Yahoo Sports’s Dan Wetzel, one of the better columnists at it today, just published a post critiquing those who “miss… the forest for the trees” after exposés of so-called corruption in big-time men’s college sports, usually cash payments for players. They engage in this myopia by failing to question or condemn the NCAA-mandated amateurism that compels those underground handouts. Wetzel’s last line: “The core problem isn’t the breaking of the rules, it’s the rules that are being broken.” Yes, indeed.
So, about that “core problem.” Wetzel’s story published on Yahoo half an hour after Yahoo published one of its trademark scandal-beat stories, with scandal-hunter-in-chief Charles Robinson as one half of the byline. The lead in that story (emphasis ours): “Five Southeastern Conference football stars violated NCAA rules by receiving extra benefits prior to completing their collegiate careers, a Yahoo Sports investigation has found.” And perhaps this goes without saying, but nowhere in the 4,478-word piece do the reporters bother questioning those rules. You could call Wetzel’s column contextualization—he and his colleagues, based on mutual Twitter admiration, seem to think of it that way. Or you could call it what it is—a functional repudiation of his own news organization’s well-reported story that does nothing but treat poor kids like mobsters.