The accusation of media bias is one that gets plenty of rotation in Notre Dame fan circles. When former Notre Dame running back Cierre Wood lost his 5th star as a recruit due to Rivals.com’s updated in-season rankings, Irish fans on message boards became irate, accusing the scouting website of targeting Notre Dame in an attempt to downgrade its talent. Irish fans were even unimpressed when current Notre Dame offensive line commitment, Quenton Nelson, earned a 5th star and jumped 50 spots on Rivals.com’s updated rankings, with some expressing the attitude the site had undervalued Notre Dame’s talent and had no choice but to improve Nelson’s standing.
Scenes like the one above play out in every corner of the country and from every fan base. If anything, Notre Dame enjoys a bias in the media, receiving attention boosts whenever television personality Regis Philbin plays a game of “Notre Dame or Hunger Games” with former Notre Dame great and two-time Super Bowl champion Justin Tuck, where each guesses whether a name is from Notre Dame’s roster or a character from the book-based blockbuster, as they did in a segment recently aired on Fox Sports. However, every now and again an article will appear that feeds the paranoid frenzy, such as Northwestern graduate Victor Chi’s recent article covering Notre Dame’s “Pot of Gold” recruiting strategy for ThePostGame.com.
The “Pot of Gold” recruiting campaign involves Notre Dame bombarding recruits with letters, and the plan generated headlines when linebacker target Nyles Morgan tweeted a photograph of his 477 pieces of mail, a number which represents the sum total of all Notre Dame players drafted into the NFL. Victor Chi and ThePostGame.com covered the topic by landing subtle jabs, rhetorically pondering whether such a “gimmick” is truly appropriate for a university such as Notre Dame. Chi writes, “If this argument seems to hold Notre Dame to a higher standard, remember that Notre Dame likes to hold itself to a higher standard.”
Interestingly, rather than simply stating Notre Dame holds itself to a higher standard, Chi took it a step further and transitioned into attacking the merits of the 477 drafted players who had donned a golden helmet. He notes that not every drafted player sticks in the NFL, while also pointing out that the NFL draft used to have more than seven rounds, which accounts for Notre Dame’s large number of drafted players.
Chi kept attacking the number 477 as if his journalistic integrity depended on it, clarifying for everyone that Notre Dame had seven players taken in the NFL’s first round between 1993 and 1994, but in the 18 drafts since have only had seven first-rounders total, and, to make sure the point struck home, he concluded, “and none in the top ten overall.”
The issue with ThePostGame’s coverage of the “Pot of Gold” recruiting effort isn’t Chi’s poor arguments (somehow the NFL having had deeper draft rounds in the past misleadingly increases the number of Notre Dame’s drafted players but not everyone else’s), selective fact placement (Notre Dame is on pace to potentially have five first-round draft picks in a three-year stretch under head coach Brian Kelly, closing in on the production achieved by former ND coach Lou Holtz in 1993 and 1994), or complete lack of fact-checking (reporting that Nyles Morgan was the first recruit to receive a “Pot of Gold” when defensive line target Matt Elam was the first recipient of Notre Dame’s letter campaign nearly a full month prior).
No, the issue is Chi’s feigned moral outrage.
The implication from ThePostGame.com’s Pot of Gold coverage hints that Notre Dame is not so much selling NFL success but the money that comes with it. In addition to not being true – had Victor Chi fact-checked he would have discovered that Matt Elam, the first recruit to land a Pot of Gold, received 262 letters to match his local area code – Chi was surprisingly silent when Alabama head coach Nick Saban made news in August for sending out fliers to recruits that contained images of NFL pay stubs with the number fifty-one million in bold, highlighting the salary of former Crimson Tide players in the NFL.
During the stretch where Saban and Alabama weren’t hinting at the prospect of money in the NFL but beating it into recruits’ heads with a mallet, Victor Chi penned groundbreaking Pulitzer contenders such as “New Issue of GQ Sizzles: Shirtless Tim Tebow” and “Report: Conservatives Love College Football” but remained mute on the monetary recruiting campaign originating from Tuscaloosa.
Notre Dame’s “Pot of Gold” recruiting strategy is envelope-pushing, making it not at all surprising that it has received some criticism, rightly or wrongly. Questioning the tactic is fair game. But any individual that would subtly question the integrity of a program willing to suspend its Heisman candidate starting quarterback for an entire season due to poor academic judgment – or the character of the players that program recruits, with Notre Dame quarterback Everett Golson working diligently to re-enroll rather than taking the path of least resistance and transferring – in an era where players such as LSU running back Jeremy Hill aren’t dismissed from their respective teams even after pleading guilty to criminal charges should stick to writing articles discussing which future male athlete will go shirtless in the next edition of GQ.
Scott Janssen is a blogger for the Huffington Post and has authored several nationally-featured articles, as well as appeared on MSNBC as a sports contributor. In his spare time he takes his NCAA Football ’13 online dynasty way too seriously and alienates those around him by discussing football 24 hours a day. Scott can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org