On Christmas Day, the New York Times published a moderately explosive recruiting story about Jamarkus McFarland, a talented defensive lineman who wound up selecting the Sooners over the Longhorns. McFarland not only angered Texas by picking its hated rivals, but also by portraying coach Mack Brown in an unflattering light, and painting the school as a bunch of unruly party animals. Texas fans, obviously, were angry and some venom was directed at McFarland and the Times.
The NY Times public editor responded to the outrage this weekend.
I asked Evans how much he pressed for independent verification of the party. He said he asked for the name of the hotel, and McFarland could not remember it. The reporter did not ask who invited the young man to the party, who accompanied him or who else might have witnessed the lurid events.
The article also contained allegations by Adams that she had received various offers to induce her son to go to Texas, although it made clear that she did not believe that anyone associated with the university was responsible for any misconduct. Nick Voinis, a spokesman for the University of Texas athletics department, complained to me that Evans did not call the university for comment before the article was published.
Evans did alert the university just before his article was published on the newspaper’s Web site. Why didn’t he seek reaction beforehand? He said that if anyone at Texas had spoken to him, it would have violated N.C.A.A. recruiting rules. And, he said, he did not want to give either Texas or Oklahoma information they could use to try to influence McFarland’s decision.
Can’t quibble with the reasoning on not calling the school. However … it would have been nice for the reporter to get more specifics on the party. It’d be naive to think that those debaucherous parties don’t take place; everyone knows that when the recruits come on campus, the school trots out a flotilla of hot chicks to show the athletes around, and the parties try to impress the program-changers. Did the 18-year-old maybe embellish some of the details from that wild Texas party? Sure, it’s possible.
Overall, we have no major issues on how the NY Times reported the story. In fact, we encourage newspapers (AND ESPN) to go after schools like this and give the fans a real view of what’s going on behind the scenes.
Of course, when you’re on the losing end of a heated recruited battle, and your school gets exposed … well yeah, you’re going to be ticked off and blame the media. As much as we enjoy college football, the unrealistic fans’ inability to see both sides to a story like this borders on the ridiculous. We’d say its comparable to what goes on in the political realm, but we don’t want to go down that route …