The darkening scene has left me with little motivation to follow world events. Maybe it's burnout from blogging for almost 10 years, or perhaps its the sense that despite myriad warnings, our nation seems on a collision course with disaster, both at home and abroad.
Sports are a welcome distraction, and the continued success of Michigan State warms my jaded heart.
No, I didn't watch the Super Bowl. I am a born Michigander and for reasons known only to God and my parents, I was raised to be a Detroit Lions fan. I gave up on pro football when Barry Sanders quit playing.
This is the time of the year when my focus turns to basketball and - for a brief moment - college football as the new recruits make their final decisions.
Normally, this would be a good thing for a school like the University of Michigan. Their basketball team is doing very well and they are able to boast of a new offensive coordinator that they (allegedly) poached from Alabama.
The Skunk Bears (and their media minions) have turned recruiting into a major event - filling pages upon pages with hopeful stories about the incoming talent and how it bodes a return to the Era of Bo.
However, this year there's a new topic of conversation regarding the Wolverine football program: how it responded to sexual assault allegations against one of its players.
This story has been percolating in what blogger Mickey Kaus calls "undernews" for quite a while. Interested readers can easily find various versions of what was alleged to have happened and come to their own conclusion. Such confused situations are not new or unique to Ann Arbor.
What is unique is the way the Skunk Bears handled it: They lied.
The local campus rag, (the Michigan Daily) has a powerful editorial on the topic, and a growing number of people are asking what head coach Brady Hoke knew and when he knew it:
After OIE found Gibbons to be responsible for an act of sexual misconduct, OSCR sent a letter to Gibbons informing him of his permanent separation from the University. The letter was received and signed by Gibbons on Dec. 19. By signing the document, Gibbons waived his right to appeal the sanction. Athletic Department spokesman Dave Ablauf confirmed that Gibbons had met with the department around that time, adding, “That could have been the time that Brendan Gibbons talked to coach Hoke.” It is possible that the Athletic Department met with Gibbons without Hoke, but it seems illogical for the head coach of the student involved to be uninformed of the situation. Four days later, on Dec. 23, Hoke announced that Gibbons would not play in the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl due to a “family matter.” The University may have instructed Hoke to act the way he did in order to adhere to its ill-reasoned policy and weak interpretation of FERPA, but someone is still to blame for obfuscating the truth.
Read the whole thing.
When this story first came out, I had a sense that it was bigger than the usual muddied allegation followed by kangaroo court session that seems to dominate the modern college environment.
My beloved Spartans have had their own incident with co-captain Max Bullough, who was barred from the Rose Bowl. Unlike the Skunk Bears, MSU has offered no explanation at all. While frustrating, this is clearly better than putting out a lie.
There is a big difference between refusing to divulge information and lying about it. Given privacy restrictions, it is understandable that some things simply cannot be released by an athletic department or school. MSU understands this, and respects both its fans and those who cover its sports by refusing to put out a cover story. Bullough will tell his tale in his own time, likely sooner rather than later if he wants to play in the NFL.
The case in Ann Arbor is different. The head coach knew - indeed he had to know - that his kicker had been expelled. All he had to say was "Gibbon is no longer on the team and I cannot discuss why."
Instead Hoke lied.
I suppose one could argue that maybe Hoke didn't know, but that actually make him look worse as it would mean that Ann Arbor is so dysfunctional that no one tells the head coach when one of his athletes has been kicked out of school.
And all of this is happening at the moment when bright-eyed high school students are picking their school. The timing is impeccable.