


I find it odd that an SEC fan is rejoicing so in the possible downfall of an SEC team.  Clay Travis — the author of the story — is a Tennessee fan.  He makes that clear in this “manifesto” that explains exactly what his site is all about. 

If you’re an SEC fan — you listening Bama and Auburn-backers — the downfall of a rival program only hurts the league.  If a school is out buying players and handing out car keys to recruits, fine, take ‘em down.  But these kinds of shenanigans can be found at major schools all across the country.  If Alabama or Auburn or another SEC program gets taken to the woodshed to the point that its banned from television — unlikely but possible — then CBS and ESPN would likely have the ability to rework their contracts with the SEC.

“Hooray, we brought down Bama!  And cost our favorite school millions in the process.” 

And if the NCAA hammer falls on one SEC school, the reputation of all SEC schools will suffer.  You better believe that one.  Who knows what that would do for the votes of pollsters?  If too many people view the SEC as dirty, it could cost an SEC team a BCS title shot somewhere down the road.  Just something to think about before you email your favorite scandal-driven website photos of Nick Saban or Gene Chizik shaking hands with Muammar Gaddafi.

Now, someone will no doubt claim that we’re saying a true SEC fan would ignore or cover these types of stories up.  Not so.  We at MrSEC.com just don’t understand the pure joy some folks get from ripping down a rival program.


Meanwhile, on the site SportsByBrooks, a photo showing Heisman hopeful Trent Richardson is posted today.  He’s wearing a red jacket while signing a framed print of Alabama football players.  The site’s headline: “Why is Richardson Signing With a Suit Jacket On?”  The clear inference being that Richardson is wearing a coat given to him in exchange for signing merchandise. 

Seems like a bit of a leap to us.  In fact, this just looks like another photo dump.  As was the case with much of the “evidence” against Cam Newton and Auburn, the word “circumstantial” keeps popping into our heads.

Sure these photos and this situation looks bad for Alabama.  For that matter, it looked like Casey Anthony had killed her daughter.  But no one could prove it.  And so far, we’ve seen no proof of any type of payment going from Albetar to Bama players.  Just as we saw no hard evidence of Auburn paying the Newtons a single dime.

What you and I think — and what OutkickTheCoverage and SportsByBrooks post — won’t matter to the NCAA.  They’ll be looking for proof, evidence, and a smoking gun.  If they don’t find it, T-Town Menswear might disappear quicker than Scott Moore’s tapes (which I’m still told via email “are going to come out”).  In Moore’s case, we said “produce the tapes.”  Now we say, produce the proof.

Until that happens, this is just more “throw it against the wall and see what sticks” traffic-generation from a couple of very well-run sites.

The questions raised by their photo dumps need to be answered by someone at this point.  Only it won’t be OutkickTheCoverage, SportsByBrooks, MrSEC.com, ILoveBama.net, or ImABarner.org that Tide officials will be answering to.  It will most likely be NCAA investigators.

With as much pub as this story has gotten in the past week, it’s hard to imagine NCAA officials won’t drop by Tuscaloosa for a quick Q&A at some point.

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Petrino’s Son Arrested In Indiana On Eve Of SEC Media Days

On the eve of SEC Media Days, Bobby Petrino’s 23-year-old son, Dominic, has been arrested in Indiana.  The younger Petrino was charged with driving while intoxicated, possession of marijuana, illegal possession of prescription drugs and possession of paraphernalia.

The coach issued a statement yesterday afternoon:


“Nick is our son, he is not a member of the Arkansas football team.  As such, this is not a University of Arkansas issue.  Instead, it is a family matter and a legal matter.  My family will trust and respect the legal system and will not comment outside that process.  Becky and I ask that you appreciate and respect the private nature of this issue and understand our lack of further comment.”


Two questions immediately come to mind:


1.  Will this be a distraction for Petrino heading into football season? 

How could it not be?  That said, it’s doubtful that the distraction will be so bad that it impacts Petrino’s ability to prepare his team.  It will likely be on his mind, but it likely won’t have an effect on the Razorbacks’ record.


2.  Will the reporters at SEC Media Days bring this up or give Petrino a pass?  (Petrino will be among the first people to speak tomorrow in Hoover.)

The timing simply could not have been much worse for Petrino.  Not only will he face the press in Hoover, Alabama, but some of that “press” is now made up of web writers who a) have allegiances to teams and b) have no problem wearing those allegiances on their sleeves.  In other words, Petrino not only has to worry that a reporter might ask about the situation — and someone probably will — but he also must be concerned that an LSU or Alabama fan taking part in the proceedings could keep asking about the situation.

Having been to SEC Media Days on multiple occasions, there’s usually a spirit of goodwill in those halls.  With the exception of Clay Travis’ “virgin” question for Tim Tebow a couple of years back, it’s typically not a gotcha!-type setting.  For that reason, we don’t think — think, mind you — that the story of Petrino’s son will be too hot a topic in Hoover.


(Before someone comments that we are parading as real journalists, notice that we made no such comment.  This is a website.  We bring you information and opinion.  Though the people involved in this site have all worked in the mainstream media and most have been schooled in journalism ethics, we know that as a website some of you just aren’t going to trust us.  And that’s fine.  Those who read this site regularly will.  Our regular readers know that we started this site with the goal of covering all 12 SEC schools with complete impartiality — which is probably why we’ve been called a lover/hater of every school in the league at this point.  Those people who know us personally also know that we don’t pull for any one SEC school.  And we sure wouldn’t show up at SEC Media Days in team-specific gear as some of the writers we mentioned above will.  It would have been easy for us to ignore this topic and avoid any comment/email-generated controversy.  But if Petrino is peppered with questions about his son, we believe it’s important you keep in mind that there will be some seasoned journalists in Hoover… as well as a few flat-out fans.  It will be interesting to see who asks what of Arkansas’ coach.  Here’s hoping he’s asked about his football team and not about his son.)

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Vols To Receive Letter Early This Week?

Since December, the University of Tennessee athletic department has been waiting on an official letter of allegations from the NCAA.  And since December, reports have trickled out roughly every six hours claiming that the letter of allegations was on its way. 

Well we’re now in late February and yet another report has been floated that the letter’s in the mail. 

Clay Travis of Fanhouse.com has posted the following on Twitter today:


“Multiple sources close to investigation confirm that UT will receive the official NCAA letter early this week.”

“Vols will officially release the NCAA letter within 24 hours of hard copy receipt.  That will be later in the week.”


Today is Tuesday, so “early in the week” would likely mean the letter will arrive in Knoxville today.  Which means tomorrow could be D-Day for UT.  Or Thursday.  Or Friday.  Or sometime next week.

Again, we’ve been hearing these reports for a while now.

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Slive Says Suspension Of Pearl Due To “Established Facts”

Appearing on 104.5 The Zone in Nashville today, Mike Slive told radio host Clay Travis — according to Travis’ Twitter feed — that Pearl’s suspension is the first of its kind in the SEC.

He also said that the suspension was handed down in concert with Tennessee and the league relied on “established facts” to arrive at the decision to sit Pearl for eight conference games. 

As we suggested earlier this afternoon, that appears to be the big difference between Pearl’s situation and Cam Newton’s.  The facts are in on Pearl.  Not so in Newton’s situation.

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Chizik: Cam Newton Will Play This Weekend

There are many questions surrounding Cam Newton and his status with the Auburn Tigers.

Internet rumors Wednesday afternoon stated that Newton would be suspended later today. Those rumors, which reportedly came from Ian Fitzsimmons of KESN Radio in Dallas, were misreported.

Clay Travis of FanHouse spoke to Fitzsimmons, who actually said on air: “With this story, something big could happen in 3-4 hours.”

Someone heard that quote and ran with it as news. Auburn coach Gene Chizik confirmed Newton’s status for this Saturday’s game against Georgia.

“Cameron Newton will be playing Saturday against the Georgia Bulldogs,” Chizik said during his appearance on the weekly SEC coaches teleconference.

One other note: Several bookmakers in Las Vegas and online have suspended betting on this week’s Auburn-Georgia game.

That’s the latest. There will be more rumors, mostly inaccurate and some perhaps on point, as the day continues. We will keep you updated as it happens.

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