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|07-15-2007, 08:17 PM||#1|
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How Oklahoma Got Busted
To the extent anyone doubts the power of sports/fan message boards, check out this story (which I had never heard before) as to how the former Oklahoma QB with the no show job was busted
Internet Whistleblowers Go Where N.C.A.A. Fears to Tread
By SELENA ROBERTS
Published: July 15, 2007
The Buddy List of watchdogs for college sports operates under pseudonyms inside a message-board world that functions as group therapy for cathartic enthusiasts.
In technology speak, call them iFans. They descend upon wildly popular Web sites like TexAgs.com with their team musings and debates and, at times, the kind of insider information that can doom a rival to N.C.A.A. purgatory.
It was well past midnight in January 2006 when a user named aggiegrant06 dashed off a thread on TexAgs.com that detailed how his girlfriend handed out payroll checks for a car dealer in Norman, Okla. “She didn’t recognize several of the names,” aggiegrant06 wrote. “She thought it was fishy and asked me.”
The boyfriend knew the names in the blink of an instant message: They were football players at Oklahoma. Gotcha, Rhett Bomar Six months later, after it was determined that Bomar, the Sooners’ sainted quarterback, received money for a no-show job at Big Red Sports/Imports, Coach Bob Stoops tossed him from the team.
Last week, the N.C.A.A., citing Oklahoma’s failure to monitor the employment of its players, handed down punishment, forcing the team to erase its victories from the 2005 season. Oklahoma will appeal.
Aggiegrant06 wasn’t a spy hidden in the bushes, but a chat-room visitor who lurked among hard drives. He was a legitimate tipster, even though his postings on TexAgs.com were pulled by the administrator within two hours because the information lacked sufficient evidence.
How can a fan-site monitor measure Internet cred?
“We’re in a strange situation,” said Brandon Jones, the vigilant owner of TexAgs.com, a fan site independent of Texas A&M. “We function as editors in trying to determine if something is valid.
“But you’d be surprised. It’s rare when we see something that is blatantly dishonest.”
The iFan, armed with a BlackBerry or an iPhone, a cellphone camera or a text message, is actually better equipped to be a caretaker of college athletics than the sleuths at the N.C.A.A., whose water guns and magnifying glasses leave them best suited to guard a tip jar.
Exactly when is the N.C.A.A.’s investigation of Reggie Bush’s luxury family digs while he was a star at the University of Southern California going to conclude?
The iFan, as an embedded member of the fight-song culture, can be considered more diligent in the oversight of a program than serially incurious university compliance officers who ignore the sudden appearance of Cadillac Escalades in the player parking lot.
Those earnest university officials don’t self-police, they self-protect. The disingenuousness of authority figures on campus leaves those searching for real answers to try an alternate route that, in essence, violates the core tenet of childhood: go ahead, trust a stranger.
An anonymous post on a bulletin board can possess as much veracity as the selective account of an athletic department curator.
“What’s interesting to me, and I’ve owned and operated this site since 1999, is that there is definitely a change in how the site is received,” Jones said. “And I’d say it was about three years ago when we started to cross into a realm of legitimacy.”
It was cyberfans, after all, who uncovered the kegger night indulgences of Larry Eustachy at Iowa State and ratted out Rick Neuheisel’s dalliance in a March Madness pool at the University of Washington.
Team spirit has never been so deliciously interactive. How else would we know if Nick Saban had cozy conversations with prospects this spring — a potential N.C.A.A. infraction for Alabama’s newest Bear Bryant knockoff — if not for a Miami Hurricanes fan site, canesport.com.
“I think it’s funny it came from Miami,” Saban recently told reporters.
An agenda might make a posting suspicious, but not necessarily bogus.
Internet meddlers aren’t Web surfers without a day job killing time in their bathrobes anymore. There are more than 200,000 unique visitors to TexAgs.com each month in what amounts to a survey of every demographic on subjects from the popularity of team uniforms to the unpopularity of a coach.
Fan sites are where athletic directors and coaches, boosters and players go to be in the know anonymously.
“It’s the great equalizer,” Jones said. “No one knows who you are, whether you’re wealthy or famous. Everyone is the person next door.”
The neighborhood is eclectic. Before Robert Gates took office as the nation’s secretary of defense in 2006, he was the president at Texas A&M. People knew exactly who he was — or did they? On TexAgs.com, he blended into the fan forum with a secret identity: ranger65, according to The Dallas Morning News. Gates often began his posts with “I’m told” as he went into different issues with Aggies devotees.
Not everyone in a chat room is such an impeccable source of information. But more and more, the message board has become a place where news isn’t made up, but made.
“It’s a paradigm shift in how information is disseminated,” Jones said. “Our viewership continues to increase each year. People everywhere have become citizen reporters.”
Whistleblowers of the iFan crowd are now equipped to investigate what the N.C.A.A. can’t — or won’t.
I assume the girlfriend has long since departed her job at the car dealership (and presumably been forced to move out of Oklahoma after bringing down the Sooners).
|08-16-2007, 03:28 AM||#2|
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Re: How Oklahoma Got Busted
Vanity and prosperity can at times collide in a shortsighted world.
Prosperity loves anoniminity.
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