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Is Brent Musburger a Weis guy?
Malamute, 3 January 2005

ABC announcer Brent Musburger was born in Portland, Oregon and went to Northwestern University, which is located in Evanston, Illinois. Even if he does have a built-in bias for football teams out of the Midwest, he probably tries to disguise most of it under the umbrella of fair play and objectivity. I mean, he majored in Journalism.

However, his broadcast of the Fiesta Bowl, which pitted Notre Dame and Ohio State, was a bit too much. Notre Dame’s coach, Charlie Weis, has got to love Musburger. Weis, with a persona that lacks flair and piquancy, is a pitiable figure on the sidelines, being terribly overweight as well as bland. Not much emotion ever shows on his face. Simply put, he is no Pete Carroll, not only for his lack of charisma, but also for the fact his team plays lousy defense. 

Going into the game, Notre Dame was ranked 62 in the nation on Total Defense. For example, Washington (2-9) passed for 408 yards against Notre Dame this season -- in a game Weis called the “Ty Bowl,” which, in my opinion, was a put down to Tyrone Willingham, his predecessor at Notre Dame.

All of this didn’t deter Musburger from canonizing the drab, loose-lipped Weis. In this regard, both Musburger and his cohort mentioned Weis’ name at every opportunity during the first three quarters of the game. It was Weis this and Weis that, all said in a favorable context. Only after Ohio State had the game secured did the two announcers begin to focus on Jim Tressel, the Buckeyes coach, and that was with 10 minutes left in the game.

So why perpetrate this arrogant display of bias on the viewers?

a. Having a “genius” as a coach helps Notre Dame recruiting.

b. Notre Dame fans (presumably, the majority of Catholics in this country plus a set of icon-worshipers) were made happy.

c. Conversely, it angered fans who dislike Notre Dame. Its sweetheart deal with NBC, its relative immunity from NCAA investigations, and its mutual love affair with the media, all in effect, are anathema to those fans who support schools that must play on an even playing field.

d. Musburger adores teams from the Midwest, especially Notre Dame.

e. It’s all about ratings.

All of the above are correct. Playing to two sets of fans enhances future network ratings, one set of fans determined to see Notre Dame win and the other bent on seeing the Irish lose. Also, recruiting better players means better ratings for Notre Dame’s telecasts. ABC televises almost all of Notre Dame’s road games.

As for Musburger’s Midwest bias: Brandon Brazell’s runback of two onside kicks for touchdowns against Musburger’s alma mater Northwestern, matched against UCLA in the Sun Bowl, may have sent his journalistic ethics kerflooey.

Really, though, it’s all about ratings, which is the bottom line for Musburger and ABC. Money trumps objectivity.

-------------------------

One of the reporters that co-authored a series of articles that appeared in the Los Angeles Times in December 1992, stories that helped torpedo Washington’s then rising football dynasty, is working as an investigative reporter for The Star Telegram of Fort Worth, the paper that broke the John Papadakis story. Although this reporter is apparently not involved with the Papadakis stories, his investigative techniques used in Washington's case may come to the fore later on.

Papadakis, a USC linebacker in 1970-71, owns the Greek restaurant Papadakis Taverna in San Pedro, Calif.

His restaurant has been used as a Trojan recruiting tool for years.

Reportedly, he gives recruits a speech about the Trojans' cardinal and gold colors and closes the meal by urging them to declare, "I want to be a Trojan."

“When people come into my restaurant, my job is to serve them. That's what I do. I serve and entertain," Papadakis recently told the Los Angeles Times. According to that paper, Papadakis says he does not instruct recruits to choose USC.

As a former player, Papadakis is prohibited from speaking to recruits about the Trojans, this according to NCAA bylaw 13.1.2.3, which states, "In all sports only those coaches permitted to recruit off campus ... may contact prospects off campus."

The natural follow-up is to contact former Trojans who were either kicked off the team or prematurely left it on their own volition, that is, to interview disgruntled, former players -- say, a couple of them who unsuccessfully sued the university and/or its coaching staff. What improper contact did they have with boosters during their recruiting process, and thereafter as Trojans?

That’s how it worked at Washington in 1992.

I almost forgot. Did any hotels give them baskets of fruit during their stay in Los Angeles?

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

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