Big Roy's excellent and thorough write up on the McFarland saga pretty well covers all my thoughts on this, but I do have two follow-up thoughts I want to add before moving on. Neither has anything to do with bitterness towards McFarland himself or losing him to Oklahoma. Rather, I'm exceptionally peeved that Mack Brown and Texas' names were unnecessarily sullied because the New York Times allowed unchecked Thayer Evans to write what he did.
McFarland's comments yesterday at the Army AA Bowl put a dagger in the heart of any argument that Thayer Evans' article passes the journalistic integrity test. Not only do all of Big Roy's original points still stand, but with the comments yesterday from McFarland came some focus about how this whole article came together. It's clear as day Evans has opportunistically carved a little niche for himself freelancing Oklahoma stories for the New York Times, and that he sensed a woman scorned in Ms. Adams, greedily stroking her wounded ego to get what he needed for the Hit Job.
WHEN I SAY I WAS THERE FOR CHRISTMAS DINNER, I MEANT HIS MOTHER WAS FEEDING ME HATE OVER THE PHONE
Evans article as written makes it sound as though he's been intimately involved with this family -- this story -- and was invited to the family home on Christmas morning for the joyous crimson and cream post-announcement celebration. As written, you can almost picture Evans there on the couch next to the Christmas tree, scribbling notes on the couch while Jamarkus and his mother spoke warmly about their decision. The moment would have made for a hell of a segment on 60 Minutes, except, of course, that any camera crew on hand would have discovered that... Mr. Evans wasn't. even. there.
That alone isn't a problem, but what's becoming increasingly clear is that Evans barely talked to Jamarkus McFarland at all. Not only did he not talk to him on Christmas -- he hardly spoke with him throughout this recruitment. And yet Evans wrote, "Since July, he and his family have provided a reporter for The New York Times with exclusive access to his recruitment, a journey that often divided McFarland and his mother."
O RLY? Pressed on the issue yesterday in San Antonio, McFarland confessed he wasn't even sure how theTimes freelancer got the English paper on which he'd based part of his smear campaign. "[Evans] came to my house one time when I dropped LSU (from consideration) just to observe. I think he got it then."
Inescapable conclusion? This is worse than a two-source/one-sided article... it's a one-source/one-sided article. Had Evans spoken with McFarland after the commitment, he'd have been obligated to ask about this English essay with which he planned to run as part of his story. McFarland's Sunday backtracking proves Evans didn't speak to McFarland and didn't try to confirm the veracity of any of the grenades he was about to launch in his article. Frankly, it seems clear to me Evans didn't want to talk to McFarland, who likely would have spoiled the article's bite with all sorts of clarifications, retractions, and caveats. You can almost hear Evans thinking to himself: Why spoil the juice the mother's feeding me? This is a B- story without the grenades.
TELL ME WHERE THE BAD MAN TOUCHED YOU...
Among all the malodorous garbage, the smelliest might be the timing of all this. In case you need a refresher:
- The week before Christmas: Rumors begin exploding about McFarland's mother getting greedy with the cookie jar.
- McFarland commits to Oklahoma on Christmas and Thayer Freaking Evans is the one to "break the story."
You don't need to be Inspector Morse to ask the right questions here: Given that -- prior to the rumor explosion -- there was little indication from the hyper-obsessors at Rivals/Scout that McFarland was at (or even nearing) a decision point, why the sudden commitment to Oklahoma on Christmas? Though there could be a dozen uncontroversial answers to that question, how is it that Thayer Evans -- of all people -- was the one to find out about it first?
Recruits can't so much as watch SportsCenter without someone, somewhere in the recruiting underworld knowing about it and spreading the "news" for consumption. Don't kid yourself: $100 a year subscription sites would be out of business if they (either moderators or users in the know) weren't providing to the most obsessive of fans these kinds of details -- these days a fan can get everything else for free.
And yet... somehow... it's Thayer Evans who winds up with this scoop. Let me say that again: Thayer Evans. Was the one. Who was the first to know about this story.
So let me ask again: Why?
Inescapable conclusion? Given everything that we know, including what we know about Evans not being in communication with McFarland, the most reasonable explanation for this is hard to dismiss: Namely, after the 'Adams as Greedy Mother' stories started surfacing, Evans could see where this was headed and further inserted himself into the story. How deeply he thrust himself into the mix we'll probably never know, but I'd bet the farm that in the immediate aftermath either he called her or she called him and the article was all but co-authored by the two. Maybe he showed her his Sam Bradford underoos or maybe she just browsed his archives at the Times, but either way Jamarkus McFarland's mother had found in Thayer Evans a sympathetic voice with whom she could enact her revenge.
She was mad, he was willing. And the end result was a single-sourced piece in which she could take her shots at her detractors and he got his exclusive. They don't call 'em Sooners for nothing.