Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Nevin Shapiro, Yahoo!, and the Twitter outcry

Yesterday afternoon, Yahoo! Sports' rumored "10 out of 10" college football story finally dropped, and the sound you heard upon its arrival was college football coming to a screeching halt. This is a bombshell of epic proportions. The takeaway:
In 100 hours of jailhouse interviews during Yahoo! Sports’ 11-month investigation, Hurricanes booster Nevin Shapiro described a sustained, eight-year run of rampant NCAA rule-breaking, some of it with the knowledge or direct participation of at least seven coaches from the Miami football and basketball programs. At a cost that Shapiro estimates in the millions of dollars, he said his benefits to athletes included but were not limited to cash, prostitutes, entertainment in his multimillion-dollar homes and yacht, paid trips to high-end restaurants and nightclubs, jewelry, bounties for on-field play (including bounties for injuring opposing players), travel and, on one occasion, an abortion.
This story has absolutely everything you can imagine from an NCAA violation standpoint and then some. This is the storyline of a Martin Scorsese film, rife with bank statements, corroborating testimony from a federal trial, and admission from former players/rule breakers. If ever there was a reason to bring back the Death Penalty, this is it. These allegations make Tressel and Ohio State look like tiddly winks, and those were not tiddly winks.

I honestly don't have too much to say with regards to the impact this will have on college football. I'm still kind of in awe of it all. But I'm relatively certain this will end in the dissolution of the Miami football program. It has to, right?

The story that bloggers and Twitter seem to be pushing, however, is ESPN's lack of relevance anymore. Despite this being the biggest sports story since steroids, ESPN has scarce coverage at best, deciding instead to report on Chris Johnson's contract talks. It's tough to argue that Yahoo! Sports is not the premiere sports reporting outlet in the US now. There's really not any competition. ESPN does Outside the Lines follow-ups to stories Yahoo! has previously broken, while Charles Robinson moves on to the next blockbuster.

But whether or not this actually detracts from ESPN is another argument entirely. Despite ESPN's posturing about being a legitimate reporting outlet, its most important contribution to sports is and always will be the distilling of the best 10 plays of the night into a 45-second clip. ESPN brings you highlights, it brings you live events, and occasionally, because of the company's incredible reach and resources, it will bring you a news story. Never is that more clear than with this report. Not that ESPN's contribution is a bad thing, necessarily, because the self-proclaimed World Wide Leader in Sports does a lot of good and is a lowest common denominator for sports fans. But the transparency of that existence should now be clear to almost everyone.

Yahoo! doesn't make ESPN obsolete because ESPN provides a real service. But this report, among the others that Robinson and company have broken open, positions Yahoo! as the most important and relevant sports news organization in the country.


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