Relax, Michigan Football Fans: The Only Scandal Brewing is at the Free Press

Bryan KellySenior Analyst IFebruary 23, 2010

It's days like today that make me ashamed to be a sportswriter.

No more than a handful of outlets in the Michigan or national media are taking the time to separate the allegations against the Michigan football program—which are serious—from the university's actual findings— which are not.

Few mainstream Michigan sports outlets (save for Rivals' John Borton, whose article is behind a paywall, and of course, the always even-keeled MGoBlog) putting those findings into a proper context for the reader.

Not when, "SERIOUS MAJOR ALLEGATIONS FOUND: IS MICHIGAN FOOTBALL DEADZO?" will get your click from the Google News crawl instead.

Now hear this: Michigan administrators unearthed information that the football team practiced 20 minutes past the NCAA's allotted period. The issue could ultimately come down to whether quality control staff should have included stretching as a voluntary, or mandatory exercise.

Twenty minutes? Is that really grounds for Tweets like this to be sent out by the sensationalists that run the Big Ten Conference's Twitter account?

Additionally, the line between Michigan's quality control staff and its coaches was blurred by the amount of time the two camps spent with each other. This meant it counted as practice time when quality control staff members were present at voluntary workouts, and some of those practices were added towards the final total.

Does the fact that these findings amount to a misunderstanding far short of the dreaded "loss of institutional control," which will bring nothing close to major repercussions, stop obnoxious asses like Drew Sharp and his dying chorus of "editorialists" at the Detroit Free Press from braying about firing Rodriguez?

God, no.

I can't speak for Michigan Football's quality control staff, but someone at the Freep should be looking into whether the critical line between news writer and editorialist is being blurred on the sports desk.

Supposed news writers should not be launching internal investigations into the programs whose beats they follow, or whose players they interview.

Michael Rosenberg, who broke the original overpracticing story, dishonestly framed his questions to Michigan's true freshmen by saying they were for a human interest piece on new life as an enrollee in college.

The athletes' boilerplate, good-natured responses—that workouts were harder than in high school, that it seemed like practice went on forever—were then turned into grist for the accusatory mill.

That's immorality in sports. That's grounds for an ethical violation. There's the fire, people.

And while news people shouldn't editorialize the information they receive, on the flipside, editorialists like Sharp—and Rosenberg, I suppose—shouldn't pretend they know how to break news, especially if so much of what they write relies on the tinge of bias. 

The "Michigan scandal" you'll be reading about in the next few days amounts to a lot of smoke. Smoke; not fire. Misunderstandings are being addressed. Corrections are being made. But insidious intent is nowhere to be found.

Oh, well. The witch-hunt for Rodriguez's head by evil men without Michigan's best interests at heart continues. More and more is made of less and less. America's insatiable appetite for scandal continues. You've heard the objections against sensational media, and unfortunately, they're all correct.

I rarely address Michigan Football. My intention at the Bleacher Report has, and will continue being to bring a national perspective—even if I slip one too many Michigan recruits in the to-watch-for slideshows.

But this behavior is beyond the pale. Supposedly accredited newspapers—the Freep —are blatantly attempting to shore up their page views by resorting to yellow headlines and whack journalists who are no doubt encouraged to speak irrationally.

In doing so, they've lost sight of their first and most important goal: reporting the news, not creating it (not to get all Richard Nixon on you, but that is their purpose, right?).

In turn, their writers—good or bad, beat or editorial—have lost their integrity, and their minds.

Shoot, I may not have much journalistic integrity myself, but maybe it's one of those cases where it takes one to know one.


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