Friday, December 04, 2009

Anatomy of a Rumor | by Jay

Here's an object lesson in how rumors get started, and how quickly they spread in the internet age.

1. Friend of BGS decides (not at our behest, by the way) to email the rumor site with a choice tidbit. FootballCoachScoop seems to post all kinds of unsubstantiated rumors, and said friend wants to see how easy it is to get something started.

2. Friend composes a very short, but specific email: I used to work in the athletic department at Notre Dame (a lie), and I have heard that Jack Swarbrick is interested in Bret Bielema, the head coach at the University of Wisconsin. This was at 6:56pm last evening. The email is sent from a free gmail account. There is no other email sent from friend, no attempt to "sell" the rumor beyond the initial communication, and nothing else to back up his credibility.

3. Meanwhile, friend has another buddy randomly tweet a few times about the Bielema rumors, and goes to bed.

4. FootballCoachScoop does not reply to the email. FootballCoachScoop does not ask any followup questions. FootballCoachScoop, to friend's knowledge, makes no attempt to verify emailer's bona fides in any way.

5. The next morning, FootballCoachScoop runs the rumor almost verbatim. Friend chuckles and shares the development with a few friends.

6. Later in the day, BGS notices a piece posted to "the Examiner", a Huffington Post-style blogging site that allows anyone with an email address to register as a "reporter." Joshua Burns picks up on the FootballScoop item and pens this:

Notre Dame AD to talk with Wisconsin head coach Bret Bielema this weekend
December 4, 2:15 PM Cincinnati Bearcats Examiner Joshua Burns

Another day, another new name has surfaced in the Notre Dame head coaching search.

According to, Irish AD Jack Swarbrick is "very interested" in talking to Wisconsin head coach Bret Bielema, after the Badgers trip from Hawaii this weekend.

Bielema's name has not been mentioned in prior discussions about the Notre Dame opening. He joins a list of reported candidates that includes Jim Harbaugh (Stanford), Skip Holtz (ECU), Randy Edsall (UConn), and Brian Kelly (Cincinnati).

Bielema was an assistant coach at the University of Iowa from 1993 to 2001. He then became the co-defensive coordinator for Kansas State University from 2002 to 2003. He took the same position at the University of Wisconsin–Madison in 2004.

The Wisconsin coach joins a chaotic rumer mill surrounding the Irish head coaching void left by the firing of Charlie Weis. Most expect answers to many of the questions surrounding the search after this weekend, the last regular-season weekend before bowl games begin.
"Examiner" posts have sometimes popped up in my google reader, linked alongside legitimate news stories from legitimate news outlets. I wonder if it will show up.

voilĂ , there it is. This is now on a national newswire.

In the meantime, please know that to our knowledge, there is absolutely no truth to the rumor that Jack Swarbrick is in any way interested in Bret Bielema as the next coach for Notre Dame.

And please, most of all...don't trust the internet!

UPDATE II: John Taylor, blogging for, picked up the rumor from FootballCoachScoop, but then realized it was a goof, and printed a pretty entertaining retraction.

UPDATE III: This is officially hilarious. A reporter, Jim Polzin, picked up the FootballCoachScoop rumor and actually tracked down Bielema in Hawaii for a statement. He also called Wisconsin athletic director Barry Alvarez. Both men, of course, had no idea what Polzin was talking about and denied any contact between Notre Dame and themselves.

UPDATE IV: Polzin catches on, and updates his story with a link to this post. In the meantime, ESPN blogger Adam Rittenberg has also published the rumor but quickly retracted it.

Okay, enough rumor-busting for the evening. Have a great weekend, everyone.