Tuesday, June 27, 2006

But I saw it on the internet... | by Pat

If the internet is good for one thing, it's spreading rumors. Message boards, blogs, and email make it easy for any hole-in-the-wall website or self-deluded internet poster to stir the flames of fan hysteria with some juicy tidbit about this coach or that recruit. And given the high-profile nature of Notre Dame and the rapid demonization of Coach Weis by opposing fans, there will always be an interest in any sort of muckraking rumor concerning the Fighting Irish.

The latest episode was an NFL-related website hinting that according to their "league sources", Brady Quinn and a few other seniors might have nullified their college eligibility by agreeing to terms with an agent...all at the behest of Coach Weis. It was a dumb rumor floated by a heretofore anonymous website that was most likely creatively extrapolated from this Dennis Dodd article. Yet, the rumor caught a foothold on various blogs and message boards as many fans of varying allegiances hoped and fretted that ND would be forced to lose many of its best players for the upcoming season.

It got to the point where Notre Dame felt the need to respond. It's sad that a stupid rumor got so much attention, but I do commend ND for being on top of things and providing this beauty of a rebuttal:

"Typical freaking Internet," the Notre Dame associate athletic director in charge of compliance offered. "It's a joke."
The quoted assistant AD, Mike Karwoski, then went on to explain that, contrary to the rumor's silly assertions, some people at Notre Dame actually are aware of one of the most obvious rules in the NCAA rulebook when it comes to dealing with an agent.
"They wanted to get rid of the riffraff [agents], find out who the legitimate people were," Karwoski said. "I told them there is nothing in the rules that prevents you from sitting down and talking to an agent. You can also call the ones you're not interested in and tell them that, that they're not going to be part of any further discussions.

"If there's a group of four, five, 10 that pique their interest, I don't have a problem with the player saying, 'We're going to revisit this at the end of the season when my eligibility is done.' The only thing I cautioned them about was don't tell somebody, 'You're the guy.' You are prevented by NCAA rules from making a written or verbal agreement."
Also quoted in the article is a member of Quinn's family, who also is well aware of how the NCAA works.
Dave Slates, Quinn's uncle and one of the four people advising the quarterback, takes it a step further.

"We don't even allow the family to have a Coke bought for them from one of these guys," he said. ... "The implication that Charlie would be unaware of the rules is just silly," Slates said. "Charlie is a very detail guy.
Of course, just because this baseless rumor was quickly put to rest doesn't mean there won't be more in the future. So here are a few handy tips the next time something like this shows up on your computer screen.

First and foremost, consider the source. If you've never heard of the website before and no one accuses you of being completely out of the loop for saying as much, take what you read with a grain of salt. Some sites like to take the squeaky wheel approach to web traffic. And even though this particular rumor made its way to Sports Illustrated's website, it was still linked under the SI on Campus "Truths and Rumors" section. Likewise, if the rumor is built on "a league source" or some other anonymous origin, and the writer isn't a well-respected journalist protecting their sources, take another few grains of salt.

Second, check out the biggest message board and/or team blog for your team. If it's a potentially damaging rumor and no one is in an uproar, it's likely the more respected members of the board have shot down the rumor and there is nothing to worry about. If no one else is worrying about it, neither should you. Of course, sometimes these types of rumors get started on said message board or blog. In that case, it's best to see how those running the site deal with the rumor. If they question it, so should you. There are examples of this on this blog alone over the past week.

If you're still not sure, the next step is to take things into your own hands and swing on over to Google (link provided) and spend a minute doing your own research. The inital rumor that led to the ND response quoted above mentioned only one agent by name, Don Yee. A quick google check shows that Don Yee, in addition to being a highly respected agent with clients like Tom Brady and Bryant Young, teaches a course at the University of Virginia Law School entitled "Introduction to Sports Law Theory and Practice". Does that sound like someone to you who would (a) be ignorant of NCAA laws or (b) knowingly skirt them in order to sign a client?

Some bad rumors will take longer to die than others, but for the most part, a false internet rumor is like the campfire moth that flies in everyone's face to get their attention, just before dive-bombing into the heart of the flames. Patience is the best approach to these inevitable rumors, but while they are still fluttering about, make sure to consult with google and the reactions of those you trust before getting too worked up.