When Sports Illustrated broke its story on Oklahoma State yesterday, Jason Whitlock went trolling via his Twitter account for Oklahoma radio stations to call him.
Sure enough, the Oklahoma City Sports Animal found him. Whitlock, as only he can, went to great lengths to debunk SI’s package.
His reason? One of the co-authors is Thayer Evans.
Kelly Hines in the Tulsa World had the diatribe, which included this:
“But then in addition to that, having worked with Thayer Evans at Fox Sports, having followed his work for some time, I am completely and utterly flabbergasted that a legitimate news outlet would allow Thayer Evans to be involved in some type of investigative piece on college football that tears down a program, and particularly one that tears down Oklahoma State when it is no secret what a huge, enormous, gigantic Oklahoma homer Thayer Evans is. This is just incredible. Knowing the lack of competence that’s there with Thayer Evans, knowing the level of simplemindedness that’s there with Thayer Evans, to base any part of the story on his reporting is mind-boggling.
And then it gets worse with Whitlock concluding:
“ … Let me end by saying this and I honestly mean this without malice. It wouldn’t shock me if Thayer Evans couldn’t spell cat and I say in all seriousness.”
Oh, I’m sure Evans didn’t see any malice in that statement.
Whitlock also had this statement:
“ … I can’t disparage (other writer George Dohrmann) because I have never worked with him. I have never seen any of his raw copy or anything like that.
Oh yes, George Dohrmann. Take a look at this excerpt from his bio, Jason.
SPORTS ILLUSTRATED senior writer George Dohrmann is the rare sportswriter to have won a Pulitzer Prize. He earned journalism’s top honor in 2000 while at the St. Paul Pioneer Press. The Pulitzer cited his “determined reporting, despite negative reader reaction, that revealed academic fraud in the men’s basketball program at the University of Minnesota.”
Jason, George won a Pulitzer Prize. You know, the same prize that you openly campaigned for last year.
I would say winning a Pulitzer gives Dohrmann fairly solid credentials to tackle this kind of story, especially since that Pulitzer came from his investigation of a college program.
And Jason, Dohrmann wrote the story. The entire package was overseen by SI executive editor Jon Wertheim, who has some impressive credentials in his own right.
In a Q/A with Anthony Slater of NewsOK.com, Dohrmann addressed the reporting that went into the story.
DG: How credible do you think the sources are?
Dohrmann: Very credible, or we wouldn’t write these things. These are players who spoke to us on the record, who we found. They didn’t come to us, they didn’t come and say, ‘Oh, I got a story to tell.’ We had to track them down and go to them and then hear their stories. This wasn’t something where, I think there’s a perception that, a lot of people who talk about their school is bitter because they got kicked off the team or they didn’t start. But you played the game, a lot of guys aren’t bitter at all, sometimes they are just years removed from this experience and you go and see them and they have time on their hands and you show them attention and you’re curious about their experience and they share it with you. Sometimes it’s not a guy sitting their spewing venom about a school he once attended.
Whitlock, though, isn’t impressed with what he calls the “brand of sports writers who love doing these investigative pieces.”
They are not hard to do these days in terms of so-and-so got this money under the table. We’re into this area where unnamed sources can say anything, any of these he-said, she-said stories. I don’t respect the entire brand of investigative journalism that is being done here. It’s not our job to go out and do NCAA policing.
“ … There’s some cute girl on campus who is a hostess who may have slept with one of these players. This has been going on for years and it goes on in the frathouses and the academic corruption they are going to talk about goes on in the frathouses and all across campus. We are singling out these athletes. It’s a good story. It will get you a promotion. It will get you on SportsCenter. It will get you talked about on this radio show and all over Twitter. But it’s bogus. It’s a trick for clicks.
Ah yes, SportsCenter. ESPN has several highly regarded investigative reporters who break stories on college improprieties all the time. Now that Whitlock is back at ESPN, it will be interesting if he has the same assessment when one of his colleagues uncovers dirt on campus. And it becomes the lead story on SportsCenter.
The local radio stations of the school should be sure to give Whitlock a call. He’ll be available for comment.