AU Fails To Lose Talent Due To ‘Grade Changes’?

On December 27 I first noted Auburn head football coach Gene Chizik’s refusal to confirm his entire roster of players as academically eligible for the BCS Championship Game against Oregon on Jan. 10 in Arizona.

Gene Chizik on ESPN's Jim Rome is Burning

(Nearly month after AU semester ended, Chizik confirmed all players eligible)

Monday, all Auburn players on the current roster traveled to Arizona to continue prepping for the big game. After the team arrived in Phoenix, Chizik refused to address a reporter’s question about possible academic eligibility issues facing the team.

Tuesday at a press conference Chizik again was mum when asked if he would not have his full complement of players due to academics.

Finally, two weeks after publicly broaching the possibility that Auburn could face academic casualties for the BCS Championship Game, Chizik broke his silence on the subject.
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Did Blount Suffer ‘Whiff’ Of Racism From Forde?

Pat Forde of ESPN.com today writes this of LeGarrette Blount’s written apology published in the Eugene student newspaper last week:

LeGarrette Blount Pat Forde

(LeGarrette Blount and ESPN.com’s Pat Forde)

“While Blount’s letter follows all of the dos and don’ts you can find at www.perfectapology.com, it also carries the unmistakable whiff of a ghostwriter. Call The Dash cynical, but the likelihood that Blount was the solo author of that letter is roughly the same as Rice’s chances of earning a BCS bowl bid. (”Agony of defeat”? Now there’s a phrase on the tongue of every college kid. If this were the 1970s.)

Nobody here is naive enough to think Blount wrote the entire letter on his own.

But if Forde’s so sure Blount didn’t write the letter, why didn’t he contact Blount and ask him? Or Blount’s coach Chip Kelly? Or Blount’s “legal representation”? For Forde’s comment to be as brassy as that, wouldn’t you think he would’ve at least lined up some material evidence to support his aggresively condescending assertion?

Apparently not.

If the same apology came from Tim Tebow or Colt McCoy or Todd Reesing or Matt Barkley, do you think Forde would be so patronizing?

Was there subtle racism in Pat Forde’s assessment of LeGarrette Blount’s written apology?

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Finally! Pat Forde-Pitino Conflict Of Interest Noted

Earlier today Rick Pitino gave us another window into his deep-seated psychosis with an emotional, rambling response to the media coverage of his extra-marital affair and the abortion he provided Karen Sypher. Pitino bizarrely lashed out at the Louisville media for having the gall to report on and release tapes of Sypher’s testimony that were PROVIDED THEM BY POLICE. If Pitino was to be upset with an organization, it should’ve been local law enforcement. But lest you forget, every day is opposite day in Rick Pitino’s tornado of self-delusion.

Rick Pitino Pat Forde Karen Sypher

(Last time I post this, PROMISE)

Almost as bizarre as Pitino’s behavior has been ESPN’s coverage of the situation. Like the entire media, Bristol barely covered the case brought by the FBI early this year until the LOUISVILLE COURIER-JOURNAL went public with Pitino’s extra-marital affair and abortion story.

ESPN’s Pat Forde, who lives in Louisville and co-authored a book with Pitino, has been Bristol’s point man for the net’s coverage. Early on, Forde failed to report Pitino’s indiscretions with Sypher, instead focusing on smearing her character. And even after Pitino’s ugly behavior became public thanks to reporting from a non-ESPN outlet, Forde continued to concentrate his comments about the case on Sypher’s conduct. (Albeit questionable, grant you that.)

It’s safe to assume that Forde has benefited financially from his relationship with Pitino, so at the very least you would expect ESPN and/or Forde to note the nature of his relationship to the coach before all that reportage, right?

Wrong … until today.

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Forde: Pitino Calling 3PM Press Conference Today

Pat Forde of ESPN just tweeted: “Rick Pitino has called 3 a.m. (sic) press conference. No indication of the subject yet.

Rick Pitino Pat Forde Karen Sypher

I’ve criticized Forde enough on his non-coverage of Pitino’s extra-marital sex and abortion case, and I hate to be cynical … but if anyone knows the subject of the presser, it’s Forde. (He co-authored a book with Pitino and has a home in Louisville.)

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Speed Read: What’s Rick Pitino Going To Do Now?

As Brooks mentioned late last night, the LOUISVILLE COURIER-JOURNAL is reporting that Rick Pitino admitted to police that he had sex with Karen Sypher, the woman he has accused of extortion, then paid her $3,000 to get an abortion when she became pregnant. All of this happened back in 2003, and the reasons behind his case against her have become much clearer: she demanded $10 million, among other things, to keep quiet about all of it. He wasn’t having any of that, and went to the FBI about it.

Rick Pitino

Sypher fired back with a rape charge against Pitino, saying that the liaison that led to her pregnancy was an assault, and not a consensual incident. Pitino was never charged with anything because Sypher’s story is full of holes and she could offer no evidence of such an assault (in fact, she went on to marry Louisville’s equipment manager, Tim Sypher, ensuring that she would be spending more time around Pitino).

So now what for Pitino? His lawyer says he’s not making any public statements until the trial, but this is a pretty large matzo ball just hanging out there now. There’s not much else going in Louisville other than this, so it’s just going to keep building and building. How can the guy be an effective coach at this point?

I won’t try and recount the entire COURIER-JOURNAL story here (however, it’s well worth your time to read it), but I will mention a few things that have stood out for me since taking some time to digest everything:

1. Brooks noted months ago that it was curious that ESPN used Pat Forde to report on the situation originally, considering the fact that Forde is a Louisville resident who co-authored a book with Pitino last year. Well, the WWL obviously hasn’t reconsidered that decision, as they trotted him back out last night to comment on the situation on ESPNEWS. Forde was presented simply as an “ESPN.COM senior writer,” and no mention was made on the air of his personal ties to Pitino. Predictably, Forde tried to downplay the latest revelations and focused mostly on emphasizing Sypher’s legal troubles. He admitted that Pitino was in an uncomfortable spot now, but stopped well short of saying anything critical of the coach.

Pat Forde

(Where’s Cossack or Munson?)

1A. If Sypher filed a civil suit against Pitino for allegedly raping her, would ESPN find that worthy of coverage?

2. We don’t know for sure that this was Pitino’s kid, right? Pitino says he would request a paternity test if she decided to have the kid, but she opted for an abortion instead. She then accepted $3,000 from him for the procedure. She clearly had the abortion, but isn’t it possible that she went to Pitino for the money because she knew he would pay up? He says she told him that she hadn’t had sex with anyone else in months, but she hasn’t appeared to be entirely trustworthy here.

3. Pitino says that he and Karen Sypher met at Tim Sypher’s condo (she and Tim didn’t know each other at the time) to talk about the pregnancy and figure out what to do. Now, knowing what was going on, what on earth would make Tim go “you know what, I think I need to get aboard the Karen train”? Shockingly, the Syphers are now estranged.

Karen Sypher

4. UL president Tom Jurich is quoted as saying that Pitino “has been truthful about this matter with us all along.” Does that mean the school has known all of these details for six years? If not, when did they find out? Was there any sort of off-the-record punishment for this? Some coaches have gotten canned for drinking beer at a frat party, so I can’t imagine that UL would’ve taken too kindly to their married coach impregnating a woman at a restaurant.

5. Pitino isn’t in any sort of trouble legally, but as this drags on in court it’s going to be a huge distraction. Was that a consideration in bringing Ralph Willard over from Holy Cross to be his new lead assistant? Willard’s exactly the kind of guy who could step in on an interim basis if Pitino decides to either take time off or step down altogether. Pitino actually had a possible way out of Louisville a few months ago when the Sacramento Kings were looking for a new coach, but he decided to stick around.

Ralph Willard

(UL’s next coach?)

Is Rick Pitino going to be Louisville’s coach in 2009-10?

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It may not be the biggest soccer game the U.S. has ever played, but today’s showdown with Mexico in a World Cup qualifier sure seems like a big deal. That’s probably because ESPN has spent an inordinate amount of time hyping the game. Having just acquired English Premier League rights, and coming off a summer of showing a number of games involving European clubs touring the U.S., the network is clearly committed to promoting the sport like never before. And they finally seem to have realized that they way to make the game more popular in this country is to give us less MLS and more actual good soccer.

US soccer fans

(USA! USA! USA!)

That recent commitment has resulted in a first — ESPN has sent Bob Ley and Alexi Lalas down to Mexico City to put on a 30-minute pre-game show for today’s match. This despite the fact that the game isn’t being shown on ESPN (it’s on some channel called mun2 if you’re wondering).

U.S. Mexico soccer

Despite all the attention, the game is much less crucial to the U.S. than it may seem. The Americans are comfortable in second place in the qualifying group, and while a loss to Mexico wouldn’t be ideal, the U.S. would still have the edge in the standings. The expectations aren’t exactly high, either — the U.S. is 0-22-1 in Mexico.

That puts all of the pressure squarely on Mexico, which sits in fourth place in the group and needs to get into the top three to automatically qualify for the World Cup. A loss to the U.S. would be a complete disaster and might put them in too deep a hole to dig out of. In other words, the Americans don’t have a whole lot to lose out there, and if they can shock Azteca Stadium with an early goal, watch out. That won’t be easy, though, as this LA TIMES article contends. At 7,400 feet in the middle of a smoggy afternoon in a cavernous stadium that will be shaking with noise, it’s maybe the worst stadium atmosphere for visitors in the entire world.

Azteca Stadium

Let’s get on with the links:

• The BOSTON GLOBE has a great photo essay of Kevin Youkilis losing his s*** after getting plunked by Detroit’s Rick Porcello last night:

Kevin Youkilis charging mound

It was a poor effort by Youk, who had all the upper hand when he tossed his helmet at a stunned Porcello, and still ended up getting spun down to the ground by the 20-year-old. In other words, he only did marginally better than Zimmer.

Don Zimmer Pedro Martinez

A horse trainer in Arizona has been accused of sexual abuse with his students. People (young girls), if you’re wondering.

• Politicians in New Jersey are threatening to withhold state money from pro teams that play there but don’t mention the state on their uniforms. Which appears to be all of them except the Devils, now that the Nets have removed the “New Jersey” from their road unis.

new jersey nets dancers

(OK, so maybe these don’t technically say New Jersey, but we get the picture)

• Baseball and softball are out, but women’s boxing might be in for the 2012 Olympics. Also, it’s about time they fixed the debacle that is the modern pentathlon.

• All these years, I had no idea that Brooks was in a country music duo with Adam Dunn. Well, used to be in a country music duo.

• Coming soon to “The Ocho,” the world championships of catching laptops in your butt:

Adrian Gonzalez set a Padres franchise record with 6 hits in a 9-inning win over the Brewers last night. The last Padre with 6 hits was Tony Gwynn, who did it in an extra-inning game 16 years and 80 pounds ago.

• Australian Trent Oeltjen spent 9 years in the minors, but he’s 12-for-24 with 3 homers in his first 5 games in the majors with Arizona. He got a standing ovation from the Chase Field crowd during his 4-hit game last night against the Mets (it’s been a rough year there).

• We reported yesterday that the USFL is supposedly coming back, and wants to resurrect the teams from the old league. Not sure how they’re going to get a license for those names and logos, though, as this site has been selling USFL logo merchandise for a few years (I got a Portland Breakers shirt there).

New Jersey Generals

(Now here’s a team the fine folks of New Jersey can be proud of)

• One month later, Arturo Gatti’s death is just a big a mystery as ever.

• You think pro athletes in this country behave outrageously? Australia’s National Rugby League is in the midst of a crisis due to one ridiculous scandal after another. Sponsors are considering pulling their support from the league until things get under control. The latest incident involves Greg Inglis, said to be one of the best players in the world. He is charged with assaulting his girlfriend over the weekend. It’s kind of the equivalent of Kobe Bryant hypothetically getting accused of something like sexual assault…oh, wait.

Not Again! ESPN Covered Up Abortion For Pitino?

On April 24, I reported that ESPN’s Pat Forde, who once co-authored a book with Rick Pitino, wrote a curiously incomplete piece for ESPN.com about an extortion charge Pitino (via Federal prosecutors) was pursuing against a woman named Karen Sypher.

ESPN Gets Burned Again For Rick Pitino Abortion Coverup?

(My suspicion from 3 1/2 months ago now confirmed?)

In Forde’s piece, much like the reportage of the rest of the main media at the time, all of the meaningful details of the case went unmentioned. We were so left in the dark that I asked at the time why Forde even bothered to write the piece.

Of course, we had an inkling of the answer - Forde was going to bat for an old friend, and looking to marginalize Sypher - which is precisely what he did in the story.

Did ESPN coverup Rick Pitino extra-marital sex & abortion story?

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So the question remained: why specifically did the Feds think Pitino was the victim of extortion? Thanks to the LOUISVILLE COURIER-JOURNAL - and not ace Louisville-based ESPN columnist and Pitino confidant Forde - we now know.

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Forget Ben: ENTIRE Media Blockaded Pitino Case

Main media criticism of ESPN has absolutely exploded over the past 48 hours, thanks to the network’s decision to initially not cover Ben Roethlisberger’s sexual assault charge.

Rick Pitino Pat Forde Karen Sypher

(The entire main media, not just ESPN’s Pat Forde, blew off Pitino case)

The basic criticism, first lodged by Mike Florio at the ever-present PRO FOOTBALL TALK, is certainly salient and justified. But over time, the sniping has reached a level of absurdity, revealing just how much disdain ESPN’s competitors have for the WWL.

The great irony though about the feeding frenzy is that these are the same non-ESPNers who bury stories to their liking every single day. With no better example the central detail in the Rick Pitino extortion case. Read more…

ESPN Covers Up For Rick Pitino In Extortion Case?

The most important thing I’ve learned in spending 16 years in the main media covering celebrity sports figures is that societal rules don’t apply to them.

Rick Pitino Pat Forde Karen Sypher

(ESPN’s Forde’s reportage on Pitino extortion case objective? Puh-leeze)

Take for instance Rick Pitino. The U of L coach recently accused a woman of extortion, which has since been widely reported by the main media. Apparently the case is so serious that the FBI is investigating.

So what’s it all about? Well if you watch ESPN or read ESPN.com, do the same of the Louisville media and/or everyone else in the main media, you have no clue.

But if you’re reading this, you of course understand precisely why blogs are now so popular. Any sports fan with an IQ above an eggplant immediately jumped on the web when they heard Pitino’s abridged accusation - and in about 45 seconds knew the juicy details. Read more…

Blog Jam: WNBA Coach Can’t Contain Excitement

• THE SPORTS HERNIA shows how excited assistant coach Steve Shuman is about the upcoming WNBA season, based on his media day photo:

Steve Shuman WNBA assistant coach

• The ST. PETERSBURG TIMES reports that setting new levels of success and beating the Yankees still can’t get Rays fans out to Tropicana Field.

• The ORLANDO SENTINEL tosses news of a Florida State baseball player who gets around - by playing all nine positions in a single game.

• GUTTY LITTLE BRUINS brews up video of Rick Neuheisel extolling the virtues of UCLA football to some new recruits.

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Blog-A-Roni: Amy Police In Trouble With The Law

• BUSTED COVERAGE reports a Police woman getting in trouble for flashing her highbeams at a Spring Break crowd.

Amy Police Ohio State student

That would be Walsh University volleyball player Amy Police.

• A blogger for LAKELAND FLYING TIGERS BLOG takes part in Detroit’s open baseball tryouts, and lives to write about it.

• Speaking of life-changing experiences, ESPN’s Pat Forde pens about his portrayal as the Stanford Tree.

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