I saw Ron Higgins' column accusing Coach Saban of a recruiting violation today, but didn't have time to sift through the relevant news reports until this evening. When I did, I was a little shocked at how irresponsible the report was.
Capstone Report has already broken it down, but I thought it might be more interesting to see what the paper has to say for it, especially when Ian was able to talk to the HS Coach who basically said that everything was on the up-and-up.
I went to the Commercial Appeal's website and sent the following email to its editor, Chris Peck:
In a column on Sunday (Feb 15) Ron Higgins made some pretty serious allegations about Alabama head football coach Nick Saban.
I have never had a reason to doubt Mr. Higgins' integrity -- journalistic or otherwise -- but his most recent column smacks of rushing to get a story first rather than endeavoring to get it right.
Higgins' column reads as follows: "Judging from the quotes given by Malone to the CA's Jason Smith, there was a face-to-face meeting and a selling job by Saban." That passage contains a link to a February 6th news report by Jason Smith (also of the Commercial Appeal).
There is only one quote of Malone's in that article that could possibly be construed to mean what Mr. Higgins is implying: "And when he started talking to me, I started liking the stuff that he was saying."
Now, assuming for a moment that Malone's quote has the proper context and was intended by him to convey that he had a lengthy personal conversation with Saban, wouldn't a journalist of Higgins' caliber and reputation -- and a paper of the Appeal's stature -- want to get another source or two?
Higgins' appears to have called the SEC -- but nobody from the SEC was present for the alleged conversation. Maybe someone else might have relevant information?
Like, for example, someone affiliated with the University of Alabama? Or maybe even Malone's head coach? With respect to the latter, it appears as though a brief conversation would have led Higgins to do a little more research before running a sensationalist piece, that is, if it didn't moot the whole issue outright. <LINK>
Closing that portion of the story with "This wasn't a bump by the Sabanator. This was full-contact recruiting." makes Higgins look as though he's less interested in truthful reporting and more interested in making waves -- or worse -- trying to further some personal agenda of his and using the Commercial Appeal as his personal megaphone.
I hope that your organization will either provide a more thoroughly researched and sourced update to Higgins' column or just issue an outright retraction of the allegations of recruiting violations that Higgins felt qualified to make after hearing second-hand quotes from a 16 year old kid.
I'm not expecting a response, although if I do receive one I'll update this post. If any of you would like to add your voices to the request for clarification, you can do so here. Do remember, though, that most people do not walk around with malice guiding their every move -- there could be a perfectly reasonable explanation for the vast difference between Higgins' report and Ian's, so you might slant more towards the curious side and less towards the jerkish, accusing side, but, hey, I'm not the boss of you.