Friday, January 18, 2013

The Truth Will Out

In the growing swirl around Manti Te'o, there are some keys to remember.

Online, there are no secrets.

There is bad, and then there is Watergate Bad.

And above all, the truth will out.

The circle draws closer to Te'o.  First the girlfriend was a fiction, then a scam, then one perpetrated by a close friend.

The athletic department knew on Dec. 26.  But teammate suspected earlier.  Te'o knew as early as Dec. 6.  The department and Te'o continued the ruse through the media past the BCS Championship game, in part, to complete the investigation and not alert the hoaxer.

Or, so they say.

That's not to be cruel, but when your bad news gets exposed by Deadspin first, you officially lost control.  We will never know if Notre Dame made a conscious decision to hope this would not surface, or were they planning a mea culpa event with the investigation appearing to be complete.  Anticipate more questions about who knew what when a la Penn State.

UPDATE LATER TODAY RE: ABOVE STRIKETHRU: Notre Dame's AD didn't help this situation today with his comments.  Alternately, Jack Swarbrick said the school was waiting for the Te'o family to come forward first and that he had encouraged the now former team member to speak up as the victim. (Second similar story).

This is about to become it's own hot mess.

On Wednesday, when broke the story, Swarbrick said Notre Dame did not go public with its findings sooner because it expected the Te'o family to come forward first.

But Friday, Jan. 18, this word from Swarbrick was the family was set to go Monday, but as noted above, Deadspin beat them to it.  Hard to understand in his statement is did the Te'os plan to make a statement Jan. 14 and simply backed down, then got burned on Wednesday, Jan. 16, or that the family was set to go on Monday, Jan. 21, and got scooped.  If it is the upcoming Monday -- are they all insane?  You planned to bring out the details on Martin Luther King Jr. Day?

Swarbrick does make our point for us to the AP (underscore is my emphasis):

Sometimes the best laid plans don't quite work, and this was an example of that. Because the family lost the opportunity in some ways to control the story.

Apologies, but saying the ball was in the family's court -- especially if they had let the deadline of Monday come and go -- is similar to saying the institution has no fault because that's the story the agent gave us or we had discussed that internally.

Let's step away from the institutional aspect, and think about the people involved.  High profile student-athletes are at risk in ways we never imagined.

My first thoughts on the scam were dark.  I know the legends of CoSIDA from the 1950s and 1960s when organized crime and bookie syndicates were seeking information from athletic departments on injuries and other edges to influence gambling.  The threats that resulted from certain SIDs standing up to not providing data to the "tip sheets" or accepting advertising from them.

This isn't about having college moments like Johnny Football's visit to a casino (hmm, was that rocking the Winstar tweet an endorsement).  This is having a Te'o on the hook in a scam and then using it as leverage for blackmail.

Today, I don't have a bright solution, but I have one hint.  Those who are quick to try to limit the monitoring of student-athletes might take a second to weigh the protective role that plays against the privacy invasion or freedom of speech concerns.

Forbes jumped off the edge of the earth, resurrecting the idea that the NCAA might get into some "tipping point" moment and ban social.  Yeah.  That works out well.  Good job preparing students for the real world.

What the Forbes folks miss is the very beneficial and necessary trend in NCAA philosophy to mainstream student-athletes, to give them more of the general student body experience.  Sounds like a focus on the 1% of super visible Mantis and Johnny Footballs

Banning also destroys the chance for the other 99% of student-athletes to reach out and build relationships for their teams and sports -- and their career futures -- by networking with others online.

If Forbes wants a few tipping points, here are some more likely.

There are a few other "new normals" that are about to emerge.  The media HATES to be undercut by the digital or networked media.  Reprisals and recriminations all around for how this was missed and explanations of why.

It was George O'Leary who changed things in college athletics about needing to see transcripts to prove degrees.  Expect more desire to see "proof" on stories in the future.

As a parting update, ESPN and others have a confession now from the hoaxer, a friend of Te'os.  Ties up another important social media concept:  Your friends are what your online security is based.

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