If you haven’t seen this already, get another cup of coffee and settle in for some fascinating reading. Under an open records request, Deadspin obtained copies of email correspondence between Auburn University athletics media relations and members of the media during the Tigers’ BCS Championship season and concurrent controversy over the recruitment Heisman Trophy winner Cam Newton.
Newton and Auburn were formally cleared by the NCAA of all wrongdoing in October 2011, nearly one year after the allegations first surfaced.
Don’t be shocked or outraged by what you read. This kind of chumming around is the nature of the business when it comes to covering sports, politics, celebrities or any other hot button topic. When your professional reputation depends as much on your access as it does on your perceived objectivity, you have to walk a very fine line. You don’t get interviews by being a jerk and no one does you any favors if you aren’t scratching their backs in return.
A couple of emails from CBSSports.com’s Dennis Dodd highlight this reality.
Nov. 4, responding to a statement from Kirk Sampson that Newton was eligible and would play:
This ruined both our days.
Five days later, after writing a brief news story:
This stuff has been absolutely ridiculous. I realized it when I found myself Tuesday writing about Cam's 12 traffic tickets at Florida. Am I sick? Are we all sick?
See you soon.
Dodd routinely gets subjected to accusations that he lacks objectivity. These do nothing to quell those suspicions.
The stuff from ESPN representatives is absolutely comical. They go from being “jacked up” to ominous to chummy and friendly, all in the span of about 10 weeks.
Also interesting is the apparent fact that Mike Bianchi of the Orlando Sentinel was already on the academic affairs issue weeks before Thayer Evans of Fox Sports:
Deadspin author Tommy Craggs notes that the correspondence appearing on the site is only a sample of what they received in response to their records request.