damned if you do

The Washington Post broke a “story” this Sunday that the University of Maryland did not commit a recruiting violation when star basketball prospect Lance Stephenson visited the Under Armour headquarters during a recruiting trip to the area in late January.  The non-story was then picked up by the Baltimore Sun, New York Daily News, the Sporting News, and a number of other major news outlets.  Under Armour CEO Lance Plank is also on the board of trustees at UMD because his company is a major donor to the school’s athletic programs.  Although they have not violated and NCAA recruiting rules with this visit, Plank and Stephenson have given an air of impropriety due to the associations between the university and the company.  That’s the gist of it.

The Post recently wrote a three-part series on how Gary Williams can’t recruit and his team is suffering for it.  Since then, Williams has righted the ship and has the team on the verge of making the big tournament.  The stories sparked boosters, fans, and other school supports to put on an overwhelming display of support for Williams.  What do we have here?  I’m guessing that Eric Prisbell and Steve Yanda needed something else to keep themselves in print, so they looked back through their notes on the recruiting stories, noticed this tidbit about Stephenson, and decided to make something out of nothing.

I think the Post needs to make-up its mind on whether they are for or against Maryland recruiting blue chips.  The paper has a lot of influence over the university and how it conducts its business.  What is it going to be?  Should we go after the All-World players with borderline personality disorders, or should we stick with the system Gary already had in place, which was to get diamonds in the rough and try to mold them into gems?  Maybe the Post can just tell Maryland what they want out of this situation instead of continually embarrassing the program on a national stage.  I think the writers there sometimes forget that the Post is not just a local paper.

Personally, I think Stephenson is a specimen but I would pass on him.  I wouldn’t pass on him because of this Under Armour garbage, but because I’ve heard he has problems with authority, and he’s probably not the kind of guy that would thrive in this system.  We have some other talented guys coming in.  Gary should probably take a flier on Stephenson like he has on other borderline guys in the past.  That’s his system, and he should stick to it.

That’s how I feel.  Isn’t it amazing how easy it was to interpret the message of this story when I simply stated it rather than beat around the bush?


5 Responses to “damned if you do”

  1. March 2, 2009 at 10:45 am

    I agree with the whole “damned if you do, damned if you don’t” theory. The Post took Gary to task for not recruiting blue chips, then takes him to task for recruiting blue chips. However, I disagree with some of your other statements. Everyone’s an armchair media critic these days, and I don’t think it’s fair to the reporters. I’m not singling out my esteemed colleague Terphed here…this has become an all-too-common practice on the blogosphere, and it ends up doing more harm than good.

    Take a look at this update from Prisbell on the Terrapins Insider blog:
    Judging by Prisbell’s comments, the shady shoe company aspects of recruiting is a pet issue for him, and he has said he plans to investigate other schools down the road, not just Maryland. I’ll be looking forward to those stories. Also, judging by the comments after the post, a lot of fans had the same reaction you did.

    However, I don’t think it’s fair for anyone to suggest that Prisbell needed to gin up some more muck in order to feed his ego or keep his job, or that he has some kind of hidden anti-Maryland agenda, or that what he reported was somehow factually wrong or misreported just because you didn’t agree with it or he didn’t cover it the same way you would have. It’s OK to disagree with someone’s approach, but all too often people find it very easy to attack someone’s reporting (“you need to get your facts straight,” “why don’t you do a little research next time,” etc.) or claim they have an axe to grind when usually it’s just not the case. In other words, I think it’s very satisfying to make personal attacks, but the overwhelming majority of the time, those attacks just aren’t accurate.

  2. March 2, 2009 at 10:57 am

    Fair enough. I found the timing and tone of the story to follow a certain pattern of sensationalism that I’ve seen out of Prisbell, and that’s why I railed against it. If he’s putting a series of stories together regarding the unseamly underbelly of athletic shoe promotion, then it would have been good for him to written the story after he unearthed some actual violations instead of implying there were violations where they did not exist. It’s damaging to the school’s reputation, and it must be especially hurtful to the people in the program who have worked so hard to stay on the right side of the rulebook.

    But you’re right, it’s easy for me to criticize a reporter from my armchair in the blogosphere, especially when I’m not exactly doing any investigations myself. If Prisbell and Yanda actually read this, then keep up the hard work guys. I think they are good journalists. I just want people to be aware of the power they wield when they have such a big audience, even if their intent is pure.

  3. March 7, 2009 at 9:05 am

    The Washington Post article also goes in depth about Under Armour’s entry into the athletic shoe industry currently controlled by Nike and Addidas. Under Armour is definitely an exciting company that has created a market for under garment that does not reatain moisture. Whether it can recreate its success with sneakers remains to be seen. I think that is the bigger story. To learn more go to http://www.newyorkshockexchange.com/content/view/83/37/

  4. 4 terphed
    March 7, 2009 at 12:32 pm

    That is a big story Ralph. Nike was also aided by the fact that they made a splash during a boom economy, and they have faced downturns during recessions. This might not be the best time for Under Armour to launch a brand of high priced sneakers. There is also the looming possibility of a NBA lockout in a couple years, which would really hurt any momentum they get.

  5. March 9, 2009 at 3:49 pm

    Actually, Ralph, the bigger story here for Maryland sports fans — which is what this blog is about — is the part of it about, you know, Maryland sports. Nice plug for your blog, though.

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