Reading mgoblog last week, Brian Cook's raves about the new Michigan A.D. Dave Brandon might as well have be taken verbatim from one of my posts about Rutgers athletic director Tim Pernetti. After all, they are cut from the same cloth. Maybe during the upcoming expansion negotiations, Pernetti and Brandon can rub elbows about golf handicaps or whatever exactly it is successful businessmen talk about in those situations to break the ice.
Unfortunately, those comments come in the midst of a discussion that is all too familiar here, hitting painfully close to home. Any regular readers of Cook's site know that the Michigan football community has declared open war on the Detroit Free Press. I wanted to wait for all the facts to come out before passing judgment on the matter, and now that's possible following the release of the NCAA's notice of allegations against the Michigan athletic department. Essentially the Free Press sensationalized their stories about Michigan football, and did not get all of their critical facts right. Cook's verdict? Salt the earth.
I can't emphasize enough how much of a hit job this was. Until such time as Drew Sharp, Michael Rosenberg, and Mark Snyder are no longer at the paper, if you are a Michigan fan with a Free Press subscription you should terminate it immediately. If you link to a Free Press article it should be the print page and it should be nofollowed. If you visit the Free Press website, you should have adblock on. If you write for Michigan's Rivals site you should not write for the Free Press. It's not because they took a swing at Michigan's program. It's because they were blatantly dishonest in doing so.
No one wants to read some cliched, highfalutin meta-rant about the excesses of the fourth estate, so I'll be brief. The Newark Star Ledger (specifically, the reporters Josh Margolin and Ted Sherman, although their editors gave them cover and support) made brazen, egregious factual errors during its series of reports about the Rutgers athletic department back in 2008. Their sheer hubris in not acknowledging those failings overrides any impulse to excuse the mishaps as a byproduct of a genuine muckraking spirit. No, the only purpose of the series was to carry water for a third rate political hack trying to get the former Rutgers athletic director, Bob Mulcahy, removed from his position.
So what if some critics are going to be insular and not acknowledge any failings. The Ledger and Free Press editors/enablers are certainly guilty of this same bunker mindset. This isn't about being defensive from criticism. It's about getting the story right, and having a shred of ethics and decency. Months before he ascended to the athletic director position, Tim Pernetti actually blew his nose with a copy of the Ledger at a pep rally in Birmingham, and that was a fair sentiment. Rutgers ultimately did not sever its relationship with the publication however, which probably owes to the fact that their sports desk had nothing to do with the repeated slanders, and even tried to counteract them when possible.
Professional publications have a responsibility to get the story right beyond any reasonable epistemic standard of warrant, because that's their job. Making those mistakes is inexcusable, and not owning up in the light of insurmountable evidence is the greater sin, completely justifying the vitriol directed towards both publications. If faulty reporting directly leads to subscriptions being canceled, that's exactly how things ought to be. That's why I welcome the Michigan community fighting back against the Free Press; just as I applauded the Rutgers community running an ad in the Ledger correcting the factual distortions.
As such, there really is no choice but to declare solidarity and throw your lots in with Michigan football here. Rutgers football has been through the fire on something like this, so I can't stand idly by and watch another mugging. It's outrageous to treat two clean, just athletic departments that actually value academics like outlaws, while rogue programs run free south of the Mason/Dixon line. Get the word out, and shout from the freaking roof tops like it's Tehran. No more.