Upon Further Review

Occasionally, it's bound to happen in the discharge of diagnostic duties that the same cold blade which adeptly dissects comparisons and critical analysis can slice the flesh of unintended victims.

That was the case in a recent story I wrote that roused a caring mother's wrath in defense of her very talented son. Of course, that wasn't the intention but after a heartfelt conversation with the mother of North Carolina quarterback prospect Jonathan Crompton, I realize how easily it could have been taken that way especially by someone so close to the situation.

The intention of the story was two fold: first to address the excitement building over the possible early commitment of Crompton to Tennessee where he would compete for the starting quarterback position in the fall of 2005. The second was to demonstrate that while Crompton would likely be that consensus top five QB the Vols have aimed for but failed to land since Casey Clausen in 2000, his junior season stats weren't superior to the numbers posted by Brent Schaeffer and Erik Ainge who signed with the Vols just a week ago.

The story contained a subtle admonishment to some of UT's more zealous fans not to put so much stock in ratings and statistics. It was also intended to remind fans that just a few days ago they were wringing their hands worrying that Schaeffer would sign with North Carolina State.

In retrospect, the story was not one of my better efforts. It was designed to be a think piece that provided a verbal snapshot of how recruiting campaigns can overlap and how once a player commits he can become old news. It's a phenomenon I've witnessed over the years but never fully understood.

Admittedly, having covered and interviewed Schaeffer and Ainge so much over recent months, I felt an abiding appreciation for both which probably prevented me from maintaining the level of objectivity that is needed to offer effective analysis. Ultimately, in my haste to make points and combine purposes I authored a story that lacked both clarity and a sharp focus.

Explaining this position to Mrs. Crompton enabled us to find a common ground and establish a meaningful dialogue because she understands wherever Jonathan goes to college he will face the same fickle fate of fandom. Additionally, she understands that along with notoriety comes scrutiny which virtually assures there will be other scouts and analysts that will feel obligated to point out Jonathan's weaknesses while extolling his strengths.

Addressing another one of her concerns I explained how we often use network quotes without attribution much as one wire story will lift quotes from another story by the same wire service without acknowledging the source. The purpose of such a practice is not to mislead readers into thinking we personally got the quotes from a subject, but to avoid the cumbersome attributions that might otherwise require three or four acknowledgments in the course of a single short story. Particularly during the homestretch to signing day, I've been more inclined to specify that the source "told Inside Tennessee" in order to distinguish between quotes I personally obtained and those which I borrowed from a network source. This is a policy that probably requires a thorough review and thus I will begin to acknowledge sources to avoid confusion even if it inhibits the flow of a story.

Ultimately, the only factual error the story contained was the statement that Jonathan would graduate from high school early. In truth, he will not enroll in college until the summer of 2005. We also discussed how the statistics in many of Jonathan's games were skewed because he was taken out early, or due to other factors. There are certainly always extenuating circumstances inherent in statistics that have to be taken into consideration to reach a better understanding of their significance. There are ample examples of QBs that compiled mind-boggling stats in high school but never made it on the Division I level. Likewise, there are players who post modest numbers but go on to become college stars.

The delay in responding to this issue was to allow me time to personally reach Mrs. Crompton and explain my position. Inside Tennessee and Rocky Top News will endeavor to bring our loyal readers future stories on Jonathan Crompton, especially should he decide on UT. I hope for the opportunity to present a positive, in-depth feature on this high-caliber prospect that proves entertaining, inspiring and informative.

Perhaps the most illuminating part of my discussion with Mrs. Crompton occurred when I explained that if I had known Jonathan's mother would read the story I would have been more careful about how it was presented. She responded by saying maybe that's something I should keep in mind when writing any story. That's sound advice for anyone using a public forum to offer critical commentary.

Finally, I will close this column and subject with one more observation. I've witnessed great pass blockers in my years of covering football but no one that could protect a quarterback better than Mrs. Crompton.

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