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SI Editors Field Questions About "The Dirty Game"

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Sports Illustrated's managing editor Christian Stone and executive editor Jon Wertheim participated in an open forum on today, answering questions from the masses about the Oklahoma State expose "The Dirty Game." Here are some of the responses they gave.


Why OSU?

"The point wasn't to take down OSU. The point was to really study and understand the business and the entire process, from recruitment to finish. I think most people work on the assumption that big-time college sports is a flawed enterprise. (To some it's inconvenient; to others it's indefensible.) There are plenty of opinions. Revenue sport athletes should be paid! No way, they're lucky to have a full ride and a fancy tutoring center! The NCAA defenders will tell you that compensate is a non-starters… Everyone from the New York Times op-ed page to the South Park creators have weighed in on this. Our point: how do you have the informed discussion without really understanding the "factory" and the inefficiencies, how it also plays out and what some of the consequences are?" - Wertheim

What was the team's response to the factual errors in the series (mostly related to people not being enrolled when SI said they were) uncovered by outlets like ESPN, Deadspin and KOTV? How did these errors get through the fact checking process at SI? Enrollment and graduation information is public record and not a violation of FERPA.

"There were errors in the story that we've acknowledged (and regret) in the story with corrections. As for the fact-checking process, which has come up in other comments and one that asks why we only have 2 fact checkers as opposed to the 15 we used to have. We have 15 fact checkers on staff, nine of them full-time and they are very good. Five of them were assigned to the OSU series. One more word about the fact-checking today versus the so-called The Golden Age of SI Fact-checking, which I guess Jon and I belonged to. I promise you that the fact-checkers at SI are every bit as smart, rigorous and diligent as they were 20 years ago. There's an irony to stories about fact-checking built around the premise of ‘this is the way we did it 20 years ago but this is way I'm guessing they do things now.'" - Stone

Was anyone concerned about the conflict of interest in having Thayer Evans spearhead this project when he was clearly looking at a rival of a program he roots for?

"On Thayer Evans: Yes, he is from Oklahoma. He has a history with the school and the state. But should this disqualify him from covering OSU? Often, it's the opposite. We all come from somewhere. Before moving to a national outlet, we come from Area X (in my case, it's Indiana) and that's where you have sources and familiarity and institutional memory. Thayer had tips and leads. When he was given the green light to pursue, he came back with recorded, on-the-record interviews with former players and assistant coaches. Some agreed to speak on camera as well. In our judgment the wealth of sources overcame any potential perception of bias." - Wertheim

So, this was all to reveal to the masses that football factory schools produce football players incapable of much of anything else? Is your next article going to tell us that the sun is expected to rise for the next couple of billion years? I'm fine with that if you had announced that at the beginning of the series, but to announce that now seems so...revisionist. Look, I think you would have a hard time not finding a serious sports fan who agrees that the NCAA system is broken, as evidenced mainly in football and basketball. But why do it this way? Why single out a program? Was your goal to effect change? Then why not take on the all-powerful Oz itself in the NCAA? Sorry, I just didn't get it.

"You can't have a meaningful discussion about college sports, let alone meaningful change, unless you know what the sleaze looks like. It's not enough to say "I know it exists." There are plenty of people, well-intentioned people, who think you can philosophize in a vacuum and effect change. You can't. Everyone is doing it everyone's favorite cudgel. But it also remains the best argument for continued reporting about the system, no matter how numb people have become to it, whether it's OSU, Miami, North Carolina, etc." - Stone

Why was the decision made to go forward with this series when there was clearly no evidence other than hearsay from disgruntled players? What was the point?

"It wasn't hearsay. But I've heard this a few times : "Why did you only talk to the losers and the malcontents?" a) A program recruited these guys and gave them scholarships. They weren't losers when they wore the uniform. B) that the college athlete who—for whatever reason—is expelled from the Kingdom of Jock, stripped of the perks, often stripped of his scholarship (or in no position to pay tuition), who was often unfit for college in the first place is now bitter, unemployed, in trouble with the law, and fractured (perhaps beyond repair) was one of the central themes of the series..." - Wertheim

Can we hear the tape of the Aso Pogi interview? Can we hear taped of any/all recorded interviews?

"We disagree with Aso's recollection. The tape shows that he invited the writer into his office. The writer immediately identified himself as a writer for SI and established what he was there to talk about." - Stone

When do you plan on starting a similar investigation and expose for the Florida program under Ron Zook and Urban Meyer?

"There were a lot of these. "Why didn't you write about the [insert corrupt practice] at [insert another school]?" At some level this was our point. It's a corrosive culture out there. Rather than play the role of the dutiful hall monitor, the goal was to send reporters to write a representative story." - Wertheim

Is the negative-ish reaction — from Deadspin, among others — typical of the larger reaction, or just a small part? For all the hand-wringing, everywhere, over typical college football culture, do people still believe in the institution, in general?

"It's a good question. At some level it's personal. What is your threshold and what is your level of outrage? As we wrote in our piece the other day: 100,000 fans showing up weekly for an exercise in communal adoration is an odd way to lodge a protest against a system so many feel is in desperate need of an overhaul...I think the analogy - which I heard a lot lately - to head injuries in the NFL is flawed. No one is in favor of head injuries. With NCAA sports, what bothers some of us (me? the exploitation and the vast wealth being generated by unpaid labor) doesn't bother some fans in the slightest. ‘Hey, they're getting a full ride and exposure? Isn't that enough?'" - Wertheim

Full Deadspin Forum With SI Managing and Executive Editors

NOTE: may contain offensive language/content.

9/16/13 RELATED STORY: SI Gets Defensive With Explanation For "The Dirty Game"

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