Miller: ESPN 'Hit Piece' Hides Key Motive

Commentary

I should know better than to comment on something that I do not feel pertains to me, but that has never stopped me before.

In the most recent ESPN the Magazine, they have a feature that focuses on talented football prep Myron Rolle. Rolle once listed Iowa among the schools that he was considering, so Hawkeye fans might remember him from this past winter.

The piece was mostly about the number of phone calls that Rolle has fielded from people associated with Scout.com and Rivals.com, and it does not shed a positive light on the ‘genre' of websites that are team specific.

As you probably know, HawkeyeNation.com and Hawkeye Nation, the magazine, focus on Iowa Hawkeye athletics. We also spend a

part of our time covering high school football players who have an interest in Iowa and we have called these athletes for stories that have appeared on the website and magazine. But the majority of our man-hours are spent covering the beat of the teams that currently wear an Iowa uniform.

It's no secret that I really don't care for the number of phone calls that some websites on each network make to recruits and I feel that our industry needs to step in and police itself before things get any further out of hand than they already are.

I believe there should be limits as to how many times representatives from sites like HawkeyeNation.com can call kids. I believe it should be something that both Scout and Rivals come to terms with in a joint effort.

I doubt that happens, as the genie is out of the bottle and there is a veritable ‘cold war' that rages each and every day on both networks. One team site sees that its competing site on the other network has interviewed a player that has had things to say about the school they cover, so it feels compelled to contact the prep. Then consider that this prep has offers from 10 schools, and perhaps each ‘school' has a website on both networks that cover recruiting, so you have 20 potential phone callers for the one player.

Then you have regional recruiting correspondents that contact these same kids, and these preps also field calls from members of college coaching staffs during the year.

In the end, these kids and their families get bombarded with calls from the time they get home from school until the time they go to bed, and beyond.

It's the sad underbelly of this business, and one that I despise.

However, there are team specific sites that have established their own rules and set of standards when it comes to contacting prep athletes, and HawkeyeNation.com is one of them.

We are very strict on the number of times that we will allow representatives from our website to contact recruits, as well as the hours of the evening in which we call them. Landmark events like attending a camp, receiving an offer and committing to a school are certainly worth covering, as fans enjoy reading about them and for the most part, the players enjoy talking about them, to a point.

Telling a young athlete's story are among the most enjoyable features I have written for the website and magazine.

Rolle was quoted in the ESPN story as saying that in the course of one evening, Iowa Scout called him (which means HawkeyeNation.com) and Iowa Rivals called him (which means the site on Rivals that once flew the HawkeyeNation.com banner).

In looking at Rolle's story history on Scout.com, Josh Clark contacted Rolle via email after he attended camp in Iowa City in June of 2004. At the time, Josh covered the Midwest for Scout, and his role was later changed to Midlands. We posted Rolle's comments on our message boards.

Since then, we have not published any other items on Rolle on HawkeyeNation.com. Part of the reason is because he no longer considered Iowa, or we most likely would have contacted him a few more times over the course of the last year…but only a few, because there has not been any ‘new' news that pertains to Rolle with regards to committing to a school.

The ESPN story also quoted Tom Lemming, who also heaped a big pile of blame on internet sites. They also cited CycloneNation.com's current process of finding a reporter for their website and magazine, painting the search as blatant homerism which is a part of the problem, as they painted it. The quote anonymous college coaches that say they fear websites and the things that some of them do.

One of the ironic aspects of this story is a little blurb at the top of the last page that talks about how ESPN and Lemming have severed ties, but that ESPN was launching its own ‘fee based' recruiting coverage, and that the people they will have calling recruits are former coaches and athletes and those people will evaluate the prospects, etc. They go out of their way to say how that will insulate them from the ‘problem' they point out in the article.

How convenient.

Look, there is no doubt that there are rogue websites out there who are doing things they should not. Some of those sites have been taken down in recent years, including a website that was a part of the Scout.com network.

I don't feel that a prospect has any business posting on team specific message boards and we have policed that since day one. I don't feel that fans have any business interacting with these athletes on the message boards until said athlete has signed a letter of intent.

In my opinion, there should be many others that also just go away, because they are the cause for such negative publicity to be placed on this industry.

Believe it or not ESPN, some of us do things the right way, with ethical standards in place. Some of us, like Hawkeye Nation's Editor Rob Howe spent considerable time employed in the traditional mainstream media world of newspapers. Howe spent several years at the Iowa City Press-Citizen before coming to work for Hawkeye Nation back in the summer of 2003. Rob went to college to be a journalist. I have a degree in Broadcast Journalism and spent time in the profession prior to my entering the Internet world back in late 1999.

The Internet is an outlet and a medium that we very much enjoy, as it provides freedom to do the things that we enjoy doing that traditional mediums do not provide. Having the opportunity to start up our own magazine was also something that was quite attractive to us.

We have decided to use the skills we learned in college and combine them with our enjoyment of living in the state of Iowa and covering Iowa Hawkeye athletics. Along the way, if I muffle a cheer within 100 feet of the press box, you can wag your finger at me if you would like, but that does not mean that we are out snubbing our noses at NCAA rules and regulations.

There are plenty of ‘phone jockeys' in this industry, but there are also people who have a passion for writing, a passion for painting word pictures and who enjoy interacting on a daily basis with the fans on the message boards.

That doesn't make us illegitimate or shady, but it might mean we enjoy our jobs more than you do.

Our credentials aside, some of us just know right from wrong, decency from indecency and respect from disrespect when we are put in those positions.

But that doesn't make for entertaining reading, nor does it help you launch your own business that sees what we do as competition, since they like the profit models of the genre and wanted to get a piece of it.

Welcome to the mud pit, ESPN. Though it was not your intent, you showed that you are no better than the rogue websites that you tried to paint with the ugly stick…you just say that you'll do it under the guise of ‘objectivity'.


Hawkeye Insider Top Stories