From the Stands

Is SI a loser?

The anxiously awaited report on the NCAA and OSU-supported investigation of the allegations contained in the Sports Illustrated hatchet job last year on supposed NCAA violations in the OSU football program was released this week and, as OSU loyalists anticipated, it contained no findings in support of the SI allegations.

Apparently, this came as a surprise to virtually no one—perhaps even SI, though we’ll never know that for sure.

As an OSU graduate, I’m pleased with the findings. As a career journalist, I’m not surprised at the report findings because my initial reaction to the SI series was that it was built on a foundation of weak and questionable sources. What surprised me most was what I perceived to be journalistic shortcomings of the series of the five articles when they appeared on SI.com. In my years as a newspaper editor and then publisher, I don’t think I would have approved publishing them in my newspaper. The only reason I make this statement with a slight hedge is that I am not privy to the behind-the-scenes information one would need to offer a more informed opinion.

A major question with the series was the sourcing. The articles relied heavily on sources with serious credibility issues, sources who should have raised a red flag about the information being supplied. Numerous allegations and a dearth of facts to substantiate them paved the way for the oft-heard complaint that the articles were agenda driven. Compounding that was relying on a reporter widely perceived to have a strong anti-OSU bias. SI had to be aware of this, yet used the reporter for the investigation and subsequent series of articles.

Was SI a loser in all this? Almost certainly yes in the opinion of most OSU fans and supporters. But among folks outside that circle and among journalists, I can’t say. In retirement I am no longer in regular contact with my peers in journalism, so I haven’t had the opportunity to hear their viewpoints.

Cowboys favored Saturday

What may be a surprise to many is that the OSU Cowboys are the favorites going into Saturday’s homecoming clash with West Virginia in Boone Pickens Stadium. Yep, today at least the Cowboys are favored by 3½ points over the Mountaineers.

The Cowboys by 3½? Quite possible, but they have a rough row to hoe. So, why do the oddsmakers favor OSU?

Both teams are 5-2 for the season and are tied for second in the Big 12 Conference. Both teams like to throw the ball, though OSU’s heavy reliance on the pass is more necessity than desire since it has had problems with running the ball. WVU likes the pass because it has a top-notch receiver, but the Mountaineers have also shown an ability to run.

Not only is Saturday homecoming for the Cowboys, it is a homecoming of sorts for WVU Coach Dana Holgerson, who was the Cowboys’ offensive coordinator before going to West Virginia. His familiarity with the Cowboys’ system should be an asset for the Mountaineers.

In addition to identical records, the two teams have similar losses. The Cowboys lost a close game to then No. 1-ranked Florida State in their season opener, and the Mountaineers lost by 10 points to then No. 2-ranked Alabama. In their second losses, the Mountaineers were beaten 45-33 by then No. 4-ranked OU, and the Cowboys were bucked out of the rankings last week 42-9 by No. 15 (now No. 10) TCU, a team that had defeated OU the week before.

What about the wins by OSU and WVU? The Cowboys have defeated University of Texas at San Antonio, Missouri State, Texas Tech, Iowa State and Kansas. Not a murderer’s row. WVU has also beaten common foes Texas Tech and Kansas, as well as Towson State, Maryland and Baylor. Towson was a cupcake, but Maryland and Baylor are significant victories. Maryland, a newcomer this year to the Big Ten, has been surprisingly strong and the Baylor Bears were ranked No. 4 in the country last week when the Mountaineers treated them more like Bearskin rugs than fearsome bears.

How does all that add up to the Cowboys being favored rather than being a pick ’em game? Perhaps, it is because the Cowboys are recognized as a strong home-team performer while the Mountaineers seem to lose frequently on the road. However, this year the Mountaineers defeated both Maryland and Texas Tech on the road.

Seems to me the Cowboys have their work laid out for them Saturday.

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