Friday, February 09, 2007


One of the reasons I find the whole recruiting process nowadays unsettling is because of the level of media scrutiny these young men are subjected to.
And that might be -- emphasis on might -- why Joe McKnight has set off a lot of questions, a possible investigation and a bizarre series of events.
The relevant particulars, with comments:
McKnight, regarded as the nation's top running back prospect, signed a national letter of intent with USC on Wednesday. During a news conference announcing his college choice, he told reporters back home that his mind was put at ease about USC after he listened to a telephone conversation between Coach Pete Carroll and Reggie Bush, the Trojans' Heisman Trophy-winning running back. ...
"It never happened," Carroll said.
Carroll said he broached the subject of a conference call with assistants before a visit to McKnight's home but was told it was against NCAA rules. He also said that McKnight never spoke to Bush, who recently completed his rookie season with the New Orleans Saints. [Emphasis, as always, is C&F's]
So we know that Carroll had the idea to set up a conference call. We know that McKnight initially said there was a conference call, then took it all back when people started asking questions. Note: This marks Story No. 1.
The Associated Press reported Wednesday that McKnight said Carroll set up a conference call so he and high school coach J.T. Curtis could talk to Bush and ease their worries that USC might be sanctioned.
Curtis said in a telephone interview Thursday that he spoke to Carroll during McKnight's recruitment, but not on a conference call with McKnight or Bush. He also said McKnight told him that "Coach Carroll was talking to Reggie on the speakerphone and Joe was able to listen and hear Reggie Bush's side of the story."
Here we have Story No. 2, namely that a speakerphone conversation took place between McKnight, Carroll and Bush. But wait! That would be a violation, too! We need another story!

After being informed of Carroll's denial Thursday night, Curtis called McKnight. He later said the player told him he never heard Bush on a speakerphone.
"He said when they came in his house, the discussion was brought up about probation and that's when the conversation came up that they had talked to Reggie, but Joe was not there," Curtis said. "He said, 'I was not on the speakerphone. I never called him and he never called me. I want to make it clear I never spoke to Reggie and he never spoke to me. I just messed it up. I shouldn't have said it that way [at the news conference].' "

Ah! Story No. 3 is acceptable. Nothing happened. Disregard the previous two versions of events. That was all a big misunderstanding. Er, two big misunderstandings. Both of which fell apart after media members pointed out inconsistencies. But Pete Carroll is a "good guy," so it must be Story No. 3, right?
But accepting Story No. 3 leaves too many loose ends. Did Curtis and McKnight have concerns about the possibility of penalties for USC-West? They almost had to, if they have a Chan Gailey level of intelligence between them. If they did, how did those concerns finally get put to bed?
Second, why the confusion after the press conference? Let's say, for the sake of argument, that McKnight got confused at the press conference. Why would Curtis pop off not long after that without checking with McKnight? Why did he only do so after hearing about Carroll's denial?
But why did McKnight's press conference statement independently describe a strategy Pete Carroll supposedly thought about using but didn't? Is that coincidence?
And why are there three versions of the story? Three drastically different versions of the story, only the final of which would put USC-West in the clear?
You can bet that if this were an SEC team, there would be hysterical laughing at the varying versions of the story. But because it's USC-West ... well, they deserve the benefit of the doubt, right?
After all, it's not like they're accused of doing anything else ...
You were saying?
Never mind.

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