by Mike Coffey
One of the very few downsides of ND’s football resurgence is it’s pushed the concept of multi-tasking to new boundaries for us. I certainly didn’t mean to give short shrift to Demetrius Jackson’s commitment to ND two weeks ago. For those of us watching the improvement in basketball recruiting in the wake of the renewed commitment to physical plant, DJ’s choice was the cherry, whipped cream and nuts on a recruiting sundae that’s been getting tastier and tastier, and I’ll likely have more to say about the class in general closer to signing day — I’m superstitious like that.
But as we all munched on the sundae, someone dropped in a sardine … one with a familiar taste.
DJ’s announcement was supposed to take place on ESPNU’s recruiting show at 5pm ET. But it didn’t work out that way after Dave Telep’s reaction video to Jackson’s choice somehow found its way onto ESPN’s website about six hours before it was supposed to. Apparently Dave was ill the day of the announcement, and the responsibility for posting the video was left to a lower-level person who fat-fingered something along the way and released the premature evaluation for all to see. Someone on an Illinois site saw it, linked it, and everyone was off to the races. Meanwhile, DJ, who hadn’t even informed the coaching staffs yet, was left to make what I’m sure was a very difficult and embarrassing phone call to Illinois head coach John Groce.
As I’ve discovered in the last 12 years of operating a site, it’s all about speed in Internet land. Everyone wants to say they were the first to break something. Everyone wants to hear their website cited by ESPN and their ilk and enjoy the traffic and the attention. With the information moving almost at the speed of thought, such races are difficult to win without pushing the boundaries of false starts, and the recruiting world is lousy with examples of websites stepping on the toes of high school seniors in their rush to feed the need of their clientele. Sometimes it’s an innocent mistake, with a story being positioned for a quick release that gets pushed out too quickly, sometimes not so much.
But as disappointed as I am for DJ, I can’t get too mad at Dave Telep. After all, I’ve been there.
Coming up on 11 years ago now, the Notre Dame faithful watched for white smoke from South Bend in the wake of Bob Davie’s firing, and rumors flew hot and heavy. NDN was in its infancy then, freshly minted from NDHoops.com and the Irish Recruiting Pub, and the me of those days was looking for a way to make a splash.
As luck would have it, we had one. A friend of ours was someone close to Jon Gruden, and he was telling us the coach was meeting with ND reps at the very minute he was talking to us. Gruden was hot for the job, said he, and no doubt these chats would be just a formality in prelude to an announcement. He promised to ring us up the minute things were official, but in the meantime, we should be ready.
Ready we were. While my fellow Ops started talking things up on the boards, I wrote a quick article and headlined it “It’s Gruden”. We didn’t have WordPress and its draft capabilities back then, so I was using the temporary directories I’d built in to the NDN infrastructure. But the hour was late and I was paying too much attention to the discussions on the football board while FTP’ing files, and the front page that was supposed to be hidden ended up going to the wrong place.
All of a sudden, “It’s Gruden” was out there for everyone to see.
The football board went apeshit in celebration, but I had a problem. This guy was pretty damn certain, and the me of those days really wanted the attention of that scoop. But it wasn’t done yet, and I was potentially inserting myself into a situation I had no business being in. After about 20 minutes of wrestling with my conscience, I corrected the error and put the old front page back, fully expecting to awaken the next morning with license to restore the headline with a couple keystrokes.
We all know what happened then. We awoke instead to Gruden removing his name from consideration, and everything went downhill from there. I learned a valuable lesson that day. People who don’t do this professionally have no reason to be in the breaking news business. A site is worth more than the headlines it tosses up, and if you’re going to operate on the Internet, you’re much better served focusing on the content mix than the content speed.
Given that “It’s Gruden” appears on our message boards every now and again to remind me, it’s not a lesson I’m likely to forget. Then again, I had the previously-linked DJ story written early that Thursday morning, but well-hidden in draft mode. Maybe some habits die harder than others.