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Who is out of control?
The Media, the UW, or both?
By: Malamute, Updated 20 February 2004

Since most journalism is tabloidesque nowadays, why blame the Seattle Post-Intelligencer for just being one of the “boys” or a headline writer for sewing his wild oats? Anchored at the dock owned by the Seattle Times, the P-I needs to sell papers to secure its mooring. Members of a cartel desiring mutual profitability, both papers can afford to play good cop/bad cop.

In this latest setting, the Times' Blaine Newnham plays the role of Austin Powers, while Art Thiel of the P-I, cast as Dr. Evil, wears the banner of a Husky hater. As long as the pay were right, neither would mind a reversal of roles. 

If the local media were fair and balanced there would be a journalistic lambasting of the Cougars, just as Jim Moore of the P-I pans the Dawgs. Moore, as always, is cast in the role of Shakespeare's Puck, who supposedly is a master of harmless rustic mischief, almost benevolent in his pursuit of physical fun.

The metaphorical mix of Dr. Evil, Puck and Austin Powers is as zany as some of the stories I've read. First, the good about them.

If it's the facts that count, I think the Seattle P-I got most of them correct, based on what I read in the NCAA’s “Notice of Allegations,” dated February 16, 2004. Now the bad.

Unfortunately, unwarranted story emphasis, double standards and omissions define the sloppy journalism that sells papers and forms public opinion.

In this newest drama, the media paints a black-and white picture, keeping the storyline as simple as possible to catch their readers’ fancy, while ignoring the grays that would otherwise muddy the drama and turn their readers into Zombies.

For example, several reporters have speculated on the possible outcome of an alleged violation at the UW, without offering any rebuttal to their speculative arguments, which, in most cases, are inimical to the University of Washington. Speculate about a subject on an Internet message board and you will receive a variety of opinions.

Another popular journalistic technique involves stretching the facts to make a point. Recently, a local columnist wrote, "for the second time in her tenure (that of former athletic director Barbara Hedges), the NCAA believes her department is out of control." In the first instance of it, he's referring back to the "lack of institutional control" charges levied against the UW in 1993, charges levied as a result of booster violations that were exposed in 1992, violations that occurred long before Hedges' employment in 1991, many of them occurring outside of the NCAA's four-year statute of limitations. In other words, Hedges was the new kid on the block.

But, my, God, why clutter up an otherwise brilliantly written article with muddying facts?

Also, the media, along with this columnist, assume that NCAA bylaw 10.3 on gambling prohibits gambling of any form, as the NCAA says it does, even though the media knows that arguments pertaining to the bylaw’s ambiguity are well documented. The ambiguity argument, an omission, is never mentioned by press reports. To them, why contaminate the crime scene with the facts?

The media also differentiates Rick Neuheisel’s involvement in March Madness pools from the other UW coaches’ involvement, when it knows, in fact, that his alleged violation is no different than the others, assuming that Bylaw 10.3 offers a clear and unambiguous interpretation of what gambling means, which it does not.

If the amount of money wagered is what differentiates Neuheisel’s violation from that of the other coaches, note the fact that there is no NCAA bylaw that limits the amount of money that can be wagered. There are no major and minor gambling violations based on the amount of money wagered according to NCAA bylaws--all wagers are the same.

The media sensationalizes and repeatedly emphasizes the amount of money bid and won in the two pools (actually, $6400 bid and $11,219 won) much like they sensationalized the loans obtained by Billy Joe Hobert ($50,000). In Neuheisel's case, no one in the media can agree on the amount of money bid and won, and, in most cases, the amounts have been exaggerated.

The tabloid sensationalism of the monies involving Neuheisel certainly will influence the NCAA investigators in their determination of a lack of institutional control at Washington, being that sensationalism has formed public opinion.

Once public opinion is formed, whether it be right or wrong, the NCAA will act accordingly. Same for the UW.

In the latter case, with public opinion hostile to the Neuheisel, if Washington were to have treated him reasonably instead of jettisoning him, the headlines would have read: “NCAA and UW okay high-stakes gambling.”

Everybody knows that, especially the cowering, hunkered-down people at the NCAA.

If the NCAA and Pac-10 had acted in a reasonable manner in 1993, the headlines would have read, “Pac-10 slaps UW on wrist, despite Hobert’s $50K loans.”

In the latest scandal, public opinion will drive the severity of the penalties eventually levied against Washington, which we expect to be severe, at least on the NCAA's part of them. Many in the media posture the paradigm that big-time college football is corrupt. In the latest incident of corruptness, consider the rape scandal at the University of Colorado and how it is being played by the media, which views it as a systemic problem, not just a Colorado problem. To many in the media, Washington's problems are no different than Colorado's; they are part of a system out of control. Unfortunately, for Washington, there are some officials in the NCAA that buy into the media's paradigm.

At the local level, the spring water sold by both Seattle papers becomes murky when mixed with the gray reagent accompanying the institution’s alleged lack of control. If only life were simple.

The Ikaika Malloe statements and coach Keith Gilbertson’s possible role with him are troublesome to me, this along with the NCAA’s violation of two of its own bylaws, which could be the reason it didn't discuss Bylaw 10.1 (lying to investigators) in the Neuheisel situation. In order to avoid casting two villains, the media never mentions the NCAA’s alleged violation of its own bylaws.

In its letter to President Lee Huntsman, the NCAA requested that Gilbertson, among others, be in attendance during the NCAA's Committee on Infractions’ meeting to be held on June 11-13.

In a 38-page response to the Pac-10 investigation some time ago, Neuheisel’s lawyers quote former UW graduate assistant coach Ikaika Malloe, "that in a June 2003 phone call, Mr. (Keith) Gilbertson stated that if he became the head coach of the University of Washington, Mr. Malloe could possibly get a chance to get the tight end coaching job. Mr. Gilbertson went on to tell Mr. Malloe, among other things, that ‘I’m going to come clean … I’m gonna tell [the NCAA] that I participated in the pool in 1999 and I’m gonna leave it at that’". [Sulkin, Hollon].

Malloe says he ran the 2001-02 office pools at the UW and that Gilbertson along with current and former assistants Chuck Heater, Tim Hundley, Brent Myers, and Steve Axman had participated.

The UW (and Pac-10 agree) says that Malloe’s testimony is unreliable because he changed his original story. Originally, he stated that the 1999 pool was the only one he knew about.

During the Pac-10’s investigation (June 23-25), Malloe says he has limited knowledge of betting pools. On Sept. 26, he called the NCAA voluntarily and changed his story, saying he wanted to clear his conscience. He said he set up the 2001-02 office pools and named the coaches who participated, Gilbertson among them. Gilbertson denied doing so.

Previously, Malloe “had run afoul of the athletic department when he was implicated in major misuse of a UW telephone calling card, running up thousands of dollars in phone bills that were later tracked down in an audit reported by the P-I earlier this year,”  this according to Angelo Bruscas of that paper.

Malloe was responsible for $5,401, a debt he paid in full in the summer of 2002.

In their report, Neuheisel’s attorneys said that NCAA Bylaw 10.3 was the main issue. They wrote, “Additionally, a nationally-recognized legal scholar has concluded that under the principles of due process adopted by the NCAA, Bylaw 10.3’s vagueness renders it unenforceable in the circumstances of this case. In fact, Bylaw 10.3 does not by its terms prohibit participation in such auctions or pools, and the University’s interpretations of the Bylaw as allowing the conduct in question were reasonable. Put differently, Mr. Neuheisel was entitled to both a Bylaw that clearly states what is prohibited and a correct interpretation of the Bylaw from his Compliance Office. Since he received neither, he cannot be held at fault.” [Sulkin, Hollon].

The report further stated, “By misleading Mr. Neuheisel as to the true reason for the interview (June 4), the Pac-10 and NCAA violated at least two NCAA and Pac-10 Bylaws: Bylaws 32.3.5 and 32.3.6. These bylaws make it clear that it is improper to misrepresent the true purpose of an interview in circumstances such as those that existed here."

Reference:

[Sulkin, Hollon]. Sulkin, Robert; Holin, Gregory, “Response of Rick Neuheisel to Pacific-10 Conference Notice of Charges Case 2003107 University of Washington Administration,” November 17, 2003.

Richard Linde (a.k.a., Malamute) can be reached at malamute@4malamute.com

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