Friday, December 17, 2010

Alumni Assn warns of media bias before Izzo suspension stories are written

Update: I talked with MSUAA chief Scott Westerman, who apologized for the line in question. It has been taken down from the MSUAA's website, and he said he'd be sharing the coverage we did get with Alumni Club leaders.

Westerman's reaction is entirely appropriate. I know Scott, and he's a good guy under whose leadership the MSUAA is growing in the right direction. Kudos to him for recognizing the error and moving quickly to fix it. -DW

Original post is below.

Here's the news you probably knew by this point: Tom Izzo has been suspended for one game for a secondary violation involving hiring a guy who was in some way connected to an unnamed prospect to coach middle schoolers at a basketball camp.

Honestly? Not a big damn deal. But suspending a coach is odd, and it hasn't really been done before for something like this, and certainly not at a program like MSU. Plus, MSU has a squeaky-clean image in basketball, and it's Izzo, so that makes this a bit more newsworthy.

But that's not what caught my eye. What caught my eye was this line from an e-mail sent by the MSU Alumni Association.

"Newspapers are sold by making the worst out of every situation, and I expect
some negativity from people who would love to throw mud at us."

That line was written, I can only guess, before a single line was written in the press. And as a member of the press, I guess I take a bit of umbrage at preemptive suggestions of bias.

Well let's see if it was justified, going one-by-one through media accounts. I'll link, then summarize.

Detroit Free Press: Bias? Not really, but if there is it tilts toward MSU. Tom Izzo's point of view is given in paragraph two, a quote toward that effect is in paragraph four. In paragraphs five, six and seven, Mark Hollis says the rule is BS. The NCAA did not respond to requests for comment, so no opposing point of view is presented.

Detroit News: Bias? Can't find any. This is a short, fact-only piece that states the allegations and MSU's response. A separate link goes to a DetNews file on Izzo's career, and another links directly to MSU's statement.

Lansing State Journal: Much like the DetNews, this is a short and straightforward. Joe Rexrode's blog is the only opinion so far, and it calls shenanigans on the NCAA.

Booth Newspapers: Written by the David Mayo of the Grand Rapids Press, this one is straightforward - allegations, then MSU's response. No bias here.

ESPN: Eamon Brennan has a column up saying the rule is complex, and likely means everyone's in violation somehow. Also takes time to say Izzo has a well-deserved sterling reputation, and at no time does he question MSU's company line.

AP: States the allegations, gives MSU's line, no one from the NCAA comments. MSU comes off looking as good as possible.

The point of this exercise? Well, I couldn't find an example of bias against MSU among outlets that cover the school, or on the wire services most will use outside of the local market.

Look, I get that bashing the media is en vogue. But just as people would ask that we not rush to judgement against MSU's athletes, let me ask that our own alumni association not rush to judgement against the graduates of its own School of Journalism (like Rexrode and many of the editors and reporters at papers throughout Michigan and the USA).

And at the very least, they're owed an apology.

The 16-team playoff: 2010 version

Every year I do a mock-up of what a proper, 16-team NCAA football tournament would look like. Every year, the matchups far exceed what the bowls turned up, but perhaps not nearly as strikingly as this year.

Here's how this is structured:
1) Every conference champion gets an automatic berth. There are 11 conferences.
2) If an independent school makes the top 16 of the BCS, then the top-ranked independent school gets a spot
3) The top 5 (or 4) remaining slots are taken by the highest-ranking non-champions, as ranked by the BCS, without regard to conference. If that means 4 SEC teams, so be it.
4) This is standard bracket style, no re-seeding.
5) First round would have been played last weekend, second round this weekend. Semifinals are on NY Day, Finals the week after.
5) The first two rounds are played at the home school of the higher seed.
6) The semi-finals, national championship and 3rd place game are evenly rotated throughout the BCS bowls, Rose, Fiesta, Sugar and Orange.

ACC - Va Tech
Big East - UConn
Big Ten - Wisconsin
Big 12 - Oklahoma
C-USA - Central Fla.
Indys - none
MAC - Miami (OH)
Pac 10 - Oregon
SEC - Auburn
Sun Belt - FIU
WAC - Nevada

Qualifiers (with BCS ranking):
Stanford (4)
Ohio State (6)
Arkansas (8)
Michigan State (9)
Boise State (10)

So with that, here's the first round:
FIU (unr) @ Auburn (1)
Miami (OH) @ Oregon (2)
UConnn (unr) @ TCU (3)
UCF (25) @ Stanford (4)
Nevada (15) @ Wisconsin (5)
Va Tech (13) @ Ohio State (6)
Boise State (10) @ Oklahoma (7)
Michigan St. (9) @ Arkansas (8)

Only two real wasted games up there, as Auburn and Oregon would easily advance. But look at the absolute crackers at the lower end - A defensive batte at the Horseshoe? A Fiesta Bowl matchup in Norman? Michigan State vs. former Michigan QB Ryan Mallet in Arkansas? Yes please.

Second round (with likely winners)
Michigan St. (9) @ Auburn (1)
Boise St. (10) @ Oregon (2)
Ohio St. (6) @ TCU (3)
Wisconsin (5) @ Stanford (4)

Not a single bad game here, just absolute wonders top to bottom. Could the best LB corps in the USA slow down Cam Newton? Does Boise really have what it takes to go against the high-flying Ducks? You've got your traditional Rose Bowl with Bucky vs. the Tree, and let's see G. Gordon Gee live up to his talk as the Bucks go to TCU. Each one is a Gameday matchup.

Sugar Bowl - Auburn (1) vs. Wisconsin (5)
Orange Bowl - Oregon (2) vs. Ohio State (6)

Classics, both ways. And don't tell me that both games wouldn't sell out, they would.

Fiesta Bowl Natl Championship: Wisconsin (5) vs. Oregon (2)
Rose Bowl 3rd Place game: Auburn (1) vs. Ohio State (6)

Yes, I think the Badgers are better than Auburn, as they've shut down defenses with a power QB (Ohio State) before this year. But seriously, either way, wouldn't these be exciting matchups? And the 3rd place game ain't bad either.