Tuesday, July 25, 2006

SBT just went crazy...

After my glowing review of how adeptly Weis has handled the media, the media snapped back this week, as two South Bend Tribune, uh, writers? decided that they wanted to spend ALL WEEK attacking Notre Dame with innuendo, and passive aggressive association.

The "writers" started with a legitimate criticism of the over-the-top nature of the Jimmy Clausen commitment.

However, the two hacks in question decided that, despite having to write several more articles this week, they would just tap dance on the integrity of the Irish football program through unfounded hints and allegations.

The article "Into the Gray" is an insult to journalism. First they start with a policy stated almost 4 years ago under a different coach and regime, then assume that that is the continued policy of the new coach. Then they hint that Coach Weis violated NCAA rules in the Claussen commitment press conference, but have no actual connection between Coach Weis and the Claussen family, the PR firm they hired to put on the press conference, or anything having to do with the press conference. Except that the kid put on the press conference to announce that he is coming to Notre Dame.

They bash Weis for "allowing" an ESPN film crew to follow the much-hyped recruit during his visit to the Spring Game. They have no proof that the Coach or administration did anything to orchestrate such contact, beyond the fact that ESPN (much like the bitter "reporters" at the SBT) were given press credentials. They argue that Coach Weis should have somehow stopped the ESPN crew from pursuing a story, due to some outdated policy. However, previously in this same article, these writers had bashed ESPN for getting their shadows in an Irish Sports Report (ISR is published by the SBT) writer's picture of the recruits. They quote bylaws and a vague comment from notorious say-nothing Athletic Director Kevin White. But there is no evidence of wrongdoing, and all they do is insinuate that Coach Weis violated NCAA regulations.

I could deal with one poorly written article, as the SBT is no New York Times or Washington Post. However, this poorly written story now has snowballed into what appears to be a concerted effort on the part of the SBT to attack the football program with hyperbole and innuendo. They compare Claussen, by all accounts a well-behaved, intelligent, Christian boy who works very hard to a cocaine snorting failure USC quarterback. They compare Weis' current recruiting success to USC's recent recruiting success, then suggest that as a result the Irish will have problems like USC is facing right now (Players being given $10,000 per month apartments, players' families being given million dollar homes to live in, and a sexual assault charge). Then, Jason Kelly (usually a middling to decent writer, if not very talented) suggests that the current Irish recruiting machine is just like the notoriously unscrupulous recruiting of the "Fab Five," a class of 5 basketball recruits for the University of Michigan which accepted cash handouts from millionaire boosters to come to Ann Arbor, forcing UM to furl their Final Four banners from that era.

Usually, the SBT has been even handed with the Notre Dame athletics teams. They criticize when criticism is warranted, and praise when praise is due in their commentary. However, this recent spate of unsubstantiated drivel is highly uncharacteristic, and appears to be a campaign initiated by the Tribune administration to attack Weis' recruiting practices.

On message boards, this is speculated to stem from a perceived slight on the part of the SBT, who feel that national media outlets have been given far better access than the SBT, and that the SBT is jealous.

I don't care what the reasons for the attack are, but I am disappointed in the SBT, and as a result, I will not be purchasing the Irish Sports Report this year as I normally do. I know that my actions will have no impact on the reporting in the SBT, but at least I can feel like I've done my part.

In fairness, the South Bend Tribune Sports writers are separate from the writers and staff of the SBT as a whole. I have no issue with the rest of the SBT, except that the editor-in-chief and other administrative persons signed off on (or possibly even orchestrated) such a series of unsrupulous and inflammatory articles. The University should pull their credentials entirely.