iA


College Conference Reporting Armageddon

by Andy Boyle.

The rumor was everywhere.

A big change was coming to Nebraska football, one that would impact fans and the program for years to come. Everyone had a source — a brother who worked in the NCAA compliance office, a cook who had overheard things during an exclusive coach’s meeting, a friend of a friend who knew a guy who once cut someone important’s hair.

Everyone had a theory. But that night on Oct. 15, 2007, a Sunday, three reporters and I sat in a van outside of the main athletic department gate, waiting to hear whether or not NU Athletic Director Steve Pederson was getting canned. At the time, we all worked at the campus paper, The Daily Nebraskan, and we were among a handful of reporters waiting in the parking lot.

It had been the rumor since Nebraska lost 45-14 to Oklahoma State the day before. EVERYONE (aka people on message boards and everyone on campus) was speculating that Pederson was going to be fired. But if you checked the blogs, the newspapers, the TV websites, that rumor really wasn’t anywhere to be found that day. No big media organizations had the “Steve Pederson will be fired early next week, according to sources who told the Random Fan Blog” type ledes. No big stories about speculation, at least from what I remember (Feel free to prove me wrong in the comments).

At about 1 a.m., after we had been told by then-coach Bill Callahan he hadn’t heard anything (“Shouldn’t you boys be doing your homework?”), after driving to Pederson’s home and seeing only his attic light on (No, none of us went to the door), we got a confirmation. Someone we could believe. But the paper had already gone to bed, and we knew we would most likely get official word in a few hours.

The next day, the rumor became reality. A press conference was held, the visitor’s center was crammed with reporters and cameras and the truth came out. Pederson was gone. And it was about an hour before the press conference that news organizations started posting what we later found out was true.

***

Fast forward to today. Media outlets are reporting that Nebraska’s leaving the Big 12 and joining the Big Ten. Now various Big 12-related rumors have been speculated upon for weeks, with many blogs, newspapers and television websites posting tons of “confirmed” stories.

Let’s just look at Texas. KCTV-5 in Kansas City says — “(a)ccording to several sources in multiple conferences” — that Texas is “looking to join the Big Ten Conference and ha(s) petitioned the league for membership.” This was re-reported by the USA Today Campus Rivalry blog. Then, in the Omaha World-Herald (Full disclosure: I interned for five months at that paper, and I think they’ve been doing a great job), “administrators at two Big 12 schools have said the Longhorns…might talk with the Southeastern Conference.”

Oh — and the Associated Press is reporting that “speculation is heavy that Texas…may also jump to the Pac-10.” These are only the first ones I could find, and I’ve read at least a dozen similar reports about all three conferences since Wednesday.

That’s just Texas, folks. No word yet on the Longhorns joining the Conference USA or Sun Belt. We can only hope, of course. (joke)

Try looking up Texas A&M, or Texas Tech. Holy crap there’s a lot of “confirmed” stories out there.

***

This is all a bit disconcerting. Maybe it’s just me, and I’m sure someone out there can skewer me on this point, but I don’t recall seeing as much reporting “according to sources close to [insert phrase here that makes it sound official])” in sports before. Especially reporting that is so incredibly conflicting between media outlets.

I also haven’t seen anyone write or blog about this. Please, someone smarter than me, help me make sense of all of the conflicting reports. Does anyone have a list? Can we start making one? Let’s start making one. Edit: (I’ve made one, click here)

At the end of the day, I think there needs to be some accountability in what we are reporting. With so many media outlets saying so many different things, someone is bound to be wrong. And I hope news organizations and bloggers will tell us if they were wrong. And lastly, I’m not trying to talk smack about anyone or any news organization. I just want to be less confused.

What do you think?

***Edit***

I’ve made a Google Form for anyone who wants to help me catalog the various media outlets and what they are reporting. You can fill it out by clicking here.

Or fill it out here: