On Losing McFarland

The battlefield

Beyond battles on the turf of the Cotton Bowl every season, Texas and Oklahoma battle on the recruiting front, with the viability of OU's football program largely dependent on luring Texas-born players north of the Red River. As such, Texas often locks horns with the Sooners when pursuing elite talent. Longhorn fans often receive accusations of arrogance, stemming from the expectation that Texas can and, in fact, should be able to largely handpick from the nearly 400 Division 1 (sorry, Football Bowl Subdivision) athletes emerging from Texas high schools every year. Besides widespread arrogance, that perception exists because its largely true. Mack Brown makes a point of only recruiting players who want to be Longhorns, the relevance of which will appear again later.

That being said, losing a player the caliber of McFarland stings, particularly because of the well-documented BCS situation with Oklahoma, and despite the sizable differences between Austin and Norman (equally well-documented), Oklahoma and Texas, as elite national programs, operate on a relatively even playing field. This post is not about bemoaning the fact that it's unbelievable OU could come into Texas and secure a highly desired commitment from a player the Longhorns are pursuing without cheating. Considering the history of the OU program, such an accusation is not without merit because of past indiscretions, both in the recruiting process and after enrolling at the university. Note to OU fans: There is no moral high ground from which to disparage any perceived arrogance amongst Texas fans or accuse Texas of improprieties.

 

Thayer Evans masquerades as journalist

No, this post is about the ridiculous piece of journalism a formerly proud institution decided to publish. You know the one about which I refer. As a piece of objective journalism coming from a *formerly* reputable newspaper, it fails completely, being as it is full of misinformation, biases, and flat out worthless, untrue garbage. Henry James touches on many salient points. However, there are several further points worth making:

  1. As amply expounded upon by TaylorTRoom, the "author" of the piece, Thayer Evans, essentially amounts to an OU beat reporter. Why The New York Times needs an reporter on the OU beat, who writes about the university in a style that can best be described as fawning, completely escapes me. It damages the integrity of the newspaper and depletes credibility in an industry increasingly bereft of both.
  2. Thayer's intent seems as much to smear Texas as to report on McFarland's recruitment, mentioning "numerous offers" made to McFarland's mother, only citing a ridiculous offer of a loan "for a former classmate (emphasis mine)." So ridiculous that it barely even warrants mentioning in a serious piece of journalism. Orangeblood's Geoff Ketchum suggests that the unsupported accusations "border on being slanderous $." Evans never digs any deeper, never asks for specifics, in essence, completely failing in his job, while painting an incredibly negative portrait of Texas.
  3. BON commenter ryanlionrah claims to have been at the party that McFarland attended, disputing the majority of McFarland's assertions. Assuming ryanlionrah is believable, it raises the question of why McFarland would exaggerate his experiences, especially since the allegations are so serious and cast such a poor light on Texas fans in general.
  4. Also not passing the smell test? The preference for OU because it stresses academics? According to the US News and World Report, Texas ranks No. 15 amongst public universities, while OU lags a distant 52nd, with both programs graduating essentially the same number of players each year (44% for Oklahoma to 42% for Texas). UT finished 32nd on the Academic Ranking of World Universities' Top 100 North and Latin American Universities for 2008. OU didn't make the list. The London Times ranked Texas as the 70th best university in the world in 2008. OU was not in the top 100. As educational institutions, there is absolutely not one shred of doubt that Texas holds the edge.
  5. Along with the school as a whole, Mack Brown comes off poorly in the article. In fact, he comes off so poorly that the descriptions of Brown's behavior are at total odds with everything else that I know about Brown. Why would he refuse a phone call from McFarland's mother? Why would he ask if McFarland and his mother liked his house better than the houses of Stoops and Miles? Really, this is how "Mr. February" wins so many recruiting battles? This doesn't pass the smell test either, especially to Ketchum, who has known Mack Brown for a long time.
  6. Relatedly, Adams claims not to have been able to reach Mack Brown, even though everyone with knowledge of the situation asserts that she has had Brown's number for some time, and, in fact, has spoken with him before on that very line.
  7. At this point in his career, why would Mack Brown risk everything he has built at Texas to concoct a ridiculous plan to plant information on the internet about illegal inducements by Oklahoma? Adams is delusional if she really believes that Brown would stoop to that level. Ridiculous allegation, unworthy of being printed. Your take, Ketchum? "If you believe it, you probably still wet your pants." Once again, fails the smell test.
  8. Ketchum also disputes the allegation that Texas failed to communicate with McFarland, flatly asserting that Texas communicated with McFarland and his family "every day for close to two years." Longhorn coaches also asked McFarland to take some time to think about his decision when he almost commited several months ago, guaranteeing his scholarship even if injured. Doesn't seem "tacky" to me, the accusation McFarland's mother leveled at Texas. Anyway, how is it "tacky" to desire not to split a family apart?
  9. McFarland thinks he will have a better chance of playing in the NFL by going to Oklahoma. Here's a list of recent Texas defensive tackles to play in the NFL: Casey Hampton, Shaun Rogers, Marcus Tubbs, Rodrique Wright, Frank Okam, and Derek Lokey. The list of defensive ends is perhaps even more extensive. OU? Uh, Tommie Harris and Dusty Dvoracek? Yes, those are the only two defensive tackles out of Oklahoma drafted since 2000. Remi Ayodele went undrafted, but hooked on with the New Orleans Saints.
  10. Evans fails to mention that the Texas coaches were not allowed into Adams' home, but were forced to visit McFarland at his school. It wasn't Texas being careful about avoiding contact with McFarland because of possible accusations of impropriety, but rather, the flat-out denial of Adams to allow Texas coaches into her home, which is highly unusual.

From whence the hate?

The impression from the article is that Adams really dislike the Texas program, for reasons that aren't entirely clear. Why did she bar the Texas coaches from entering her house? Why does she make unsubstantiated claims about numerous illegal offers? Why does she claim that John Outlaw (never interviewed by Evans, by the way) was steering McFarland toward Texas and feel so threatened by his influence over her son? That smacks of flat-out paranoia. Ultimately, despite all the information available at this point, the picture that emerges of Kashemeyia Adams, as you can see from my rhetorical questions posed above, raises more questions than it answers. In all honesty, the only thing that makes sense is that OU did make an offer to sway Adams. Other than that, it's hard to understand her virulent anti-Texas position, especially since it manifests itself in such obviously ludicrous ways and she was believed to favor Texas early in the process.

OU's history of cheating certainly doesn't mean that the source Trips Right used in the article referenced by Evans is right and that Adams did indeed receive illegal offers from Oklahoma. In fact, unless an investigation by the NCAA results (which seems unlikely), there isn't any particular reason to believe that McFarland went to Oklahoma because of cheating by the Sooners, other than the strange comments by his mother. Beyond  the possibly paranoid and delusional mother, McFarland's comments are equally strange, and as Geoff Ketchum asserts, at odds with a great deal of his prior comments. Regardless of why McFarland believes those things, if he truly does believe that he has a better chance at reaching the NFL at Oklahoma and that the Texas strength and conditioning program will fail him (um, look at Brian OrakpoFrank Okam, and Derek Lokey), then he doesn't need to be at Texas. Period. Peace, see ya, good luck, bud.

Moving forward in the short term

What does this mean moving forward? Oklahoma and Texas will continue to battle for recruits, and Oklahoma will continue to win some of those battles, no doubt frustrating large segments of the Longhorn fanbase in the process. Texas will still get most of the in-state talent it wants, basically handpicking the best kids, a significant number of whom will continue to want to play at Texas, particularly as Muschamp gains a recruiting foothold in the state and convinces all manner of defensive stalwarts to don burnt orange.

Short-term, the largest negative is that Texas is obviously thin at defensive tackle, mainly because of the arrest of Andre Jones and Tyrell Higgins and Brian Ellis washing out of the program. With McFarland counted upon to challenge for a starting role next season, it means Texas will rely more heavily upon Kheeston Randall, Jarvis Humphrey, Calvin Howell, and Derek Johnson, whom Howell described as extraordinarily strong, even before stepping on campus. It also means that Tevin Mims may receive an offer, although that offer seems more likely to be contingent on Devon Kennard's decision. As good of a football player as McFarland may turn out to be, Texas has too good of a coaching staff and too much talent in the program to let McFarland's commitment to OU effect future on-field performance.

The long-term impact

Level-headed discussion aside, this article is bad, bad news for Texas recruiting, even though it's a total pile of steaming canine feces. All the schools using negative recruiting tactics against the Longhorns (which Ketchum believes the Sooners were fully engaged in) will show this article to potential recruits. Mack Brown and the program can't allow this type of misinformation to continue to circulate and for the perceptions put forth in this article to expand and fester.

There needs to be a response. It will be difficult, as the coaching staff is not allowed to comment on potential recruits until they sign, which could mean more than a month of silence. Any response would have to be carefully vetted by the UT compliance staff. In fact, the rules hamstring the programs to such an extent that I'm not sure if Texas can respond at all.

The idea that someone can have such unsubstantiated and ridiculous claims published in such a major newspaper without any other perspective provided absolutely boils my blood and should scare the absolute living crap out of every program in the country. I encourage everyone who feels the same way to write to The New York Times about it. This type of unmitigated smear could happen to anyone. Even the smirking Sooner staff, who no doubt are reveling in the results from their little hackjob mouthpiece. Maybe to level the playing field, The New York Times should employ questionable journalists assigned to provided biased coverage for each major program. Oh wait, that's completely implausible.

Frankly, a lot of this responsibility should rest on Thayer Evans and The New York Times, who failed to ask the questions needed to establish the reliability of Kashemeyia Adams' claims, which I believe do basically amount to slander. The Texas perspective never appears in the article, which is understandable in some sense, since the Texas coaches can't comment. Evans could have, however, spoken with John Outlaw, the Lufkin head coach, which he didn't. Evans also could have tried to verify McFarland's story about the Texas party in Dallas, but didn't. I'll stop now, because the journalistic failings should be obvious to anyone who can read and has half a mind. Oh wait, some people just don't evaluate articles critically, which makes the burden of responsibility on The New York Times that much more onerous.

I just can't say this enough: Evans and the editors who allowed the story to be published are absolutely derelict in their duty for publishing such a slanderous piece of journalism about a situation in which the Texas coaches are completely muzzled about it. They have no ability to protect themselves from this piece of garbage. And in the end, that's the element that makes this whole situation completely unconscionable.

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