Yahoo Sports and Charles Robinson broke the most important story to hit college sports in a long time on Tuesday, dropping this on The U and also indirectly, the NCAA. The entire report links to documented allegations against over 70 Miami Hurricanes players and coaches. It is the most thorough takedown of a program I've ever seen. As I tweeted last night, this Miami case is OSU, GT, UNC, and every scandal from the past year combined, multiplied by infinity, and exploded with a nuclear bomb. There were whispers the last few days about something big coming down at Miami, but nobody expected anything this big. That said, the real stars of this story are Robinson and Yahoo, who have delivered again with true investigative reporting rarely seen anymore in the sports media. Ryan and I got together over Skype and chatted about the Miami story, the troubles facing the NCAA, and Yahoo's journalistic dominance over their rivals in Bristol...
Matt: Ok Ryan, Yahoo Sports has done it once again. Intrepid investigative reporter Charles Robinson broke the incredible news that The U and booster Nevin Shapiro gave millions of extra benefits to over 70 Miami players. This seems to make USC, Ohio State, and any scandal broken in the last couple years look like tiddliewinks. Am I getting lost in the moment or is this story that huge?
Ryan: Definitely not, especially because we can put this story up directly against those other two. As much as ESPN and SI would have you believe, the Ohio St. scandal isn't the reincarnation of SMU... this Miami story is. It's a fantasitc job of old-school reporting by Charles Robinson and Yahoo Sports, which I think is the first angle of this story we should focus on, the rise of Yahoo as the premier source for sports journalism going today. Agree?
Matt: Yep. Yahoo has solidified themselves as the #1 source for sports journalism and breaking huge stories, especially with college athletics scandals. UConn, Reggie Bush, and now this bombshell. What impresses me most about this particular job by Robinson and Yahoo is the massive scope of it. 100+ interviews, 20,000 pages of financial records, 5,000 pages of cell phone records, 1,000 photos, and over 100 hours of talking to Shapiro himself. An 11 month investigation! This is the kind of reporting that Outside the Lines or SI could only dream of.
Ryan: Just look at the difference in journalistic standards between the stories Yahoo is running versus their competitors in ESPN and SI. As I wrote about yesterday, ESPN and OTL have done their best to tear down Ohio St. with unnamed sources and shadowy figures. Meanwhile, George Dohrmann's much hyped SI piece on Ohio St. was more dud than bombshell. Honestly, it was like SI fired a gun only to have a flag that said BANG come out of the barrel. Meanwhile, Yahoo Sports (and Charles Robinson specifically) has been doing legit reporting with sources and documentation to back up their allegations. Comparing Yahoo's reporting with Dohrmann's dud at SI and what we've learned about people like Joe Schad at ESPN, this is a proud day for the folks at Yahoo...
The only thing ESPN can do is mention Yahoo's 11 months of reporting 11 times in their article (without linking to the actual report as Bryan Fischer observed). Brooks even had a screenshot of ESPN still silent on the story after almost two hours! Weak sauce.
Ryan: Matt, that's what is almost more striking to me - how lazy and untrustworthy the vast majority of the sports media has become in recent years. We like to pick on ESPN, but it's not just them, it's an epidemic in the media in general. But it's not just the laziness in giving proper credit, it's the lack of hardcore investigative journalism.
The anecdote of the press box incident is a perfect example. Presumably in front of a bevy of reporters a high-profile athletics booster tried to fight the compliance officer, and yet no reporter had the balls to report it or dig deeper? Why? Was the booster some type of source for these reporters? Was it because Miami was already down as a program? Were the reporters who witnessed the incident afraid to do their jobs? Were the reporters benefitting from the booster? What is it about college football that creates such a blind spot for so many in the sports media, that makes perceived agendas run wild?
Matt: Let's reflect on this last summer Ryan. What has ESPN done with college football - create a sh*tstorm with the Longhorn Network and all the conflicts therein and "suspend" Bruce Feldman, who still hasn't addressed the story a month later. That and a load of manure sprayed with Febreze regarding Ohio State is ESPN's contribution to college football this summer.
Ryan: But don't forget ESPN's blue-ribbon panel that's been on-air this week, boy that's making a big difference!
Matt: Right right right, is that the one with the Stanford Tree and Howard Schnellenberger?
Ryan: I know 3/4th of the panel is composed of past/present people associated with the SEC. By the way don't forget to catch SEC baseball next spring on ESPN's coverage of the SEC on ESPN.
Matt: Seriously though, that panel is so pointless. But I suppose we want to include all the people that make millions of dollars off college sports exploiting these athletes without actually hearing from, you know, the current athletes themselves.
Ryan: Well, the athletes involved in these scandals are both villain and victim, so I can't blame them entirely. At least Yahoo has shown a track record of exposing the explotation of these athletes the last few years while ESPN and SI have been late to the party with weak aritcles and half-assed dog and pony shows.
Matt: Let's be real, we could pick any program and probably find these things happening, maybe not on the level of what we saw at The U, but it happens. As you have said to me before, the NCAA is broken. I just wonder if this expose doesn't only bring down Miami (surely this is real death penalty stuff we're talking about), but the NCAA too. We've never seen anything like this Ryan. At Yahoo, I can click on any player or coach in this investigation, read what happened, and see the documentation. This is a gamechanger on so many levels.
(A soldier and his general? Kellen Winslow Jr. with disgraced Miami booster Nevin Shapiro from Yahoo)
Ryan: It very well could be. At our old site I argued time and again that the NCAA was broken and its fall was just a matter of time. Currently, the NCAA is fighting a two-front battle: realignment and renegade programs. One problem on its own would be enough to jeopardize the institution's ability to govern, but both of these issues happening simultaneously could very well be the death knell for the NCAA as the governing body of high-profile college athletics. And thanks to the immaculate and detailed reporting by Yahoo, Miami could truly be in for historic penalties.
But, the future of Miami and the NCAA aside, the more interesting question for us here at AA is how the sports media at large reacts to this story? Do reporters start showing up at every college town? Does ESPN finally do something substantial? Where do we go from here?
Matt: You tell me, because I'm still trying to grasp this story like I've seen a double double rainbow...
Ryan: The optimist in me has to believe at some point ESPN and SI will be tired of being caught with their pants down by Yahoo. And right now, college football seems to be the fertile ground of investigative reporting. Now, will these two behemoths try to return to their roots to match Yahoo's superior reporting by exposing the next major college football scandal? Or, will they continue to rest on their laurels and be content on picking and choosing stories that are most convenient and/or fit their agenda? My bet would be on the latter, sadly.
Matt: Consider ESPN is the same network that just jumped into bed with Texas and has hundreds and hundreds of millions of dollars invested in college football conferences. That's the hidden agenda. As Clay Travis pointed out, ESPN is driving college football and all this expansion talk with their money, pulling the strings of these conference deals. Heck, Travis' site just launched and already broke some major news regarding an Alabama booster that has been ignored in the mainstream. Yahoo (and SI to a similar extent), without an insane amount of money tied to these universities and conferences are free to put their resources into this kind of thing without facing competing interests.
Ryan: Correct. I've long thought that everyone underestimates ESPN's impact on the entire college football landscape. Just by giving air time to a team on College Gameday or putting a team in the national primetime game on Saturday can raise their profile, which raises their rankings and recruiting, which helps their BCS cause. That's all the more reason to not aggressivley pursue teams ESPN is in business with from conferences like the ACC and SEC and aggressively pursue Ohio State, who just happens to be a part of the Big Ten and the Big Ten Network, a competitor to ESPN's dominance of college athletics.
Yahoo obviously doesn't have such conflicts of interest, so they aren't afraid to do the honest reporting necessary to peel back the curtain on the cesspool college athletics has become. Clearly, the quality of SI and ESPN's reporting has been surpassed by Yahoo, perhaps on a permanent basis.
Matt: Just as the Bruce Feldman debacle was ESPN's journalistic Waterloo, this is Yahoo's journalistic demolition of Troy. But really, this is only confirmation of Yahoo's online supremacy over ESPN. Recently, they have consistently been the #1 sports property on the internet with ESPN coming in at #2 in terms of visitors according to ComScore. Simply put, Yahoo is now the place to go for the defining breaking and investigative stories in sports.