On Rumors

I've been receiving a lot of email asking me whether I've heard anything about this or that rumor related to coaching staff changes. I've responded to some of you, but to those who I haven't yet had a chance to respond, let me address everyone here: We're not going to get into it much here at BON.

There are three reasons for this. The first is prudential: Too much of it is bullsh**.

Of said bullsh**, there are different flavors. There's the well-meaning source who is wrongly informed... the source with an agenda looking to bolster a storyline... the savvy hedge-rumor floated to self-service the site floating the rumor... and more.

Going on seven years writing about Texas athletics, I have a good bit of experience with this kind of stuff now, and the one thing I've learned is that it's too often difficult, if not impossible, to slot a given source of info in its proper category. Moreover, the art of doing so publicly is really an act of hedging information in such a way that you can never be wrong.

Which is fine, as far as it goes -- there's a market of Must Know First consumers -- but I've learned not to get too involved in it. Some of it's on the mark, a lot of it isn't, but there simply is no reliable filter for sorting through it all. Case in point would be the recruitment of Darrell Scott. Y'all surely remember his dramatic recruitment, which, if you believed the many rumors out there (as I did) came down to the last day. In fact, I even ran a post here at BON based on what I considered a reliable inside source who told me Texas was in that recruitment to the very end, and likely to land it.

Obviously, Colorado got Scott, but contrary to what you might have read elsewhere, Scott didn't make his decision on the last day. He didn't even make it in the last week. In fact, Scott was locked in to Colorado in November of 2007. The rest was all show. A fact I learned only two years later, during an off-the-record conversation with a key employee of the Colorado Athletics Department in late 2009. (I received permission to divulge this for this post.)

So the first reason we don't delve into rumors much at BON is that the only way to do so is to throw it all out there, knowing some of it might be right, and some will be wrong. To be sure, one can do that successfully, in ways that enable you to point to the stuff that was right, and dismiss that which was wrong. That's fine, and I don't begrudge those who do that. Reporting what sources are saying has its place in this process, and this isn't a post to bemoan other sites for offering the minute-by-minute updates and letting things Plinko out from there.

But to put my hesitation more concretely, consider the following bits of information I've recently received from various sources, all of which are roughly equally reliable:

  • Jimmy Sexton, super-SEC-agent, is (1) advising Gus Malzahn to get out of Dodge, (2) shopping him on the market, and (3) in talks with Deloss Dodds to bring him to Texas;
  • Mack Brown is working hand-in-hand with Will Muschamp to select the next offensive coordinator at Texas; and
  • Mack Brown and Will Muschamp are barely speaking right now.

Now, I received each of those nuggets separately at various points during the last week and a half, and I easily could have run posts about them. Obviously, I'm throwing it out there now, but collectively, in the manner presented, they aren't meant to suggest I know anything definitive. Quite the opposite, they are offered as proof that I "know" lots of things, but at base, know nothing. Those tidbits are incompatible, and though I could present them to you in a way that suggested a number of scenarios, I've come around to the view that I'm not interested in throwing those out to readers speculatively.

Which is, really, the second reason we aren't going to do speculation of that kind at BON: It doesn't matter.

Let's go back to whether Mack Brown and Will Muschamp are or are not on the same page with any potential staff changes. I've heard from plugged in people that they are, and that they are not. One is wrong, obviously, and there would be some value in my determining which one was and which one was not. That is, it matters whether Mack Brown and Will Muschamp are, in fact, working together on fixing Texas football, or are not.

But what doesn't much matter is whether we figure it out tonight, or in four days because, say, Muschamp accepts a job elsewhere -- or, say, walks out hand-in-hand with Mack Brown to talk about the way forward with their new offensive coordinator. Or however it plays out.

In other words, the substance of that which is being speculated does matter, but the timeline of when we analyze it matters much less. Unless one (naively) thinks that how we speculate about it all here and elsewhere has a meaningful impact on how the decisions get made, then it absolutely does not matter.

And that leads to the third and final point with respect to all this speculation: I dislike -- passionately -- a lot of the analysis that arises from these potentialities. In my opinion, too much of it is not just unproductive, but unhealthy. Ironically enough, it leads to precisely the same kind of lazy evaluations that the program's fiercest critics attribute to the staff members themselves. There is a surprisingly fine line between critical analysis and hysterical ranting, and I see intelligent, well-meaning fans confuse the two all the time.

But I think it matters. I think it matters in the sense that this site, and other communities like it, can and do exist for a productive reason, and when that mission is compromised, it's not meaningfully different than the idiotic, ALL-CAP-RANT in the comment section of the mainstream message board.

Maybe that's a little abstract, and a little romantic, and idealistic, but I think it matters. But I tend to think that we gather here -- and sites like this one -- because we care a little bit more, not just about the team, but about how we talk about the team. And I'm not sure there's much difference between an idiot on ESPN.com screaming "MACK BROWN SUXXX" and a well-informed, but poorly-directed fan on one of our sites screaming that Mack's (maybe) decision, or non-decisions, inexorably lead to the conclusion that he's a dumbass in over his head.

What's the real difference?

So that's why you haven't heard from me on the coaching change rumors. And that's why you're not going to hear from me on the coaching change rumors.

  1. It's too hard to speak meaningfully about what is going to happen, because no one really knows;
  2. There's absolutely nothing lost by waiting to talk about what happens until after it happens; and
  3. The speculation leads to a lot of nasty, ill-informed conclusion jumping that is anathema to what BON is all about.

Questions, comments, and complaints below...

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