Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Why I believe AJC’s Michael Carvell over unnamed sources

RedMeat This is more about conflicting media reports than it is a recruitment story. Someone out there is not being truthful, and sports fans deserve to know who is being honest and who is pumping the spin machine. We need quality reporting, not spin or damage control. This isn't about you, sports media, it’s about the story.

Yes, the NCAA probably did interview standout recruit Reuben Foster and his mother earlier this week. Could the Alabama High School Athletic Association (AHSAA) also have interviewed Foster and Anita Paige? Certainly. It could have been a two-fer.

I do not believe those who claim that the NCAA wasn’t involved and here’s why.

Michael Carvell is a homer recruiting reporter for the Atlanta Journal Constitution, one of the largest daily newspapers in the southeastern United States. Those disputing his account write for, shall we say, somewhat less credible outlets. Homer or not, the AJC carries gravitas. The other guys much less so.

But the real reason for placing more credibility with the AJC story is that it follows a much more sensible stream of logic than other accounts.

Here’s the key part of Carvell’s story:


When contacted around 1 p.m. Monday, Paige was asked directly if she was meeting later in the day with the NCAA and she replied, “Yes, how did you know?” The reports later in the afternoon, including by AuburnUndercover.com’s Bryan Matthews, were that the early evening meeting would be with Alabama high school officials.

When reached at 9 p.m. Monday and asked to clarify whether the meeting was held with the NCAA or Alabama high school officials, Paige responded, “I can’t say. I’m not allowed to comment on that.”

Earlier in the day, Paige told the AJC, “They are talking with Reuben and me. They want to make sure there was nothing illegal done to get us down here, or anything like that. They want to make sure there wasn’t a college booster involved.


Carvell’s story comes first in the chronology of events. It appeared in the wee hours of the morning on August 13. The edition linked above and the portion quoted above regarding Paige’s response to a direct question has not changed.

Only much later in the day did Matthews’ and other reports emerge, claiming that unnamed sources close to Foster said that it was the AHSAA, not the NCAA, who would be conducting the interview.

Carvell has on-the-record answers directly from the subject of the story. Those refuting him cite unnamed sources “close to” the subjects of the story.

Second, Paige answers another direct question with another answer strongly suggesting that the NCAA was the interested agency: “They want to make sure there was nothing illegal done to get us down here, or anything like that. They want to make sure there wasn’t a college booster involved.”

While the AHSAA—whose sole responsibility here is to make sure that Foster’s transfer constitutes a bona fide move under that agency’s bylaws—might be interested in whether the Foster’s got some help in moving, but as long as the criteria set up by AHSAA for a bona fide move are met, the transfer is deemed legit.

Only the NCAA would be so keenly interested in whether a college booster is somehow involved in a transfer to a high school in mere spitting distance of the college to which he recently committed that they would set up an interview. It’s unusual, but it’s not unheard of for the NCAA to get involved during a prospects’ recruitment and warn a school to back off while it investigates.

But the real kicker in granting more credibility to the AJC homer vs. the fan site homers is Paige’s final statement to Carvell:


When reached at 9 p.m. Monday and asked to clarify whether the meeting was held with the NCAA or Alabama high school officials, Paige responded, “I can’t say. I’m not allowed to comment on that.”


To my knowledge, the AHSAA has never instructed someone connected with a bona fide transfer investigation to keep their mouths shut. Indeed, AHSAA routinely acknowledges ongoing investigations, gives statements, answers questions and even names the schools involved in its inquiries.

The NCAA’s policy is precisely the opposite. NCAA staff are notoriously tight-lipped. They will not acknowledge whether a school or individual is under investigation. During its interviews, all parties involved are instructed not to reveal the details of the interview or give specifics to anyone (especially the media) in the interests of protecting the integrity of the investigation.

Last of all, NCAA’s investigative procedure is to collect evidence first and then interview people connected with potential violations. Put another way, a sit-down with the NCAA comes closer to the end of their investigative model, not at the beginning.

In light of this, which of the two agencies are most likely to have instructed Paige to keep quiet?

Carvell directly asked Paige if she and her son would be interviewed by the NCAA. She answered “yes” unequivocally. Carvell then asked Paige what the subject was to be, and she gave an answer that only the NCAA really cares about. And when Carvell asked her to clarify, she refused, explaining that she was “not allowed to comment.”

That has the NCAA’s fingerprints all over it.

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