Pat Forde Really Wants Me To Hate Him

May 12, 2008 – 2:03 pm by Ryan Phillips

Typically, I’ve given guys who work for ESPN a little slack. They have some truly gifted writers and reporters at the network (no Scoop Jackson, I’m not looking in your direction) and a lot of the investigative work they do is fantastic. One guy I can typically read when I want solid, accurate analysis (read: not Andy Katz) is Pat Forde. He’s always level-headed, sees both sides of most issues and rarely dives into the self-indulgent world of “over-statement” so typical of the blow-hard columnists the WWL employs.

Then I read this yesterday. Apparently, Mr. Forde believes USC basketball should be given the Death Penalty for the recent allegations surrounding O.J. Mayo.

In case you missed it, an excellent piece on Outside the Lines recounted, in detail, how Mayo has been receiving compensation from various sources for years, dating back to his high school days. That continued while he was at USC. The report was backed up with receipts, transaction records and damning testimony from a former member of Mayo’s entourage. The report was both convincing and troubling. If true, should USC’s basketball program be punished? Yes, absolutely. If there is any evidence they were aware of the situation the school should be hammered even harder. But the Death Penalty? Um, no.

Just to start out here, let me first say that I’ve met Pat several times, we’ve shared press buffets and had several conversations. He’s a great guy and in my opinion, he’s a phenomenal writer. But his column yesterday angered me for a ton of reasons.

To even compare this incident to what happened at SMU in 1986 is both irresponsible and sensationalist. Basically, he did exactly what people complain about ESPN doing all the time. To recount what happened in ’86, you have to first realize the program was already on probation. Then, the NCAA discovered that 21 players were receiving payments that totaled over $61,000 from a university booster. They were actually given the money with the assistance of athletic department staff members.

So Pat, how is that in any way like Mayo being paid by someone with no association to USC? Oh, right, it isn’t.

Forde essentially argues that USC danced with the devil and should therefore be punished severely for it. Here’s the problem with that: before Mayo signed his letter of intent with the Trojans, USC asked the NCAA and the Pac-10 to investigate his background and make sure he was clean. Those investigations turned up nothing. Obviously the NCAA and the Pac-10 did a fantastic job there.

He also says that because of the ongoing Reggie Bush allegations and now because of the Mayo revelation, USC needs to be punished extremely harshly because they’ve turned a blind eye to this sort of behavior – basically the basketball program should be killed because of a football player’s alleged transgressions and the actions of one basketball player. That argument makes no sense. It’s like saying that Oklahoma football should have gotten the Death Penalty because Kelvin Sampson committed major recruiting violations and then quarterback Rhett Bomar had a no-show job. One incident has nothing to do with the other.

The problem with the Bush allegations is that his accuser is a convicted felon, former gang member and a spurned potential partner. Additionally, Lloyd Lake (Bush’s accuser) doesn’t have anywhere near the type of documentation the accuser in the Mayo case does. Does that mean they aren’t true? No, it means his credibility is called into serious doubt. Besides, all the evidence so far has shown that it mainly involved his parents, far removed from USC and the dealings were with someone who had no association with the school. Therefore, the Trojans should certainly face some form of punishment if the Bush saga ever comes to some sort of negative conclusion, but we all know it has to be insanely hard to keep players in check when it comes to their off-campus activities.

But the larger point here is how Forde is distorting the facts just to get attention or raise some heads. The reason I know he’s trying to do just that is simple: Indiana University. As an Indiana alum, it pains me to say this, but what happened to IU’s basketball program is far worse than the Mayo-USC thing. Indiana hired a known cheater in Kelvin Sampson and he then proceeded to cheat again. I’m sorry, but if any program with issues this year deserves harsh punishment it’s my Hoosiers. But Forde never even suggested that type of NCAA retribution for a “lack of institutional control.” You might be asking why he didn’t hammer IU. Well the likely answer is simple and it’s exactly what’s wrong with sports writing these days.

You see, Forde is a Louisville guy. Which means that any time something happens at the University of Kentucky, University of Louisville or Indiana University, ESPN sends him to cover it. He’s at virtually every Indiana press conference and he’s tight with everyone in the media relations and athletics departments. There was no way he was going to drag them through the mud. Why would he? Every time he stepped on the Bloomington campus after that would have been awkward and uncomfortable. You don’t deliver a gut punch and then expect to get great access. It sucks and it’s the exact reason people can’t stand ESPN these days.

So rather than take a dump in his own backyard, Forde unleashes a completely unfair assault on USC’s basketball program. Solid work Pat, way to go all Skip Bayless on us.

Again, I’m not saying the Trojans should avoid punishment, quite the opposite actually. But to even suggest that they should be given the Death Penalty is irresponsible and it was just an obvious attempt to stir up controversy and get attention.

What pisses me off is that I always thought Pat Forde was above this type of garbage. I guess I was wrong.

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  1. 9 Responses to “Pat Forde Really Wants Me To Hate Him”

  2. I wonder to what lengths Tim Floyd (and the rest of USC) went to avoid knowing anything about OJ Mayo. I’m sure he never went to apartment, I wonder if he even saw him outside of the basketball court. It makes it a lot easier to deny it all when you know absolutely nothing literally. I’m sure Pete Carroll is the same way — you can’t blame them for not knowing because if that actually took an interest in their players outside lives they’d find all kinds of violations I’m sure.

    By Tom on May 12, 2008

  3. All true. Although I don’t know how I feel comparing USC to IU because ultimately the argument comes down to weighing the difference between a repeat cheater of a lower offense (extra phone calls) and a single transgression of a more significant character (paying a player).
    Is it worse to rob a few people or kill one? inappropriate comparison, i know

    By Pablo on May 12, 2008

  4. Whoa,

    As an IU alum myself, I completely disagree with you on this one.

    1) The NCAA did a background check? Ha, because Parrish and Dodd from CBSsportsline called the Mayo thing before he stepped foot onto the campus of USC. In addition, as ESPN pointed out, Mayo denied the allegations FROM THE CELLPHONE IN QUESTION. In this situation, USC chose to be ignorant about Mayo (more on this later).

    2) Forde has not been buddy buddy with the admin at IU. If so, then why did he call the suspension of Sampson Black Friday and have this to say about Dan Dakich:

    “Here’s my suggestion: Any player who doesn’t make the trip to Northwestern is cut. Kelvin Sampson should not be made a martyr for breaking NCAA rules. College players aren’t in charge of personnel decisions. Period.”

    Sounds like he was really trying to get on Greenspan and Dakich’s good side with that one.

    3) Every time I hear a steroid informant/basketball entourage inner circle guy/strip club owner has a “checkered past” and they can’t be relied upon, obviously you’ve never seen how a police case is built. For example, how are drug dealing cases built? With stand up teachers, doctors, lawyers, and sales people from the suburbs? No, they’re built with guys/girls who have been popped on a minor charge and are giving them some type of reduction in order to get the bigger fish.

    So why is it every time a Lake/Johnson/McNamee comes along, these stupid media people who have obviously never even seen “The Godfather” make a big deal about these guys’ past mistakes? Well duh they’re not stand-up humans, or they wouldn’t be shelling out steroids/illegal benefits in the first place.

    4) This whole “we didn’t know” excuse is getting to be too much. Every Coach K and Pete Carroll lover will always exclaim this from the high heavens. How will a court of law find both Bush and Maggette to be guilty, but these coaches “didn’t know?” Give me a break. R&R, I have/had friends that played Division I athletics (including basketball and baseball in BCS conferences), and trust me on this one: they know (almost) everything. Kids don’t commit to a school in 8th grade, and coaches then stick their head in the sand for 8 years until they graduate. As a member of the press, I’m sure you knew this but failed to disclose this little nugget of info. In summary, Cheatey Carroll knew about Bush, Floyd knew about Mayo, and Coach K knew about Maggette.

    I’ll agree with you here: Death Penalty? Probably not, but Forde isn’t off base for hammering USC here. Oh wait, they didn’t even know it was coming.

    By MarkJacksonShimmey on May 13, 2008

  5. I’m going to have to agree with the other IU alums. That is a really unfair comparison. I understand that a rules violation is a rules violation, and IU should have known better, but if you’re trying to make some moral equivalent argument between the violations at IU and the violations at USC, then you’re trying too hard to be unbiased. First of all, we’re talking about paying a player versus a coach making too many phone calls. If you want to make an argument that the Hoosiers deserve the harshest punishment possible, then go ahead and do that. But I think you’re going to have a hard time making the case that paying a player tens of thousands of dollars is not as bad as making too many phone calls.

    By Theo on May 13, 2008

  6. R&R, I’ve given you a tough time about an article or two before, but this is goo work, thanks for doing this. I also did not like the Forde article. He seemed to be showing off, and I also noticed that the PAC-10 is not his usual beat. It’s easy to look hard by judging people you don’t usually face.

    markjacksonshimmy, I disagree with points 2) and 3). Come on, in point 2), Forde is clearly backing the school at the expense of the players. How is that going against Indiana? He absolutely was getting on their good side. And 3)–Johnson would never have said a WORD if Mayo hadn’t cut off access to him, and Johnson wants to write a book and make money off his testimony against Mayo. He’s a total sleazeball who couldn’t hold onto his journalism job because of his love of coke.

    By MCBias on May 13, 2008

  7. As a USC fan, I appreciate and agree with the original post, but I’ll make this point (speaking for myself, though I suspect there may be other Trojan fans who would agree, on the condition that what appears to be a dirty situation here is proven to be so): USC basketball should be punished, probably to the degree that Michigan basketball was punished (and it’s been a while, so I don’t remember the extent of that punishment, but look at UM basketball right now).

    In general, I’m leery of the idea that coaches need to monitor which of their players can afford what, and investigate accordingly, but Floyd knew this was a shady situation from the get-go, when Guillory walked into his office. “This” OJ’s legacy at USC: chased Gabe Pruitt and Nick Young off to the NBA, first round tourney exit, left after a year, and laid waste to the program in the process (or at least badly damaged its reputation). Frankly, I’m pissed off about the whole situation, and if they want to wipe this past season off the record books, and maybe even dock scholarships or impose a postseason ban, I can’t argue too much.

    Having said that, people have been trying to nail USC football for years, and this has given Forde and others an opening to do just that. But the Reggie Bush “investigation” has dragged on for years without the kind of damning evidence and testimony that have been provided in the Mayo situation. Bush’s alleged transgressions are completely separate, and they need to be judged on their own merits. Right now, the case against him is still pretty shaky, and the link to USC is shakier still (not to mention the obvious point that it’s a lot harder to monitor a program of ~100 football players, as opposed to maybe 15 basketball players). Combining the two sets of allegations is what makes Forde come off like a common provincial, over-aggressive fan here.

    By Randomly Selected on May 13, 2008

  8. Forde is the biggest Mizzou/Louisville homer in the world. Accurate analysis? Both sides of the story? You can’t find that from the blowhard of the century Pat.

    By TC on May 13, 2008

  9. You are exactly right on Forde. When Petrino left Atlanta to Arkansas you would have thought Petrino had shot Forde’s dog. Why was Forde front and center on that with his “Drifter” article? I am sure the issues they had at Louisville had nothing to do with it. Was it crappy that Petrino left Atlanta before the year was over? Yes of course but it didnt come close to the drama Forde and ESPN hack jobs made it out to be. If maybe they would have researched the how’s and why’s and the lies from Blank they at least would have had a softer approach to it and the public actually see the other side of what was truly going on in the cess pool that Blank created himself by letting the inmates run the assylm.

    Forde is a homer plain and simple. That and like almost every ESPN “analyst”, he would rather his comments be the story instead of the issue they are reporting on.

    By Steve on May 13, 2008

  10. @markjacksonshimmey:
    “How will a court of law find both Bush and Maggette to be guilty, but these coaches “didn’t know?”

    Um, let me think here . . . maybe because the courts have subpoena power. Oh yeah, and every United States citizen has something called a 4th Amendment right, where you can’t do illegal searches. This, of course, would include compliance officers busting down 750 student-athletes’ doors to see if they have something that hindsight tells us is a ‘red-flag’. Give me a break, people.

    Hey ESPN, those Duke Lacrosse players are still waiting for their apology. Maybe you should do some fact-checking and not rely on one source before you start defaming people.

    By Anonymous on May 14, 2008

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