Perry: So Much to Say

Herd Insider columnist and publisher Greg Perry's weekly print column appears here at GoHerd.com, as a benefit for our Premium Ticket subscribers.

So much to say, so much to say.

That's the trouble nowadays, with regards to following Marshall sports via the internet, in my opinion. And if this last week has demonstrated anything, it has shown that the gossipy side of being a Marshall fan just raised (or lowered, depending on your view) the bar one notch.

As many of you know, Marshall announced last Thursday that 12 football players were to be suspended due to receiving 'extra benefits'. No players were named in the announcement, and the news release was very brief and to the point.

The internet rumor mill had been going full-force in the three days before the announcement, and this is the one bone I have to pick: There is a faction of Marshall fans out there who sincerely believe that, because they hang out on a message board, that they are entitled to full disclosure in such circumstances. The line between message board and media outlet is being blurred on a daily basis by these posters, and their demand to be apprised of every little detail as it happens is absurd.

Here's a sample, posted by a Marshall fan: "12 players will not be eligible for the Saturday game against Florida but Marshall has not released the names of the players and the NCAA enforcement division was unavailable to comment. Unreal. This is a classic comedy if it wasnt so sad. I hate to break it to you AD dept. you have lost your rights to be coy and non frank. Start being honest and let us know what the @#%$ is going on... I tell you what, there had better be some scalps after this. There better be some people in the unemployment line."

The instant gratification nature of the internet itself has spawned this belief in folks, and it has the potential to lead to disastrous results here, in the real world, affecting real people in real time.

This is where I draw the line back, to where it should be.

The little secret that Marshall fans should know about last weeks' suspension announcement is this: There are some things that you are not entitled to know, at all, until the time is right. Neither am I, the owner of a media outlet that covers the very team in question. The reason things were so quiet, the reason no official word came until Thursday night, just 48 hours before Marshall faced Florida in the season opener is a simple one: Protection.

Going on in the background last week was a flurry of faxes, phone calls, and emails between attorneys for Marshall and the NCAA, dealing with the sordid details of the player suspensions. These communications literally changed the nature of the suspensions on an hourly basis, some days. Appeals are heard, new evidence is submitted for review, and negotiations are being made in these communications. The situation, as they say, is in 'constant movement'.

So, imagine the consequences of the following scenario, a fictional one: Marshall releases the announcement of the suspensions on Monday, before final rulings are made and appeals are heard by the NCAA. Players are named. Everybody gets their wish, gets to know all and have their appetite for rumor-mongering satiated instantly.

Then on Wednesday, the NCAA announces that X number of players had their appeals heard and approved, and were therefore no longer suspended.

Too late, the damage is done.

This fictional scenario could have become scary real, had the internet-gossips had their way last week. Can you imagine the fallout if that had happened? I can't.

And that's why you and I weren't kept apprised of the situation on a minute-by-minute basis, my dear friend. Real people are involved in this, and unlike on the internet, you can't just Control-Alt-Delete your way out of real life when things go wrong. There is no 'edit' function once the lawyers get busy.

The second part of this has to do with sentiments aimed squarely at myself during the rumor stage of things, late last week. Internet gossipers wanted to know why media outlets (like Herd Insider) weren't doing some investigative work, diligently finding the answers to so many questions posed online before official word was released.

That's a simple answer: Until official word is released on matters such as these, there is no story to be had. Unlike on the internet, mere speculation and rumor doesn't cut it in the very real activity of being a print publication. I could have asked numerous sources about the rumored suspensions, and would have been greeted with a 'no comment' comment every single time. In fact, I did just that, and was greeted that way.

No comment, no story. Period. Until somebody in a position to do so verifies or denies a story via actually being quoted, then what we have is a rumor and nothing more. Those are the rules of journalism, Marshall fans. Those rules don't exist on the internet message boards, though.

And believe it or not, for the better part of last week I had all the info I needed about the suspensions, but not one quote to validate it with. For the very reasons mentioned above, I might add. And that's why you didn't see a word about it on our website, www.GoHerd.com.

No comment, no story. Period.

Yes, I knew the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, all week long. The temptation to write an article outlining what would soon be hitting the papers was overwhelming. Just imagine...Herd Insider would get credit for 'breaking' the story, even though it was at that time unsubstantiated. We'd be famous.

However, the potential for damage was too great a burden to bear.

Not for a rumor. Being in this business means you earn the respect of certain people that you'll do the right thing, always. We did the right thing, waiting until the time was right to write the story when it became verified, the correct way, at the right time. The situation changed on an hourly basis on Thursday, and those changes would have meant doing harm to either a player or coach on the Marshall football team.

Herd Insider is not a tabloid.

Believe it or not, there are other things in life more important that showing off one's knowledge by being the first, the 'insider', the one that spreads the rumor, all in the name of vanity.

In the case of the 12 suspended Marshall football players, protecting the identities of the players involved, the details of the charges, and the resulting punishment(s) until being either verified or denied by a coach or administrator was much more important than spreading a rumor. Until the final outcome was known, then no outcome was truly known.

Speculation does not equal story.

As long as I have a hand in this publication and our website, that's the way things will always be.

So, the big question regarding college sports websites that are designed around mere rumors and innuendo is this: Do they do a good thing for the program, or are they a detractor, spreading rumors at the speed of light in a quest to give off the feeling of being involved, being in-the-know?

So much to say, so much to say...


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