Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Does Mark Schlabach Do Any Research?

ESPN writer, Georgia alum, and business partner of Urban Meyer Mark Schlabach has an article in the December 13 issue of ESPN The Magazine. As far as I can tell, it's not online. I can readily understand if you haven't seen the article, as hardly anybody actually reads the ESPN mag unless they're stuck in a waiting room without their iPhone, but it's basically a lament for the by-gone--and thoroughly mythical--days when college programs supposedly didn't turn each other in for NCAA violations.

After whining about getting angry emails about his part in November's Cam Newton kerfuffle, Schlabach hilariously goes to media hound and coaching failure Bill Curry for a quote. Curry, as always, was happy to put on his holier-than-thou hat and proclaim that in his day, "[W]hen I was involved at the high level of recruiting, we usually called each other and worked it out between the two of us if we caught someone doing something wrong... I would call and say, 'Look, let's talk about this. If we can't talk about this, I am going to turn you in.'"

Schlabach, who calls such a position a "gentleman's agreement," clearly doesn't know much of anything about Curry's brief tenure in Tuscaloosa, or he'd have called out the Georgia State coach for having told a great big fib. In the spring of 1988, at the impromptur of none other than Bill Curry, Bob Dare, the father of an Alabama player named Charlie Dare, went to the SEC with allegations that Auburn coaches had offered the year before to "fix" Charlie Dare's ACT test (Dare wound up being a partial qualifier thanks to his bad grades and low test score) if he'd sign with AU.

In Pat Dye's autobiography, Dye noted, "Bill didn't call me. To be honest, I think the temptation was too great. It looked like they had me dead to rights. That I could be put out of business. And they went to the Commissioner of the SEC with it."

The Charlie Dare story exploded across the state and national headlines, and lingered through the summer. Columnists were quick to jump to the conclusion that Auburn was at fault, and that the NCAA hammer would be falling on the Tigers as a matter of course.

There was just one problem: the Dares' story wasn't true. The NCAA spent more than a year investigating, and eventually cleared Auburn of all the charges--but of course, the exonerations weren't carried with anything like the wall-to-wall press coverage of the initial allegations.

I don't doubt that Bill Curry would like to forget the entire Dare story. Curry certainly should have known better than to trust Bob Dare, who had a long history of shady business dealings even in those days. Years later, both Bob and Charlie Dare were indicted on multiple counts of fraud, and Bob did time in Federal prison (I'm not sure whether Charlie was ever convicted or served time or not, but he was indicted by the state of Alabama for, among other things, wire and securities fraud). Bob Dare was released from prison in 2006, and passed away last August.

No matter what Bill Curry might think today, Mark Schlabach certainly should have known to research Curry's own story before going to print. I guess that would qualify as being "too good to check," though.

Full disclosure: Charlie Dare was a sophomore at Enterprise High when I was a senior. I don't believe I've ever so much as spoken to him, though.

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